Children targeted in Afghanistan

The Guardian on Dec. 7 noted a Dec. 3 story in Military Times, “Some Afghan kids aren’t bystanders,” concerning an October air-strike in Nawa district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province in which three children were killed, and, apparently, intentionally targetted—two boys and one girl, aged 8 to 12. Local officials protested the targetting of children. Writing from Helmand’s Camp Leatherneck, Military Times responds: “But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were ‘innocent.’ Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission.” The supposed hole was intended for an improvised explosive device, according to the Marine official. On Oct. 16 the New York Times reported that the young victims’ families said they had been sent to gather dung for fuel. Military Times isn’t impressed, noting hundreds of cases in which kids were apparently used on missions by the Taliban—including one in Kandahar’s Zharay district, where two boys, 9 and 11, along with a 18-year-old male, were found carrying soda bottles “full of enough potassium chlorate to kill coalition forces on a foot patrol.”

The Military Times closes with this chilling quote: 

“It kind of opens our aperture,” said Army Lt. Col. Marion “Ced” Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”

The account claims 11 children, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed in Afghanistan last year carrying out suicide attacks. That’s perfectly plausible, and The Guardian points out that Human Rights Watch noted the practice (“Afghanistan: Taliban Should Stop Using Children as Suicide Bombers,” Aug. 31, 2011). But Carrington and the sympathetic Military Times reporters seem not to grasp that by legitimizing attacks on kids like this, they are basically embracing the Taliban’s monstrous moral standards. 

Amos Guiora, a verteran Israeli army legal advisor now with the University of Utah, spoke to The Guardian of the grim implications of Carrington’s comments:

“I have great respect for people who put themselves in harm’s way. Carrington is probably a great guy, but he is articulating a deeply troubling policy adopted by the Obama administration.

“The decision about who you consider a legitimate target is less defined by your conduct than the conduct of the people or category of people which you are assigned to belong to … That is beyond troubling. It is also illegal and immoral.”

Guiora added: “If you are looking to create a paradigm where you increase the ‘aperture’—that scares me. It doesn’t work, operationally, morally or practically.”

We’ve noted before Obama’s growing embrace of the perverse logic of “collateral damage.” This is approaching a very dangerous threshold…

  1. Landmine kills 10 children in Afghanistan
    Ten girls were killed in eastern Afghanistan’s  Nangarhar province Dec. 17 when a landmine exploded as they were out collecting firewood—the latest casualties in one of the most mined countries in the world. Landmines—planted by insurgents or left over from the Soviet occupation—continue to kill dozens of Afghans every year. (CNN, Dec. 20)

  2. Kinder, gentler Taliban?
    First talks between the Afghan government and Taliban have opened in Paris, where two Taliban officials, Mawlawi Shahbuddin Dilawar and Muhammad Naeem, gave an opening speech pledging that they do not want full power and will grant rights to women. US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told a briefing in Washington: “The United States continues to support an Afghan-led peace process. We continue to support Afghans sitting down with other Afghans in pursuit of that goal.” (AP, Dec. 24; Dawn, Pakistan, Dec. 22)

    So while the US targets kids in Afghanistan (emulating the Taliban, who do likewise), it simultaneously embraces the Taliban as peace partners—making a mockery of everything the 10-year has ostensibly (repeat: ostensibly) been about. A point we have made before.

  3. Afghanistan: NATO wipes out more civilians
    A NATO air-strike killed 10 civilians, including five children, in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said Feb. 13. The strike in Shigal district, Kunar province, was confirmed by ISAF, though a spokesman said it could not confirm civilian casualties. “Foreign forces carried out the attack by themselves without informing us,” sai the governor of Kunar province, Fazlullah Wahidi. (Reuters, Feb. 13)

  4. Afghanistan: NATO wipes out more civilians
    NATO said on March 2 its forces had accidentally shot dead two Afghan boys in the southern province of Uruzgan, saying they were mistaken for insurgents. The boys were apparently herding sheep in Lowar-e-Dowahom area. (Reuters, NPR, March 1)

  5. Afghanistan: NATO wipes out more civilians
    Eleven children were killed in a NATO air strike in eastern Afghanistan, officials and witnesses said April 7. At least one woman was reportedly killed and a further six are believed to have been injured in the incident in Shigal district, Kunar province. NATO confirmed that “fire support” was used in Shigal after a US civilian adviser was killed in a militant attack, but said it had no reports of deaths. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the killings. (BBC News, April 7)

  6. Afghanistan between two poles of terrorism

    A roadside bomb exploded under a bus in Wardak province southwest of Kabul on April 8, killing nine people and wounding at least 22 others in an attack blamed on Taliban militants. A woman was among the dead and children among the wounded, officials said. (AFP, April 8)