Monday, May 21, 2007

Civilians killed by NATO at Afghanistan : the case of Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat)

In the last months, there have been several cases of civilians killed by NATO forces. The incident at the Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat) maybe different from the others.

The Zerkoh Valley is at the Shindand district of Herat, in a strategic route between Herat and Kandahar. Also, in Shindand there is one of the main airbases [Shindand AB]. The valley is populated by Pashtuns, and has been usually peaceful. Follow this link to have the map of the valley.

On April 27 and 29, the US military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches. They called for airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters. The reports focus the fighting in Parmakan and Bakhtabad villages. [BBC News] [Global Security][Global Security][Bassirat].

But, after large local protests, it appeared that American airstrikes left 57 villagers dead, nearly half of them women and children. This was later accepted by several sources [Global Security] [Afghan News] [Bassirat] and generated claims from Karzai [Afghan News].

What happened seems to more complex than a mistake. The report of New York Times explains this. According to NYT (in blue):

"The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches and called in airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters."
"But the villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road."

"After burying the dead, the tribe’s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned. “If they come again, we will stand against them, and we will raise the whole area against them,” he warned. Or in the words of one foreign official in Afghanistan, the Americans went after one guerrilla commander and created a hundred more. "

The relationships between NATO forces and valley people were peaceful, even friendly. In Parmakan, some days before, was inaugurated a school with the support of ISAF, led by Italian forces [ISAF] [Frontline] , which was later damaged by the bombings.

"Villagers said the first fighting broke out on April 27, as they had gathered at the bazaar in the central village of Parmakan. Two old men, Adel Shah, 80, who was walking home with some meat and sugar for his family, and Sarwar, 80, who was harvesting poppies, were shot dead by the Americans, said Abdul Zaher, Mr. Shah’s son."
"That night, the first airstrikes were carried out, mainly on Bakhtabad, the village at the entrance to the valley, residents said. On April 29, the Americans returned, positioning their armored vehicles outside Parmakan."

"The bombing of the village so outraged people that they continued fighting the Americans even after the airstrikes. American and Afghan military officials admitted that they had been surprised at the ferocity of the response, and said that at one point American soldiers had been forced to call in the Afghan Army."

"The airstrikes damaged about 100 homes and a new school built by Italian troops."

The incidents lead to concerned analysis in NATO [Global Security]. It may be the first time (at least known) in which non militants clash with NATO and afghan forces.


Raul said...

Concerning this issue, Ahmed Rashid stated that, NATO may lost the war if goes on with the (undiscriminated) air strikes.

Source:, commenting an interview given to Der Spiegel.

Raul said...

Here are other links related with this issue:

Coalition casualties in Afghanistan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Afghan civilian deaths damaging NATO - International Herald Tribune

Afghanistan: Civilian Deaths Undermine Allies’ War on Taliban

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