Air strikes are the leading cause of civilian deaths from NATO military operations. The issue of civilian deaths dominated a summit between President Obama and President Karzai in Washington this week as news that as many as 100 civilians, including women and children, were killed in U.S. air strikes Monday night. This is potentially the single deadliest U.S. airstrike since 2001.
Media reports indicate that there is a lobbying effort by the military to have Canada deploy CF-18 fighter-bombers to Afghanistan. Canada cannot claim to be defending Afghan women and children while coalition air strikes killed more than 500 civilians in 2008, according to the United Nations.
Take action by telling the Prime Minister that you oppose the deployment of CF-18s to Afghanistan and support a diplomatic end to the conflict.
Up to 100 civilians feared killed in US air raids in Afghanistan
Ewen Macaskill in Washington
Wednesday 6 May 2009
The Pentagon yesterday promised to launch a joint investigation with the Afghan government into reports that dozens of civilians were killed in US air strikes on Monday night.
Afghan officials estimated that at least 30 and possibly more than 100 died in the attack on Bala Baluk, a Taliban-controlled area in Farah province near the border with Iran. If confirmed, it could be one of the highest civilian death tolls since the US-backed invasion in 2001.
Villagers brought truckloads of bodies, most of them women and children, to the provincial capital.
There were conflicting accounts last night about what had happened. One accounted suggested children, women and the elderly had gone to the village of Gerani to escape fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan National Army (ANA) but the compounds they sheltered in had been bombed.
A girl named Shafiqa wounded in the fighting told Associated Press Television News: “We were at home when the bombing started. Seven members of my family were killed.”
A US bombing raid in August last year at Azizabad resulted in 90 civilian deaths. The US had originally said no civilians died. It afterwards issued a directive intended to reduce the chances of similar mass civilian deaths.
The inquiry into the bombing was announced on the eve of a summit at the White House today between Barack Obama, the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, and the Afghanistanpresident, Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has criticised US bombing raids as counter-productive, and yesterday again called on the US for restraint in bombing areas where civilians might be at risk. Speaking in Washington, he said Obama’s strategy will only work if he ensures Afghan civilians are protected. “This war against terrorism will succeed only if we fight it from a higher platform of morality,” he said.
A US spokesman in Afghanistan, Colonel Greg Julian, confirmed that US coalition forces had participated in the fighting on Monday night.
“There was an insurgent attack on an ANA group and the ANA called for assistance, and some coalition troops joined them to help fight this group. There was close air support,” he told Reuters.
He said US and Afghan officials would head to the site today to investigate the reports of civilian deaths.
Mohammad Nieem Qadderdan, the former top official in the district of Bala Baluk, told AP by phone he saw dozens of bodies when he visited the village of Gerani. “These houses that were full of children and women and elders were bombed by planes. People are digging through rubble with shovels and hands.”
Qadderdan said the civilian casualties were “worse than Azizabad”.
Obama, on being elected in November, regarded Afghanistan as top of his foreign policy agenda. But it has been superseded by concern over advances by the Taliban in Pakistan. He is planning to rush hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan to help fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.