Thursday, August 09, 2007

Can You Battle For Hearts And Minds.....

.....When They're Dead?


Here's the lede from an interesting piece by Declan Walsh and Robert Norton-Taylor in today's Guardian:

Tension between British and American commanders in southern Afghanistan erupted into the open today as a senior UK military officer said he had asked the US to withdraw its special forces from a volatile area that was crucial in the battle against the Taliban.

British and Nato defence officials have consistently expressed concern about US tactics, notably air strikes, which kill civilians, sabotaging the battle for "hearts and minds" and infuriating Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

The authors then go into the back and forth between the three pillars of the US/British/NATO axis (....of ?) before getting down to brass tacks with numbers unearthed by the New York Times:

Twelve-man teams of US special forces had been criticised for relying on air strikes for cover when they believed they were confronted by large groups of Taliban fighters and their supporters.

Unnamed British officers were quoted today as saying the US had caused the lion's share of casualties in their area and that after 18 months of heavy fighting since British forces arrived in Helmand they were finally making headway in securing key areas, but were now trying to win back support from people whose lives had been devastated by bombing.

The newspaper estimated the number of civilian casualties this year in Helmand at close to 300 - most caused by foreign and Afghan forces, not the Taliban. Human rights and aid groups estimate that 230 Afghan civilians were killed throughout the south of the country last year.

Nato officers admit they are troubled by the high toll. One medic told the Guardian that during a 14-day period last month, British soldiers rescued 30 Afghan civilians wounded in bombings or firefights - half of whom were children.

Oh, ya.

In case you were wondering about those poppies, check out the final paragraph.

In London, British officials confirmed UN forecasts that southern Afghanistan's opium poppy crop, based in Helmand, will exceed last year's record. Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch Brown described the figures as "extremely disappointing".


Here's the link to the Carlotta Gall's numbers story in the NYT.


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