Afghanistan: The Bloody Fiasco Continues

President Karzai’s government strongly condemned a NATO air strike which killed at least 27 civilians, including women and children, on Sunday. It was the 3RD blotched air strike by NATO since the offensive started in Marjah 9 days ago.

President Karzai called the air strike “unjustifiable”. NATO aircraft bombed a convoy of vehicles on its way to Kandahar. NATO admitted the incident saying that its forces though their forces was firing on insurgents. General MacChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, apologized to President Karzai and the Afghan people for a 2ND time in a week.

This new incident will of course further undermine any efforts from NATO to win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan.

“We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives. I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people, and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission,” said General McChrystal.

Last week 12 civilians were killed by a rocket in Marjah. So far, a  total of 21 civilians have being killed by NATO forces in the Marjah offensive.

“People still complain about how the house searches are being conducted. The joint force should not view every person here with suspicion of being a Taliban. When the government and its foreign allies want the people on their side, they should respect every resident here. People should not feel any sense of insecurity from Afghan and foreign troops,” said Abdur Rahman Saber, head of a local council established right before the Marjah offensive.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a tribal leaders and Afghan government officials meeting. Among the dead in today’s attack was Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, a former Mujahidin commander and a local tribal leader.

According to Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting in the Helmand province, it appeared that the former Mujahidin commander was the target of the attack. Haji Zaman was a local commander in the Tora Bora mountains when US forces launched the blotched operation to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in 2001.

“It is certain, I think, that the Taliban wanted Haji Zaman dead,” said James Bays.

This bold attack today proves that the Taliban, despite facing a  major NATO-US offensive in Marjah, and having lost one of  their key military commanders, captured by the CIA and the ISI in Karachi Pakistan 12 days ago, are far from being “on the run”. The Taliban can still hit whatever targets they deem valuable. If the objective of General McChrystal was to “break the back” of the insurgency, he is failing.

The US and its allies are fighting an asymmetrical insurgency warfare, in which the Taliban are picking when and where they will fight. The capture of commander Baradar by the CIA in Pakistan is unlikely to have much of an impact on the strenght of the insurgency. The Taliban, unlike a traditional army, have a “bottom up” structure as opposed to a “top down”, which make the loss of one commander not that crippling for the insurgency because someone else can easily replace him.

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