Friday, 9 April 2010

Strangers in the Night

"A top US special forces commander visited a family in rural Afghanistan yesterday to plead for forgiveness after finally admitting that his troops killed five innocent people in a botched raid, which, Afghan officials said, the soldiers then tried to cover up." Along with the Boss were "almost 30 Afghan officers led by Major-General Abdul Khaliq, the 203 Corps commander" The end result was a foregone conclusion for those familar with the Afghan ethos "When people come to your gate and ask forgiveness, according to Afghan law, it's difficult to reject them," Haji Sharabuddin said later. "I am happy they came" But the family insists that it still wants justice.
Full marks to the Times for being one of the groups pressing for a truthful answer to what happened that night. We now know what happened. To my mind, equally important is knowing who did these things. The Americans very markedly did not identify the identity of the Special Forces and have always skirted around this point. Turns out that there was an Afghan contingent at the forgiveness meeting with a very senior officer there as well. His presence could hardly have been as a religious adviser or some such; to be involved at all would go against the male macho of his upbringing.

Unless - unless- it was his men who did the killing and - if the story about bullets being dug out of the dead are true - perpetrated the maltreatment of the dead. If this question of positive identification is not resolved, all of the Forces engaged in the conflict stand accused of murder and defilement.

There is a very interesting video - in Dutch - that shows a operation by Special Forces in Iraq. It is quite clear that amongst the raiding party were local forces and they played an important part in the search and handling procedures in the compound but were working under the direction of Europeans. We cannot rule out UK involvement - ""Britain's special forces — the SAS and Special Boat Service (SBS) — already come under General McChrystal's overall control as Commander of Isaf. The SAS and SBS operate in Isaf's Regional Command South, which is commanded by a Briton, Major General Nick Carter." - but I would assume that the crow-eating Admiral would have insisted Brit officers be there to share his shame and discomfort. That leaves Afghans as the prime forces in what happened. There is at least one other such incident that shows what happens when US and Afghan forces act in concert on such raids. It seems that any movement towards a compound will attract a firm response. Night time is when the Taliban enforce their intimidation activity and the occupants will use firearms without much 'think first and shoot later' considerations. One would like to think that any Afghans involved in the raid would be aware of this and clearlt identify themselves in advance. If they were not fired upon, their Rules of Engagement as insisted upon by General McCrystal, would bar their going in with guns blazing. So, the incident veers towards totally irresponsible behaviour rather than a mere mistake in the heat of a (non-existent) battle.

The effect of such conduct must never be under-estimated. I am just reading the latest update on Bloody Sunday; Afghans are just as capable of creating Instant Historically True Facts as those of the Green Latrine.

Well done the Times and their colleagues but this is not yet over. There must be full disclosure of who did exactly what. Who planned the operation, who on the ground supervised it and who did the shooting and, if it occurred, carried out the removal of used rounds from bodies of the deceased. Until such time as we and the locals know this, all of our Forces will be seen as legitimate targets for retribution. And that is neither just, fair or acceptable.

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