Tribal elders said Oct. 1 that eight people—at least five of them civilians—were killed in an airstrike in southern Afghanistan on the previous day. A US military spokeswoman, Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, confirmed the strike, in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province, but declined to estimate the number of casualties before a review of the attack. According to Hajji Talib, a district council member from the area, the strike killed a farmer, his family and three guests in the village of Khushal. (NYT, Oct. 1)
Meanwhile, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, used a speech at London’s Institute for Strategic Studies to reject calls for the war effort to be scaled down from defeating the Taliban insurgency to a narrower focus on hunting down al-Qaeda, an option suggested by Vice President Joseph Biden as part of the current White House strategy review.
Gen. McChrystal, completing his first 100 days in command in Kabul, did not mention Biden or his advocacy of a scaled-down war effort in his speech, and referred only obliquely to the debate within the Obama administration on whether to escalate the commitment in Afghanistan by accepting his request for up to 40,000 more US troops on top of the 68,000 already deployed there or en route. But when a questioner asked him whether he would support scaling back the US military presence over the next 18 months by relinquishing the battle with the Taliban and focusing on tracking down al-Qaeda, he replied: “The short answer is: no.” He added that opting for a “counter-terrorist focus” against al-Qaeda instead of a “counter-insurgency focus” against the Taliban was a recipe for “Chaos-istan.” (NYT, Oct. 2)