Perhaps some see an equivalence of sorts here, but I don’t. The same stories today that report that two American soldiers died in yet another green-on-blue attack (i.e., anti-American Afghan security forces or police killing US troops) note also that three little children reportedly died in a US airstrike.
The deaths follow a strong warning from the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross that civilians would be the ones to suffer as the American troops drawdown.
In fact, the drawdown means less troops on the ground, and therefore more airstrikes.
Here’s The New York Times's account of the childrens’ deaths, buried in a green-on-blue report. It follows the familiar pattern of a thousand others cases: local reports, US denials, investigation by the UN:
The … case of three children allegedly killed in a coalition strike was reported by local officials in Helmand Province’s Nawa district. The officials said that the children were killed in a NATO strike on Sunday afternoon as they were gathering dung to burn as fuel, a common practice in the desert reaches of southern Afghanistan where there are few trees.
“When we reached the area I saw the three bodies of children, two boys and one girl, ages 8 to 12 years old. They were from the same family,” said Haji Hayatullah, a member of the tribal council in the Nawa district. Their family is in the livestock business and raises goats and sheep on government land, he said.
Mr. Hayatullah added: “They had been collecting the animal dung and were heading home. I saw a sack of dung and another sack that was contaminated with their blood, and I saw three to four holes in the area. It seems the insurgents were digging them to plant mines, but I did not see any men’s bodies.”
The children were identified as Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, said Haji Abdul Manaf Khan, the governor of the neighboring Marja district. The deaths occurred near the border of the Marja and Nawa districts.
The Marja governor said that NATO forces watched as improvised explosive devices were being planted, and targeted the insurgents planting them. “As a result two I.E.D. planters were killed and the shrapnel killed the three children who were wandering nearby,” he said. Other reports said that three insurgents had been killed.
A spokesman for the international forces, Maj. Adam Wojack, said that the coalition forces were aware of the allegations and that the episode was being investigated. “I.S.A.F. did conduct a precision airstrike on three insurgents in Nawa district, and the strike killed all three insurgents,” he said.
“None of our reporting shows any civilian casualties or any children.”
In so many other cases, the US “reporting” shows zero civilian casualties. That’s because you can't count dead children from the air. Meanwhile, how is it possible that the United States is still striking alleged IED planters from the air, since under the current rules that govern US military strikes attacks are only permitted if there is imminent danger?
Today, ISAF issued a statement:
During an operation in Helmand province Sunday against suspected insurgents laying IEDs, ISAF forces may have accidently killed three innocent Afghan civilians.
The coalition extends its deep regret for this tragic incident. We also extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who died, and we take full responsibility for what occurred.
Coalition officials will work closely with Afghan officials to determine what happened and why, and they will also meet with the family members of those that died to personally express ISAF's regret and condolences.
The operation occurred in Nawa district and did not involve close air support as reported in some media.
The incident remains under investigation.
But that’s not good enough. It never is.
For more on U.S. foreign policy, check out "America's Warfare Welfare State."