What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I saw their facial expressions"

By now many have embedded this video, including fellow bloggers Ghosts of Alexander and Péter Wagner. I just wanted to quote one of the villagers who talked to al-Jazeera about the Azizabad bombing (August 22).
A beardless, young man, in a black shirt says (his family's house was searched after the bombardment):
"I saw their facial expressions when they realised that civilians have been killed."
This USIP report warned about this in advance back in July. Quote:
"One of the main challenges that NATO and the U.S. military face in successfully targeting militants is incomplete or faulty intelligence. There are many instances where soldiers have to make quick decisions based on incomplete data that is difficult to verify, and even some cases where the military has been manipulated into targeting the rivals of informants. Often, if soldiers wait for confirmation of intelligence, the suspected militants have already moved. Other means of gathering intelligence can often conflict with Afghan culture. Searches of compounds and forced entry into houses are deeply offensive, especially when women and children are present. Arbitrary detentions also provoke anger and frustration."
Maybe in these cases it's much better to do some intrusive house searches. Even one Azizabad villager suggests something akin to that in the video mentioned above. I'll embed it so you can watch it here, too.

5 comments:

fnord said...

It seems to finally have gotten through.

"The senior American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, said Tuesday that he had issued a revised order governing the actions of all NATO troops here in an effort to reduce rising civilian casualties, which have outraged Afghans and brought global criticism."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/world/asia/17gates.html

Its an interesting fact that this happens the same day Mullen visits Pakistan and Petraeus leaves Iraq. Ill be interested in seeing the new changes in effect..

fnord said...

Oh, and Gates just publicly apologized for the whole incident.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/17/afghanistan.usforeignpolicy

Wich indicates to me at least that this has been a massive, massive IO screwup.

Péter MARTON said...

Gates certainly gets this - still my problem is that in a place like Shindand, where it's more of an adventure for insurgents to persistently be doing something, the right way to operate is certainly not to bomb at the first bit of hearsay dropped about Taliban meetings and the like. Especially there, but I would think it's not a good idea elsewhere, either. In a place like Shindand, this can make things clearly worse.

Meanwhile, the intel failure, if it's really not only the tip of the iceberg we've seen and heard, is truely astonishing in this case. Just bombing one's own contractor like that? Oh my.

Péter MARTON said...

I mean - to make it clearer what I want to say - they have now revised how lethality can be increased in an engagement, trying to control the troops-in-contact aspect of this better. But I'm not sure if the intelligence cycle issues will be addressed. And after this they should be.

fnord said...

As a historian, I find it interesting that the US armed forces seem unique in military history by the practice of almost never statuing examples by public dicipline of the ones who makes failures like this. The french Chief of Staff had to resign when a soldier fired live bullets at a civilian during exercises, Karzai fired two people publicly over a week ago on this incident but in the US armed forces screwups like this seem to have no consequence at all (except for perhaps a delayed promotion).

Its the same with almost all things military, the people who stole millions of dollars from Iraq (and so possibly killed scores of civilian through wanton neglect) get max two-three years if caught redhanded. While you can get life for stealing a pizza in California. Its a strange tradition.