Karzai Objects to Sham Agreement on Air Strike “Restrictions”

Hamid Karzai lashed out yesterday against the continued use of NATO air strikes in civilian areas. He angrily referred to police actions in the US and France, noting that even when the most dangerous suspects are being sought, houses where they are holed up are never bombed. Remarkably, the New York Times provided background that helps to understand Karzai’s rage, explaining that the sham agreements on night raids and prison management recently enacted only “nominally” put Afghanistan in charge.

Here’s a basic description of the new “restrictions” on air strikes as it appears in the Washington Post:

Allen issued new orders this week restricting the use of airstrikes on civilian dwellings in response to the Logar deaths and continued criticism by Karzai. U.S. military officials said commanders will be instructed to use other means to get Taliban fighters out of homes and buildings rather than calling in airstrikes. Civilian homes have been damaged by airstrikes 32 times so far this year, according to U.S. military statistics.

Ah, but as in all the NATO agreements driven by the Obama administration, the devil is in the details. As the New York Times reported on the US response to Karzai’s outburst:

Hours later, the allied commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, reiterated significant changes to rules concerning the use of airstrikes announced earlier this week, issuing a statement in which he said he had given the order that “no aerial munitions be delivered against civilian dwellings.” But he added the caveat that the strikes would be permitted as an absolute last resort in self-defense “if no other options are available.”

As in all other agreements from Obama and NATO, the caveat allows a full work-around of the main point of the agreement. Here is how the article describes the night raid and prison management agreements in the context of the air raid “restrictions”:

But authority over both night raids and detention is nominally in the hands of Afghans now, since memorandums of understanding were signed this spring. And, while Americans still call many of the shots on both, the clock is running on how long that will go on: the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan is set to end in 2014, and by the end of this year, there will be 23,000 fewer American troops here.

So Afghanistan is in charge of night raids. But not really. And Afghanistan is in charge of prisons. But not really. And NATO will not bomb civilian areas. But not really. Is it any wonder that Karzai is ranting? Returning to the Washington Post article:

Karzai said he had an argument with Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, over the weekend about the issue, following a deadly airstrike that killed civilians in Logar province. “I said, ‘Do you do this in the United States?’ There is police action every day in the United States in various localities. They don’t call an airplane to bomb the place.”

The Times carries more of this outburst, where Karzai expanded it to include more of NATO:

“There was a police action in France, in Toulouse, when they were going to neutralize the terrorist,” Mr. Karzai said, referring to a French siege in March at an apartment where a man had holed up after killing seven people. “They were engaged in a fight with the person who was in a house, for about 36 hours or so, but they didn’t call the French Air Force to bomb the house.”

Mr. Karzai added: “Airstrikes are not used in civilian areas. If they don’t want to do it in their own country, why do they do it in Afghanistan?”

Don’t worry, Hamid, NATO and the US have promised they will only bomb civilians as a “last resort”. Don’t you trust them?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
11 replies
  1. joanneleon says:

    I wonder if they would consider it self defense if they bomb a village in retaliation for an IED set on a road near that village. In general, I wonder what they consider self defense to be. How do you use a drone in self defense? Villagers have NATO soldiers cornered somewhere and they call in a drone strike?

  2. Jim White says:

    @joanneleon: Indeed. On Twitter in response to my tweet of the link to this post, @WiseAslam (who is a big fan of Dana Rohrabacher’s efforts on behalf of an independent Balochistan) said “No body talks that 10 Militants were also killed in that air strike in Afghanistan. Militants do hide among population.”

    To which I asked how that makes bombing civilians okay.

    In fact, if you extend the thought further, you get all the way to the folks who would advocate nuking the tribal areas where the Haqqani network and others hang out so that God can sort them out…

    Edit: It goes without saying, of course, that hiding among civilians and using them as human shields is among the worst of war crimes. But just because one side is committing crimes doesn’t justify the other side in killing innocents.

  3. joanneleon says:

    I wonder how much of this is about men hiding among civilians, and how much of it is the men in a village rising up with acts of retaliation (setting IEDs) and doing things to signal that they want NATO to get the heck out of their country. I just wonder how clear that line is between the Taliban and regular civilians joining in an insurgency. In documentaries that I have seen, it does look like bands of men coming together as small, sort of militia groups. But when interviewed, they say they have taken up weapons, and that they will lay down those weapons when the Americans leave their country.

  4. What Constitution? says:

    What? Hamid Karzai “referred to police actions in the US and France, noting that even when the most dangerous suspects are being sought, houses where they are holed up are never bombed”?????

    What, he’s thinking that potential terraists (or “insurgents”) are suspected criminals, who might be treated similarly to the way suspected criminals are treated in the US or Europe? But I thought everybody we’re looking for is a Terraist and we’re at “war” with them and those near them, and that drawing analogies to the “rights” of “criminals” was so very pre-9/11 and wrong.

    This is the undisputed (and Muslim) leader of the country we’re occupying saying this. Who let him say this? Shouldn’t somebody remind him that we’re killing Terraists as an act of war over there in his country, and that that his provincial suggestion that maybe they’re only “criminal suspects” isn’t part of the gameplan?

    I mean, “ooops”,right?

  5. harpie says:

    Airstrikes [ferchrissake!] in “self defense” as a “last resort” “when there are no other options”??!!

    I don’t know whether I want to laugh or cry.

  6. rg says:

    Not so fast, Hamid. I seem to recall an anti-eviction group called MOVE in Philadelphia in the early 70’s (?) that were indeed subjected to aerial bombing. They just refused to come out, so what else ya gonna do?

  7. Michael Murry says:

    The Obama Doctrine: “Guilty unless explicit intelligence proves your posthumous innocence.”

    You simply can’t make up this kind of Orwellian shit. You have to wait for an American “law professor” with a Nobel Peace Prize to do it for you.

  8. Michael Murry says:

    Don’t worry, President Karzai, drone bombing of American homes by hyper-militarized American police appears right around the corner. The “explanation” for it will go something like this: “Well, we did it in Afghanistan, so we can do it here, too.”

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    “…even when the most dangerous suspects are being sought, houses where they are holed up are never bombed.”

    Uh, not exactly true.

    From a 5/11/05 story in USA Today (no radical rag that):

    Twenty years ago this Friday, city police dropped a bomb on this block and let it burn. Five children and six adults, members of a small radical collective called MOVE, died; 61 homes in a middle-class neighborhood were destroyed. As the nation watched, Philadelphia became the city that bombed its own people.

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