So how, exactly, did the United States come to slaughter nearly a hundred Afghans, two-thirds of whom were children aged three months to sixteen years, while they slept? And what does it mean?

US officials say they’re investigating, while staunchly maintaining that the raid killed twenty-five “militants.” But Afghan officials, local residents, and the United Nations are counting scores of bodies, and it is feared that many more might be buried udner the rubble. (It’s not unusual for American planes to bomb civilian gatherings and wedding parties in Afghanistan, but the many dead this time may represent the highest single toll in any atrocity since the start of the war.)

What happened? The Post, happily carrying water for the Bush administration, quotes a US official — who provides zero evidence for his claim — saying that the Taliban deliberately fed bogus intelligence to the United States:

A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Taliban has become adept at spreading false intelligence to draw U.S. strikes on civilians. “The fact is that the Taliban now has pretty good insight into where we’re picking up information and how we’re developing it into actionable intelligence,” the official said. “They’ve figured out a way to misguide us.”

The Times, on the other hand, quotes members of the Afghan parliament saying that bitter tribal rivalries, not the Taliban, fed false intelligence to the trigger-happy US Air Force:

How the military came to call in airstrikes on a civilian gathering is unclear. Two members of Parliament, Mr. Safi and Maulavi Gul Ahmad, who is from the area, said the villagers blamed tribal enemies for giving the military false intelligence on foreign fighters gathering in the village.

My own guess is that US intelligence in Afghanistan is so ridiculously bad that blaming either the Taliban (which isn’t that clever) or tribal rivalries won’t wash. Somewhere, a US Air Force commander ordered planes carrying dumb, 2000-pound bombs into action based on, well, pretty much nothing. And they’ve done that repeatedly.

The Guardian says that the death of the sixty children and other civilians is the “final straw” for the government of Hamid Karzai. We’ll see. Karzai fired two top Afghan army commanders for their role in the attack, and he says he will demand a status-of-forces agreement with the United States that will provide greater Afghan control over the US bombing campaign. Meanwhile the entire country is in an uproar, and there are demonstrations against the United States. According to Xinhua, “The gruesome incident prompted hundreds of Afghans in the affected area to take to the streets, chanting anti-America slogans.” In other words, rather than killing dozens of Taliban, the attack may have created scores of recruits for the movement.

By all rights, this ought to be a turning point for the Afghan war. The solution? It has two parts: first, the new government in Pakistan has to chip away at the Taliban bases in that country, and cut off the covert ties between subversive Pakistani military officials and the Islamic fundamentalists among the Pashtun in both countries, and second, the United States and NATO should get out and let the regional powers help Afghanistan deal with its problems–that means Pakistan, India, Russia, and Iran.