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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
AP, AFP, BBC and CommonDreams.org on the U.S. military accidental killing of 15 Afghan children
After weeks of no news from U.S. military operations in the southeast, revelations that 15 Afghan children were accidentally killed in 2 separate raids; the U.S. warns that it "will not be deterred by civilian casualties"
International News U.S., Afghan forces begin new anti-terror operation in Afghanistan By JONATHAN FOWLER The Associated Press 11/10/03 2:46 PM KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- American and Afghan troops launched a new anti-terror operation in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Monday, the latest effort to destroy a network of insurgents including al-Qaida, the Taliban and forces loyal to a renegade warlord. Meanwhile, in another sign of the struggle to stabilize Afghanistan, government loyalists in the south appealed for help fighting the Taliban -- two years after the militia's rulers were driven from power by a U.S.-led invasion. Operation Mountain Resolve began Friday in Nuristan and Kunar provinces with an airdrop by the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said. The provinces are about 95 miles northeast of the capital, Kabul. "The main objective is against terrorism," Davis said. "It is focused on destroying anti-coalition elements, disrupting their ability to operate in the eastern region of Afghanistan. "We want the anti-coalition forces to understand that there is no sanctuary for them anywhere in Afghanistan." He did not say how long the operation was expected to last nor would he provide any details about manpower or the equipment being used. The combined operation by U.S. troops and Afghan militia is likely to target members of al-Qaida, Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami, a group loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar, a former prime minister, has called for a jihad, or holy war, against foreign troops in Afghanistan, but so far has eluded U.S. efforts to arrest or kill him. Hekmatyar issued a statement Monday saying attacks by his supporters will not stop until the U.S.-led coalition and its "puppet government" withdraw from Afghanistan. "America knows that it has just one choice, that it has to leave Afghanistan and Iraq," the statement said. "America will only increase casualties in its forces if it increases its troops in Afghanistan or Iraq." The two-page, Pashtu-language statement was faxed to The Associated Press in Peshawar from an unknown location. Its authenticity was verified by Hizb-e-Islami official Salahuddin Salah. President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Jawid Luddin, said the three groups "probably are part of the same network." Afghanistan's national army is not participating in the new operation, but the U.S. military coordinated the offensive with Kabul, Karzai said. Karzai's central government, installed after the Taliban's ouster, wields limited influence outside Kabul and Luddin said it remains deeply concerned about poor security there. Parts of the north are controlled by rival warlords, who back the government only nominally. In the south, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks in recent months against coalition and government troops, and Kabul loyalists. On Monday, an official from Zabul province, about 60 miles from the Taliban's former power base in Kandahar, urged the central government to send more troops because of mounting attacks in the remote mountainous region bordering Pakistan, where many Taliban are believed to have fled after their ouster. Zabul has experienced a recent string of bomb blasts, direct attacks and kidnappings by militants. "The Taliban are attacking, but nobody is paying any attention," said Zafar Khan, head of Zabul's Khak-e-Afghan district. "Afghans have been dying now for two decades and are fed up with this." Two weeks ago, Taliban insurgents seized a Turkish road engineer, Hasan Onal, on the highway in Zabul. They released his Afghan driver with a ransom note saying Onal would be executed within 48 hours unless authorities freed several Taliban prisoners, but the insurgents did not carry out their threat and instead began talks with the government. Khan said four of his relatives were kidnapped by the Taliban. Afghanistan has been at war virtually since 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded. The country descended into civil war after the Red Army withdrew in 1989.
Mistaken U.S. Attack Upsets Afghans Associated Press Monday December 8, 9:01 PM Afghan officials warned Monday that an American military attack that mistakenly killed nine children playing in a remote village could make it harder to persuade ordinary people to support Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government. "Every innocent who is killed has brothers, uncles, sisters and nephews _ and behind them the tribe," said Sadokhan Ambarkhil, deputy governor of Paktika, one of the most dangerous provinces for coalition troops and their Afghan allies. "If ten people are killed, how many people are saddened?" Saturday's warplane attack came as coalition forces are fighting a growing Taliban insurgency across the southern and eastern provinces, and as Kabul, the capital, prepared for this week's loya jirga, or grand council, to debate and approve the country's new constitution. The attack, aimed at a local Taliban militant accused of attacking aid workers, also was criticized outside Afghanistan. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "profoundly saddened" by the children's deaths and called for a thorough investigation. "The fight against terrorism cannot be won at the expense of innocent lives," Fred Eckhard, Annan's spokesman, said in New York. Seven boys and two girls, the oldest aged 12, died when the A-10 warplane sprayed a dusty field with 30mm high-explosive rounds in Hutala village, 150 miles southwest of Kabul, the Afghan capital. The attack also killed a man that U.S. officials say was Mullah Wazir, a former district Taliban commander suspected of attacking aid groups and workers on the Kabul-Kandahar road _ a top U.S.-funded reconstruction project. But villagers say the dead man was Abdul Hamid, a laborer in his twenties who had returned from Iran just days before his death, and that Mullah Wazir cleared out days before. Residents and local officials suggested the Americans were fed bogus intelligence _ a suspected cause of earlier deadly bombings of civilians _ and criticized what they called a careless use of military might. "I don't know why the U.S. forces did this," said Khial Mohammad, the deputy governor of Ghazni province where the attack took place. "Mullah Wazir wasn't there. He's not a famous commander, but he is famous for smuggling." Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a coalition spokesman said Sunday that DNA had been taken from the scene to try to prove the strike had hit its target. On Monday, at a briefing at the U.S. military headquarters in Bagram, north of Kabul, Hilferty said only that the coalition "was still working on identifying that man." Aware of the damage such incidents can do to their own image, senior U.S. officers flew into the village on Sunday to offer condolences and help. "Such mistakes could make the Afghan people think ill of the coalition," Hilferty said. U.S. officials insist they had prepared the attack carefully and were unaware of the children when the order was given to fire. Officials said funeral services for the ten victims, already buried locally, were expected to be held Monday. "If they are killing children and innocent people, they will create a big problem for the present government," Mohammad said. "Especially over the presence of coalition forces."
US probes child deaths as Afghans search for kidnapped Indians Monday December 8, 5:07 AM KABUL (AFP) - The US military faced mounting criticism as it began to investigate the accidental killing of nine children in an air attack on an alleged terrorist in Afghanistan while Afghan police searched for two kidnapped Indian road workers. The United Nations called for a swift inquiry and its results to be made public since the blunder "adds to a sense of fear and insecurity" in the country following similar killings of innocent civilians. The children died along with a suspected terrorist in a coalition air attack in southeast Ghazni province which has been troubled by attacks blamed on Taliban militants. "Following the attack, coalition ground forces searching the area found the bodies of both the intended target and those of nine children nearby," the US military said. A10 "tankbuster" ground attack aircraft had opened fire on the suspect at about 10:30 am (0600 GMT) Saturday in a rural area south of Ghazni town, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Kabul. Alleged Taliban Mullah Wazir was believed to be responsible for recently killing two foreign contractors working on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat ring road. "He was a notorious ringleader of terrorist groups," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told reporters. A ministry team was Sunday at the site in Watela, Gelan district investigating the deaths. "The government has asked for explanations and also launched an investigation into the incident," he said. President Hamid Karzai said he heard of the deaths with "deep sorrow" and that he had asked the coalition for an explanation. The coalition said it was setting up a commission to investigate the deaths, adding that its forces "follow stringent rules of engagement" while hunting militants. "Coalition forces regret the loss of any innocent life." The coalition would "make every effort to assist the families of the innocent casualties and determine the cause of the civilian deaths." However UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the protection of civilians is an "obligation" for any military organisation. "This incident, which follows similar incidents, adds to a sense of insecurity and fear in the country," said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, reading a statement from the envoy. "We are aware that caution is taken but these kinds of mistakes ... do have a negative impact among the population. We have seen this before so it's not as if we're speaking without experience," de Almeida e Silva said. Scores of civilians have been killed by the coalition since the start of the campaign against the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan in October 2001. Meanwhile a Taliban commander who abducted a Turkish engineer has denied kidnapping two Indian road workers and offered to help find them. "There have been contacts with Mullah Roazy Khan, the Taliban commander who kidnapped the Turkish engineer," Jalali told AFP. "Roazy Khan said he has not kidnapped the two Indians and said he would help find them," he said. The kidnapping of the Indians in troubled southeast Afghanistan follows the abduction at the end of October of Turkish engineer Hasan Onal who was also working on the key Kabul-Kandahar highway. Onal was released last Sunday a month after being held captive by Taliban who had demanded the release of jailed fellow militants. The Indians were kidnapped Saturday in Zabul province after finishing work on the highway. Jalali earlier told reporters they were kidnapped by three armed men after shopping with Afghan colleagues in Bazargan village near Shahjoy 280 kilometres (175 miles) southwest of Kabul. "When they found out that two Indians were there they let the Afghans go and took the Indians with the car," Jalali said. "Unfortunately they were in the wrong place at the wrong time," the minister said, adding it did not appear to have been planned. Workers on the road have been attacked several times by suspected Taliban who have increasingly targeted aid workers as well as US and Afghan troops. Meanwhile US troops and Afghan police were Sunday stopping cars and searching for suspects following a bomb attack in Kandahar which injured more than 20 people. Police said they had not yet made any arrests over the attack which local doctors said had injured 24 Afghans. Karzai called it "a cowardly act aimed at terrorising the people of Afghanistan" before the national assembly or loya jirga meets this week to approve a new constitution, paving the way for the country's first democratic election.
More Afghan children die in raids 2003/12/10 14:39:21 GMT BBC NEWS The US military in Afghanistan has revealed that six children died in a raid on suspected militants in the eastern province of Paktia last week. News of the deaths came shortly after the US apologised for killing nine children in a separate raid in the neighbouring province of Ghazni. However, the US has warned it will not be deterred by civilian casualties. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sent investigators to Ghazni amid concern the raids are alienating local people. This is not helping really the government... and people will be angry and everybody is embarrassed like myself Nazir Saberi Afghan cabinet minister A US spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty, told reporters in Kabul on Wednesday that the bodies of six children were found under a collapsed wall at a compound 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Gardez, in Paktia province. Two adults' bodies were also found at the scene when ground forces searched the area on Saturday. The US spokesman said there had been no indication that civilians were at the scene and he suggested the victims were partly to blame for being at a site used by militants to store munitions. "If non-combatants surround themselves with thousands of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and mortars, in a compound known to be used by a terrorist, we are not completely responsible for the consequences," he said. The raid was launched in the belief that a suspected militant, Mullah Jilani, was staying in the compound. When troops arrived they did not find the suspect but made nine other arrests, a US spokesman said. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defended the aggressive pursuit of militant leaders in Afghanistan, saying the Pentagon is equally happy to capture or kill them. 'No guarantee' The US military earlier admitted mistakenly killing nine children in an air attack on Saturday against another suspected militant in Ghazni Province. BOMBING ERRORS* Dec 2001: 65 killed in bombing of convoy of tribal elders April 2002: Four Canadian soldiers killed July 2002: 48 killed when bomb hits wedding party April 2003: 11 killed by bomb in village of Shkin Dec 2003: Nine children killed by bombing in Ghazni Province; six children killed in raid in Paktia province *Mistakes accepted by US "I can't guarantee that we will not injure more civilians," said Lieutenant Colonel Hilferty, adding: "I wish I could". During the Ghazni raid, an A-10 ground attack aircraft opened fire at a figure thought to be that of a militant leader, Mullah Wazir. The identity of the man killed along with the children has been disputed. Villagers say he was a local labourer and that the intended target had left the area days before the attack. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among senior US figures to offer condolences after Saturday's deaths. "We haven't been perfect," he said. 'This is not helping' Afghan officials have warned that "mistakes" such as the Ghazni deaths risk undermining the US-backed Afghan Government. Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday he had sent his own investigators to Ghazni but the president, a key US ally, was careful not to apportion blame. "We are trying to find... the best possible manner to prevent incidents like that," he said. "We are thinking if aerial activity is helpful or if it causes suffering." Nazir Saberi, a minister in the Afghan Government, told the BBC's Newshour programme that he was "angry at the people who are not being very, very careful about these things". He said that coalition forces had to "learn to coordinate with the Afghan authorities". "This is not helping really the government... and people will be angry and everybody is embarrassed like myself," he added. "It is terrible, the tragedy of children being killed."
Published on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
On Killing Children: An Open Letter to US Military Spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan
by Jeff Guntzel
We have never met. Still, I hope you do not mind that I have dispensed with your
Yesterday the United States Military announced to the world that, last week, it
had killed six more children in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia.
Surely you know the details, but the story bears repeating:
It happened last Friday, December 5th. It was a nighttime raid on a compound
near the city of Gardez, where nine children were killed one day later in an air
attack on a Taliban suspect. It turns out that the suspect was just an ordinary
But that is another story. Back to Friday. The renegade Afghan commander, Mullah
Jalani, it was believed, was storing weapons in the compound. Jalani himself may
even have been sleeping there. So the compound was shot up. There were
explosions. And the next day when troops showed up to assess the damage, six
children were found crushed under a collapsed wall. And there were two dead
adults. Neither of them were Mullah Jalani.
When things like this happen, I do not envy your job. As a spokesman, your job
is to comment on events you did not experience. And so, with the detachment with
which distance sometimes cloaks tragedy, you briefed the press on the details.
“I can't guarantee that we will not injure more civilians,” you said, “I wish I
I think your job should be eliminated. Better to hear from the young man who
first discovered the small bodies—or maybe a panel of soldiers who worked to
remove the collapsed wall in order to count the dead. What a gruesome sight it
must have been.
“We do make mistakes,” you said, “War is an inexact art.”
The soldiers familiar with the sight and smell of each of those six lives lost
may have said the same thing. But what a weight those words would have carried.
Perhaps there would have been long pauses or deep breaths. And maybe even tears.
Your words are without gravity.
Still you said more. “In this incident, if non-combatants surround themselves
with thousands of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and
mortars, in a compound known to be used by a terrorist, we are not completely
responsible for the consequences.”
Did you mean to call those dead children—whose names and ages and dreams I wish
I could recite to you now—“non-combatants?” Was it reflex or script? When you
were briefed on this tragedy, did you feel like you had swallowed a stone? Did
you think, just for a short second, I will not explain this one for them?
The next time you are asked to speak about the inevitable but inexcusable
tragedies of war, remember the people you love. And remember that your love for
family and friends is not unique.
And to the people who loved each of those six lost children, war is not an
“inexact art,” it is a murderous folly.
There is a quote from a book by the well-known American author Barbara
Kingsolver that I recite to myself when I feel like I can’t find the ground:
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And
the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but
live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say
it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility
that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed.
That’s about it…”
I would be grateful to receive your response.
Jeff Guntzel is a contributing editor to Punk Planet Magazine
(http://www.punkplanet.com/) and a freelance writer. From 1998-2003 he was
co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness (http://www.vitw.org). He lives in
Indianapolis, IN and he can be reached at jeff@v....
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.