‘Investigate First’ Still Appears To Be U.S. Civilian Casualties Motto
Just got this press release from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan:
KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition Forces are aware of the allegation of non-combatant casualties in Khowst District, Khowst Province, and are conducting a joint investigation.
“We take the safety of Afghan citizens very seriously, and we will immediately investigate to get to the bottom of this,” said Col. Greg Julian, U.S. Forces spokesman.
That appears to be in reference to this incident, in which a seven-day old baby boy was killed. The baby’s father accused U.S. and Afghan troops of responsibility for the boy’s death, though he was not an eyewitness to the raid on his house that presaged the death.
Without making any judgment about what happened here whatsoever, it’s noteworthy that the U.S.’s response is to promptly mount an investigation. That’s consistent with recent practice, and it’s typically the responsible thing to do. Only in January, Defense Secretary Bob Gates told a Senate panel that the situation in Afghanistan is so precarious and the need to retain the support of a skeptical Afghan population so crucial that it makes sense to “first apologize” when it appears that the U.S. and allied forces kill civilians in error and then investigate. “We have to get the balance right with the Afghan people or we will lose this war,” Gates warned.
So why hasn’t that happened? Was that a proposal that didn’t go anywhere? I’ve got a request out for information and will follow up when I learn something.