Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited the scene of last month’s deadly US air strike in Herat Province today. During the visit President Karzai vowed “swift punishment” for those responsible for the incident, and warned that relations with NATO had been strained by the large number of civilian deaths.
The strike occurred on August 22 in the small village of Azizabad, and sparked angry protests by the village residents. Investigations by the Afghan government and the United Nations have both determined that at least 90 civilians were killed in the strike, and this has led Afghanistan’s cabinet to announce a review of the presence of international forces. In an attempt to placate the Afghan government, NATO announced a tripartite probe into the incident late last week.
But the United States has stood more or less behind its initial story: that the strike targeted and killed numerous militants. They have altered this somewhat, claiming initially no civilians killed then conceding first that five civilians were killed in the strike, and later revising that up to seven. This wildly different account is, according to US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, caused by “a fog of war”.