Updated 9/7 9:35 PM EST
On August 22, the US military reported that an airstrike in Herat province killed 30 militants and no civilians. It didn’t take long for locals and Afghan officials to dispute this report, claiming that the toll included scores of civilians. The toll rose as bodies were pulled from the rubble, rising to at least 90 civilians, a count later confirmed by a United Nations investigator. The US however stuck to its original account, revising the number only slightly to include seven civilians killed. The US has also accused villagers who claimed higher numbers killed of spreading Taliban propaganda. However, a video has emerged which seems to dispute the US military’s account and support the accounts of every other agency.
The grainy eight minute video was shot by a doctor with his cellphone, and shows scores of dead civilians in the village’s mosque. Citing “new information” about the attacks General McKiernan, the senior commander for US troops in Afghanistan, has asked CENTCOM to send a general to review the initial investigation. While the general didn’t specify what the information was the New York Times article cites a myriad of items that have been available to investigators, including the aforementioned video footage of the aftermath and statements from several credible witnesses placing the account roughly in line with the findings of both the UN and Afghan governments.
However, this information was all available to officials at the time of the UN investigation and was apparently an important aspect of their findings. Since the US military’s investigation did not conclude until after the UN’s did, it is unclear how any of this would constitute “new” information.
The vast difference between the US account and that of everyone else has strained ties with the Afghan government, an issue NATO has attempted to ease with an announced joint probe. But Afghan villagers and officials continue to express outrage at both the high number of US-inflicted civilian deaths and the all-too-familiar US denials.