The Sorry State of Apologies: Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, on Sunday his apology for a foreign air strike that killed nine children last week was “not enough.”  At a meeting with his security advisers at which Petraeus was present, Karzai said civilian casualties by foreign troops were “no longer acceptable” to the Afghan government or to the Afghan people, Karzai’s palace said in a statement.  Civilian casualties caused by NATO-led and Afghan forces hunting insurgents have again become a major source of friction between Karzai and his Western backers.  In the meeting, Petraeus apologized for the deaths of the nine children in eastern Kunar province last Tuesday, saying the killings were a “great mistake” and there would be no repeat.  “In return, the president said the apology was not enough….The people of Afghanistan are fed up with such horrific incidents and apologies or condemnation is not going to heal their wounds.”…  Hours before Karzai’s statement, hundreds of people chanting “Death to America” protested in the Afghan capital against the recent spate of civilian deaths, in a sign of the simmering anti-Western feeling among many ordinary Afghans.

Last Tuesday, two attack helicopters gunned down nine Afghan boys as they collected firewood in Kunar after a nearby foreign base had come under insurgent attack.  The incident, in a volatile area that has seen a recent spike in foreign military operations, prompted rare public apologies from Petraeus and his deputy.  President Barack Obama also expressed “deep regret” over the killings and the United Nations called for a review of air strikes…

Demonstrators marched through the center of Kabul, some carrying banners bearing pictures of blood-covered dead children they said were killed in air strikes by foreign forces….

Excerpts, Hamid Shalizi and Jonathon Burch,U.S. apology for Afghan deaths “not enough”: Karzai, Reuters, Mar. 6, 2011

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