This AP reports that the US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghans last year, Robert Bales, will plead guilty to avoid a possible death sentence.
The subtext of the article is more interesting. The AP quotes family members of those killed saying they will exact revenge if he is not killed.
In interviews with the AP in Kandahar in April, relatives of the victims became outraged at the notion Bales might escape the death penalty and even vowed revenge.
“For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers,” said Mohammed Wazir, who had 11 family members killed that night, including his mother and 2-year-old daughter.
It notes that legal observers didn’t think he’d be given a death sentence (note, Nidal Hasan almost surely will get a death sentence, though his trial is moving more slowly).
Bales was serving his fourth tour in a combat zone, and the allegations against him raised questions about the toll multiple deployments were taking on American troops. For that reason, many legal experts believed it that it was unlikely that he would receive the death penalty, as Army prosecutors were seeking. The military justice system hasn’t executed anyone since 1961.
And it hints at just a few of the other details the government probably doesn’t want probed too deeply.
He had been drinking contraband alcohol, snorting Valium that was provided to him by another soldier, and had been taking steroids before the attack.
In other words, Bales may have had less to lose than the government in going to trial. I get why his lawyer is advocating a plea deal (and there may be an understanding about whether he’ll be eligible for parole ever), but I suspect the government had far more to lose here.
Much to the consternation of those who want all war, all the time, Iraq managed to force the US into a complete pullout of troops at the end of 2011, even though there had been efforts to develop a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have allowed a number of troops to stay on as trainers. Because Iraq would not grant criminal immunity to those remaining forces, the US finally withdrew completely. There had been great hope within the Obama administration that the agreement could be reached, especially because it suffered no consequences from its craven behavior in announcing the end of combat operations in August of 2010, which it achieved merely by redefining 50,000 combat troops as non-combat troops. There have been analyses both at the time of the negotiation failure by Josh Rogin and in September of this year by the New York Times, but the unifying theme is that when Iraq would not agree to immunity the US decided on the pullout, despite the best efforts by the Obama administration to claim that a complete withdrawal had been their plan all along.
The Obama administration began negotiations today with Afghanistan on a SOFA for the conditions under which US troops may stay behind after the handover of security control to Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Once again, the Obama administration will first play the semantics game, as the 2014 deadline is for the end of combat operations, as was the first deadline in Iraq. The US is seeking to leave behind a significant training force (that is fully capable of combat but defined otherwise, I’m sure) but is once again seeking criminal immunity for the remaining troops.
There are significant complications for the negotiations. First, the training relationship between NATO forces and Afghan forces is much worse than it was in Iraq, as green on blue killings have threatened how the US has gone about its mission in Afghanistan. Further, the issue of legal standing is complicated greatly by the fact that the US insists on trying Robert Bales in the US while Afghanistan wants to try him there.
Reuters describes the beginning of negotiations:
Afghanistan and the United States have started talks that will eventually define how many American troops stay in the country after most NATO combat forces leave at the end of 2014, and the scope of their mission.
The bilateral security negotiations could take months, and are expected to be difficult. The round of talks that began on Thursday will cover the legal basis for U.S. soldiers to work in Afghanistan post-2014.
“This document is intended to provide the legal authority for U.S. armed forces and their civilian component to continue a presence in Afghanistan with the full approval of the government of Afghanistan,” said James B. Warlick, deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who will be leading the U.S. delegation.
And, of course, immunity is front and center as the primary issue:
The thorniest issue in future talks will be whether U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are given immunity from prosecution under Afghan law.
This is a movie that we have seen before. It is nearly impossible to see how its ending will differ much from Iraq, although I suspect that the combination of the war-weariness of the public and the ongoing risk of trainers being killed might prompt the US to agree that the end of combat operations this time might actually coincide with a complete withdrawal rather than a redefinition of troops. If that decision can be reached quickly (and a hard line from Afghanistan on immunity could hasten it), perhaps there would then be some hope that the timetable also can be accelerated significantly. The end of 2014 is still more than two full years away. That is a long time for the Obama administration to look at ongoing deaths and huge monetary outlays at a time when most Americans (excluding defense contractors and neocons) have had enough war and debt is the largest political issue in the country.
As I reported here, DOD released a new charge sheet for Robert Bales. I’m going to start by laying out the chronology it portrays, then talk about the identities of the victims at the end. Here’s his original charge sheet for comparison.
November 1, 2011-March 10, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge VI) of violating a general order prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in Afghanistan going back to November 1, 2011. Significantly, however, he is not accused of drinking on March 11; the endpoint on this charge is March 10, 2012.
January 1, 2012-March 11, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge V) of possessing and using stanozolol while receiving special pay. Update: Let me correct this. Bales was charged with using steroids starting on January 1. He was charged with possessing steroids starting on February 1. Both because of the assault and the claims by Bales’ lawyers that he got steroids from the special ops guys, that may be significant.
February 1, 2012-February 29, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge III Specification 7) of “unlawfully strik[ing] a male of apparent Afghan descent whose name is unknown on the face and body with his hands and knees.”
March 11, 2012: Bales is accused of 16 counts of premeditated murder (this is one fewer female victim than his prior charge sheet); the charge sheet says that in addition to shooting all the victims, he burned 10 of them (which as I’ll show below is clearly Mohammed Wazir’s family). He is also charged with attempted murder and assault against 6 more people (two girls, two boys, a man, and a woman); these charges appear to line up with the previous charges. In addition, the new charge sheet adds two charges of impeding an investigation, one by “damaging a laptop” and another by “wrongfully burn[ing] bodies.”
As I said above, the murders described in Specifications 7 through 16 must be Mohammed Wazir’s family, because we know they were all burned (see this WSJ article for his description of him; see this post for the last time I tried this trick). That section lists 6 females and 4 males. Wazir says he lost 7 females and 4 males, though that includes his daughter Palwahsa who, he described, had no bullet wounds. The last 10 or 11 names listed on the first charge sheet don’t line up perfectly–they include 8 females and 3 males, though I did wonder whether DOD had gotten the sex of one of Wazir’s family members wrong in the first count, so if Palwasha were not listed and they had corrected the sex of one of his sons, then the last 16 on the new charge sheet would correlate to the last 17 of the old one.
The redacted name in Specification 6 in the original charge sheet appears to match the redacted name in Specification 5 in the new one. For the moment, I’ll suggest that’s Mohammad Dawood, who like Wazir’s family was in Najiban. That might mean Specification 6 in the new charge sheet is just another of Wazir’s family members, but one whose body wasn’t dragged into the fire.
The sexes of the first four Specifications match (though not some of the redactions). This would mean they’ve since named the female victim in Specification 4, who was unnamed in the original.
And if all that’s right, then the victim originally listed in Specification 4 would be the one now absent from the charge sheet.
But all this means there’s still a discrepancy between who Afghans say got killed–which consist of 8 male and 8 female victims, and who DOD says got killed–which consist of 7 male and 9 female victims. In a scenario in which Mohammad Dawood got killed by JSOC guys on an official night raid, that would then mean there’s one more female who Bales is charged with killing–probably at Alkozai–whom the Afghans haven’t identified.
In other words, there’s still something funky.
Update: powwow did her own version of a list of victims back in April here (read comments for updates). I’m going to try to match up my list to this.
One of Robert Bales’ lawyers, Emma Scanlan, seemed to expect the government to drop one of the murder chargers against her client, and the press seems to assume that DOD simply overcounted bodies when they first charged Bales.
Bales attorney Emma Scanlan said she received the new charges Friday and that there was nothing surprising in them. There had been talk for some time that the number of victims in the massacre had been over-counted.
Because DOD, apparently, can’t count to 20, or even 17?
But take that revelation in the light of this description, which says the new number comes from developments in the investigation.
Update: Here is the new charge sheet. There is one fewer female, though as I’ll explain shortly I think they may have also explained a gender discrepancy they had earlier. So this might just be a correction. Also note, the new charge sheet, unlike the old one, names everyone.
The new slate of charges detailed Friday by the U.S. Army — which are defined as violations of the Uniform Military Code of Justice — include 16 counts of premeditated murder, one of several changes that the military said were done “to conform to developments in the ongoing investigation.”
And Bales’ lawyer John Henry Browne’s relief that DOD has made his client’s steroid use public by charging it.
Bales’ lawyer, John Henry Browne, responded to the changes by saying he is “so relieved” that military prosecutors “came out publicly with the steroid use.”
“Steroid use is going to be an issue in this case, especially where Sgt. Bales got steroids and how he got steroids,” Browne told CNN.
I have long maintained that the attacks made more sense if you assumed multiple killers in Najiban, with the attack on Mohammed Dawood’s house being a regular night raid, with Bales’ alleged attack on Mohammed Wazir’s family a terrible fuckup. It’s an argument Truthout developed further here, with reporting from villagers. Significantly, in response to their queries, DOD significantly qualified the statement they gave to me regarding related operations in the area.
The investigative web site Emptywheel reported March 28 that Department of Defense spokesperson Bill Speaks had checked with the International Security Assistance Force and confirmed that “there were no military operations in those villages the night of the killings.” But in response to a query from Truthout, Brig. Gen. Lewis M. Boone, the director of public affairs for US Forces Afghanistan, qualified that response. “[A]ll operational reports received in the initial aftermath of the incident indicate that the subject acted alone,” Boone wrote. “Furthermore, his actions were not associated with any other operation in the area.”
In a further email, Boone explained that any additional information beyond those initial reports related to the questions of whether Bales acted alone and whether there was a US military operation that night “falls under the purview of the investigation.”
Browne’s comments, plus his reference to Bales taking, “two sips of alcohol off of someone else’s Gatorade bottle,” seem to point to the involvement of another person(s), the source of the steroids and booze. Which leads me to suspect that that other person was part of that night raid, which killed one person (Dawood) as a legitimate military target that they have therefore taken off Bales’ charge sheet.
Which brings us to one other new charge of particular interest: destroying a laptop. Robert Bales is now accused of destroying what is/was likely evidence. Remember that tale the government told about how Bales turned himself in? Was that before or after he destroyed a laptop?
It appears that tale is no longer operative.
Update: Yep. Bales’ legal team is waving big flags saying “There were other people!!!!” though the press seems not to have noticed.
She said the development was indicative of the “prosecution’s biggest problem in this case — even putting our client in these villages. Or that he was even the one who killed them.”
The question is, if Bales destroyed a laptop with evidence of others’ involvement and he’s taking the fall, does DOD know who else was involved?
Update: OK, the Defense is clearly saying SOF provided the steroids, which I think says they’re pointing at SOF involvement.
Emma Scanlan, an attorney on Bales’ defense team, said the Army alleges that Bales obtained steroids from a Special Forces soldier at his base in Panjwai.
Update: Here’s the new charge sheet. He is accused of burning a laptop on the day of the attack. He’s also accused of assaulting an Afghan in February. I’m working on a post analyzing the changes.
McClatchy has gone back to do more reporting on the Panjwai massacre that happened in March. (h/t Agonist) It provides a gruesome account of what happened at Alkozai. But also provides more details on the attack and the investigation.
McClatchy’s interview of survivors from Alkozai appear to confirm what had appeared to be the case already: there was just one killer at that village (though they appear not to have interviewed anyone from Najiban, where witnesses testified to multiple killers).
Rafiullah told McClatchy that Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, phoned him in the aftermath of the attack and U.S. authorities later interviewed him while he was in the hospital. “Two times they talked to me,” he said.
A day or two after the massacre, he also spoke to the man Karzai had appointed as his chief investigator into the killings, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan army chief .
“To all of them I said the same thing,” Rafiullah said. “I saw only one shooter.”
The story reveals that after multiple US interviews (and fewer Afghan ones), one of the surviving adults at Alkozai was grilled about setting the IED that had gone offer the week before the Robert Bales attack.
The only official contact he’d had since his discharge from the hospital was when he was summoned, still wounded, to Kandahar city and interrogated by an officer from Afghanistan’s much-feared intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security.
“That man was a bastard,” Naim said. “He accused me of having laid IEDs” – improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs – “before the massacre to target the American forces.”
Naim said he’d previously seen Taliban members placing such devices near his home in Alkozai, but that he’d told them not to, as he and his family might be targeted in response. Like many civilians in southern Afghanistan, he felt he was caught in a struggle between the insurgents and U.S.-led forces. Sadiqullah had been wounded earlier by shrapnel from an American mortar round that had landed near his home.
Sadiqullah underwent surgery at the U.S. military hospital in Kandahar after that attack, too, and his wound had barely healed by the night of the massacre.
Sadiqullah is 11, and he has already hospitalized twice this year by American fire. Not only is that a testament to the simmering relations between Americans and villagers in Panjwai. But it’s a pretty good indication of whether we’re going to be able to win the support of the next generation of Afghan fighters.
The AP reports that over three weeks after the attack on two villages in Panjwai, DOD investigators have finally gotten around to collecting forensic material from the sites of the attack (h/t scribe)
Army criminal investigators visited the villages early this week to collect forensic evidence, two senior defense officials said Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of prohibitions against talking about the ongoing investigation into the March 11 killings.
They’ve waited this long, DOD says, to avoid antagonizing angry villagers.
Investigators stayed away from the shooting sites for more than three weeks to avoid aggravating tensions with angry villagers.
Except that as Yalda Hakim’s reporting made clear 9 days ago, the villages have been vacated. There are no villagers there to aggravate tensions with.
REPORTER (Translation): Where are all those people from the village now?
MAN (Translation): They went everywhere or to the city, after the incident. People are frightened.
Not surprisingly, both Bales’ lawyer and General Sher Mohammed Karimi believe this has tainted the crime scenes.
General Karimi told CBS News that he is now concerned the evidence at the crime scene has been compromised.
“People went there, walked around it saw their sights, so it is difficult to distinguish between the footmarks of the killer or the person involved, or other peoples who have walked the area,” Karimi said.
I’d say the compromised crime scene is a feature, not a bug, of the way DOD has been running this investigation.
Yesterday, the US and Afghanistan drew closer to an agreement on night raids. Not only would the deal give Afghan courts veto power over the raids (though, in some cases, the raids could be approved after the fact), but it makes Afghan military personnel the lead in any night raids.
Under terms of the proposed accord, night operations by special forces would be subject to review by Afghan judges. The deal, which people familiar with it said could be signed later this week, would also give Afghan forces the lead in all the operations.
Also yesterday, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, who is not only the lead investigator into the Panjwai massacre, but is also the Afghan army chief and a graduate of several Special Forces courses at Fort Bragg, announced that he had spoken with two witnesses who said just one soldier came to their house on March 11.
Afghan army chief Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, whom Karzai sent to Kandahar to investigate the massacre, told McClatchy that two survivors he interviewed offered credible accounts that the killings were the act of a lone person.
“They told me the same thing,” Karimi said. “They both said there was (only) one individual who came to their house.”
Now, there are more than two witnesses to the killings. Though there are more surviving witnesses from Alkozai than there are from Najiban, where all the people in Mohmmaed Wazir’s home were killed, and where Mohammad Dawood’s children have said just one individual “came to their house” but more were standing outside with lights on. It would be fairly easy to find two witnesses from Alkozai to say there was just one killer–as most evidence suggests there was–but harder to find two adult witnesses to say much of anything about what occurred at Najiban (though Dawood’s wife and Agha Lala appear to agree there were multiple men at the village), which is where evidence suggested there was more than one killer but which is also where almost all the adult witnesses are now dead.
Add in the fact that Karimi explicitly states that he hopes there is just one killer.
Karimi said a joint Afghan-U.S. team was continuing to investigate the killings and hoped to collect more forensic evidence.
“I hope it is proved that it is one guy,” he said.
And that Karimi hasn’t been permitted to speak with Sergeant Bales, and this statement should be taken at face value.
The guy who just got put in charge of American Special Forces running night raids in Afghanistan (the same ones who might be implicated if more than one person was present at Panjwai) has stated he found two witnesses who say only one man came in their house the night of the killing.
There’s one more detail that’s interesting about yesterday’s developments. According to the WSJ, there’s still a dispute about what happens to those Afghans captured on night raids.
Officials had expected the deal could be signed as soon as Wednesday. But a last-minute disagreement arose over how long U.S. forces would be allowed to hold Afghan detainees picked up in joint Afghan-American special-operations night raids. The U.S. wants to be able to question detainees to try to glean intelligence about militant networks and activities. The Afghans want control of the detainees.
On Monday, with some fanfare, the US congratulated the guy who is now purportedly in charge of Afghan Detention Operation Command.
Top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Afghanistan offered their congratulations yesterday as an Afghan officer took charge of Afghan Detention Operations Command.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, joined U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker in congratulating Maj. Gen. Faroq Barekzai on his assumption of command at a ceremony held in Parwan, Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai appointed Barekzai to his new position March 28, officials said.
“Today’s event is nothing short of monumental when looking at the significance of Major General Barekzai’s assumption of command and the responsibilities he assumes for the Afghan people and his nation’s justice system,” Allen said at the ceremony. “This is a symbolic and visible step marking the progress we continue to make in partnership with the Afghan government as we work to develop and uphold the sovereignty they rightfully deserve.”
Officials said the ceremony marked the first step of an agreed-upon process that will give the Afghan defense ministry full control of the detention facility within six months while protecting U.S. international and domestic legal obligations regarding detainees. Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed March 9, the United States will provide ongoing support and advice to the Afghan commander for up to one year.
“This assumption of command marks another step in the transition to Afghan control of security and is a sign of our support for Afghan sovereignty, as well as our commitment to an enduring partnership,” Crocker said. [my emphasis]
Yeah, there’s that bit about us hanging around for a year as “advisors.” But if this truly is “nothing short of monumental” (man is General Allen one superlative ass-kisser), then why, two days later, did we say we don’t actually want to hand over detainees?
And if General Barekzai is in charge of the detention system we don’t want to hand over detainees into, then where do we intend to question these detainees? FOBs?
In short, there’s a whole lot of kabuki going on, at least with regards to the “sovereignty” we’re devolving to Afghans, and possibly with respect to the Panjwai massacre.
I’m working on a theory about the Panwjai killings: that there was just one gunman at the village of Alkozai, but multiple solders were present at Najiban. At this point, it’s just a wildarsed guess, but it is consistent with what at least some of the witnesses say, and it might explain conflicting stories about timing and the purported helicopter search for Sergeant Robert Bales.
While there remain inconsistencies on the number dead, for this post I will assume the dead consist of Mohammed Wazir’s 11 family members, with Ismatullah counted as female, Mohammad Dawood, Syed Jaan’s 4 family members, and one additional girl, probably killed at Alkozai.
While reading this post, it may be useful to open the sources listed at the bottom.
Alkozai is the village north of the base. Nalda Hakim suggests the shooting happened here first; WSJ suggests it was second. Given that Sergeant Bales reportedly returned to the base between villages and his roommate didn’t believe he had been shooting Afghans, Najiban would have had to have been second, given that moving victims as happened there would have–and apparently did–leave his clothing bloodied.
In Alkozai, multiple reports describe people running into a central (and larger) house in the village, that of Habibullah’s father, where at least Syed Jaan’s family members were killed. See Global Post for a diagram. In addition to Jaan’s family members, most of the wounded appear to come from Alkozai, as well. Both Hakim’s footage–showing bullets splattered all over the room–and WSJ’s report suggest the shooting was less accurate here than in Najiban.
Of the witnesses at Alkozai, Habibullah says there were 2-3 soldiers (though not in the range of 12-20 like reports from Najiban), though he admits he doesn’t remember well. Jan Agha, in his confusing or inaccurate Reuters report, says there were multiple soldiers; in his apparently more accurate–based on the number of dead and wounded–interview with McClatchy, he appears to say it was a single soldier.
Najiban is the village south of–and further–from the base. Mohammad Dawood–the husband of Massouma and the brother of Mullah Baran (who in addition to his comments to the WSJ is one of the two men in Hakim’s report)–and Mohammed Wazir’s 11 family members died in Najiban. WSJ states that Dawood was killed first, then Wazir’s family.
Massouma and “Aminea” (which Hakim says is not her real name) may be the same person, because Baran describes scraping up his brother’s brain in WSJ, which is consistent with Aminea’s description of capturing her husband’s brain in her hands, and because Aminea has the same number of children as Dawood, 6 (though Global Post says 7; it’s not clear which of Aminea’s very young children would be the 7-year old son of Massouma described in the Global Post, though biologically, barring twins, one of them must be that old). That said, you would think Baran would have accompanied Hakim for the interview, as he guarded his sister-in-law from journalists elsewhere. In any case, Massouma refers to one soldier doing the killing, but a number more searching her compound. Her and Dawood’s children have also repeatedly said there were multiple soldiers with lights standing outside of their home.
That, added to the circumstances surrounding the killings in Wazir’s home–both the layout over four rooms and the attempt to burn the victims–suggest the involvement of multiple solders in Najiban.
Agha Lala, who hid in his Najiban home and then checked his neighbors after the soldiers left, spoke of multiple soldiers. He also said the attack started around 2:00, a time when both US sources and the Afghan guards at the base would have placed Bales at the base.
In addition to the statements of the guards–who describe a single soldier leaving, then returning, then leaving again by himself (though none attest that it was Bales or that the departing soldier was the same man), the statements of two children support the government’s claim there was just one killer. Both the young boy Hakim filmed (Sediqullah, according to the transcript) and another that doesn’t appear on film but whom she references in her follow-up spoke of just one soldier doing the shooting.
But then there are the comments of Noorbinak, the 8-year old girl Hakim films. While Noorbinak speaks of just one soldier shooting her father, she said “others were standing in the yard holding lights.” Now, that sounds precisely like what Dawood and Massouma’s kids said–that there were a bunch of soldiers in the yard with lights. And at least given what we know about victims, it seems likely her father was Dawood. That’s because there were no survivors from Wazir’s household. so she can’t be from that family and therefore none of his dead relatives could be Noorbinak’s deceased father. And while Syed Jaan notes that two of his nephews and a niece were wounded (presumably the children of his brother who died), the niece’s head wound was so bad she was not expected to survive. Noorbinak was wounded only in the knee. That is, the imperfect information we have about the dead seems to rule out Jaan’s brother being Noorbinak’s now deceased father, which seems to leave just Dawood as a deceased adult male who could be Noorbinak’s father. Therefore her report of men with lights in the courtyard repeats the same thing her siblings have said. (Note, this makes it less likely that Massouma and Aminea are the same woman.)
The wounded in the charge sheet
While trying to discern anything from a redacted charge sheet is fraught with problems, and there are more problems matching descriptions of the wounded with the charge sheet than the dead. Nevertheless, the charge sheet may also support the possibility that Noorbinak is from Najiban.
As I laid out here and here, there seems like there’s a discrepancy between the numbers and sexes of victims listed in Robert Bales’ charge sheet and those listed in public accounts. Whereas accounts like WSJ one report there were 8 male and 8 female victims, the charge sheet lists 10 female and 7 male victims.
I thought I might have found the source of the discrepancy–confusion about the sex of Ismatullah Wazir. Whereas WSJ lists Ismatullah as a 13-year old boy, Al Jazeera lists Esmatullah as Wazir’s daughter, not son. I believe Ismatullah is a male name, and Wazir has referred to losing multiple sons in the attack, so I suspect Ismatullah is male. But if the government treated Ismatullah as female, then the numbers might work out.
But they don’t. I asked Major Christopher Ophardt, a public affairs officer at Lewis-McChord if that was the source of the discrepancy. He said he neither has the unredacted version nor are names releasable. But he did say that the alleged murder victims consist of 4 adult males, 4 adult females, 3 male children, and 6 female children.
I don’t think that helps to resolve the problem.
Assuming WSJ’s report is correct but that Ismatullah was counted as female, here are the numbers:
Mohammed Dawood: adult male
Wazir’s family: mother, wife, sister-in-law (3 adult females); brother (1 adult male); 4 daughters plus Ismatullah (5 female children); son and nephew (2 male children)
Syed Jaan: wife (1 adult female); brother and brother-in-law (2 adult males); nephew (1 male child)
Which would be 4 adult females, 4 adult males, 5 female children, and 3 male children.
Now, as orionATL and others have reminded me, there’s one other unique claim of deaths (as I hope to show, I think the other stories intersect in a manageable way): that of Jan Agha, who described his father, mother, sister and–apparently though not explicitly–brother’s deaths to Reuters. Since he is 20, his siblings could easily be children. If his claims were added and Ismatullah were counted as female that woulds result in 5 adult male, 5 adult female, 4 male and 6 female children, which wouldn’t work either.
One other possibility is that Syed Jaan’s 6-year old niece, Zardana, who was shot in the head and was reportedly thought likely to die, has since passed away (although initial reports say that’s not how the number grew to 17), which without Agha’s claims and with Ismatullah counted as female would work out. Though one of the grievously wounded victims is a female child with a head wound, which could also be Zardana.
In short, the numbers still don’t add up.
Yesterday, CNN released detailed onsite reporting from Yalda Hakim from the massacre site in Panjwai. (h/t SH) Today, CNN posted a follow-up interview–accompanied by a story based largely on comments from an anonymous US official. It’s the latter story that Jim wrote about here, noting that:
Though CNN doesn’t say it, some of the details contradict Hakim’s onsite reporting, notably, her interview with several of the Afghan guards starting at 9:44 and again at 11:26. Between them, the guards offer the following story:
In other words, the Afghans say they at least tried to alert the Americans when Bales returned to the base, whereas today’s story says no one alerted Americans of Bales’ return the first time, The guards’ story also suggests Bales was on base for a full hour. The American version claims not to know when Bales returned, but somehow is certain that Bales was only on base for 30 minutes. And if the second guard is correct that Bales left at 2:30, it means that it took a FOB an hour to mount a search team, at which point Bales had already killed another 12 victims.