Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, 2010. Gen. McCrystal issued his first apology today for the deaths of 12 Afghan civilians who were cowering in their homes when 2 HMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) rockets went about 300 meters off target in Helmand, Afghanistan, and hit their house. The largest surge in the 9th year of the Afghanistan War started Friday.
Of course, he couldn’t help but throw in an attempt to make this a bipartisanshipthingee:
Two Nato rockets aimed at Taliban insurgents in Helmand missed their target today, killing 12 civilians sheltering in their home and dealing a sharp blow to hopes that civilian casualties would be avoided in the largest western-led operation of the nine-year Afghan war.
Operation Moshtarak (meaning “together”) involves 15,000 troops, mostly US, British and Afghan. The first US marines arrived in Marjah by helicopter before dawn on Saturday morning, while British forces are sweeping through Nad Ali.
“We deeply regret this tragic loss of life,” said General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. “It’s regrettable that in the course of our joint efforts, innocent lives were lost.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, at a press conference in Kabul, said that the aim of operation Moshtarak was :
” not to kill insurgents” but to “expand the government’s influence and protect the civilian population”.
Afghan officials are claiming 27 insurgents have been killed so far.
On the second full day of fighting, the Taliban and other insurgent foot soldiers remained a shadowy enemy: Western commanders still do not have a solid estimate of how many Islamist militants remain in the farming town and its environs, which for years had served as a Taliban sanctuary.
Estimates prior to the assault ranged from 400 to around 1,000 Taliban and other fighters in the town. Perhaps 150 of those were believed to be “hard-core” militants, including Central Asian fighters with possible links to Al Qaeda who would likely fight to the death rather than slip away.
Some Taliban fled before the battle. The Marines had widely publicized their plans to take the town in hopes of driving off less committed fighters and thus limiting close quarters combat that could end up harming civilians.
Instead, before leaving, they left a lot of land mines and other bombs buried all over the terrain, which will have to be cleared. Which is expected to take weeks.
2 British soldiers and 1 American Marine have also suffered loss of life, altho one of the British was not in this area of the latest surge. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2…
No word yet, as the effect of the latest stimulus spending spread, on whether or not the bonuses earned by the CEOs of the Afghan banks were having a negative polling effect on the Karzai administration.