The US military says it is investigating the reports of Afghan officials of a massive number of civilians killed in an air strike in the Farah Province. Provincial officials say they believe around 70 civilians were killed when the US attacked the homes they were hiding in, and one district official earlier today said the final toll could be more than 100. The provincial council is asking village residents to take video and photos of the area to provide evidence of the strike.
The timing of the incident couldn’t be worse, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai arriving in the US today for a summit aimed in part at improving the strained relations between the two nations. Tensions between Karzai and the international forces have been growing chiefly as a result of Karzai’s criticism of previous civilian killings.
While the death toll in the Farah bombing is far from firm, it seems virtually certainly to be the deadliest single incident of international forces killing Afghan civilians since an August 2008 air strike in neighboring Herat Province killed at least 90.
In that case the US denied the toll and accused survivors of spreading “outrageous Taliban propaganda.” It was only months later that they conceded to killing at least some civilians, and even then insisted the killings were “legitimate self-defense.” Currently, the US policy seems to be to apologize as quickly as possible and move on, so it is unlikely the toll will remain uncertain for long.