Quick US Apologies Seen as New Tactic in Afghanistan

Will Admitting Civilian Killings Reduce Resentment?

The number of civilian killings by US and international forces in Afghanistan have continued apace, but in recent months the Obama Administration has adopted a strategy in stark contrast to that of the Bush Administration over the first several years of the war. Admit the killings quickly, and apologize.

Military spokesman Colonel Gregory Julian confirmed that the procedure for civilian casualties has been “overhauled,” adding “we have worked very hard at this to ensure that we can get to the truth of what has taken place as quickly as possible and maintain the support of the population.”

Contrast that with the August 22 US air strike in Herat, which was ultimately found to have killed at least 90 civilians. The US initially claimed the attack killed only militants, later revising the number to five and accusing Afghan civilians who reported the higher toll of spreading “outrageous Taliban propaganda.” It was only months later that the US finally conceded a higher civilian toll.

But even though now the time between when they declare “militants killed” and when they concede to having shot a bunch of innocent women and children is measured in hours, not weeks, how much impact will that ultimately have on popular opinion so long as the promised procedural changes don’t net any serious efforts to stop killing civilians but instead focus on silencing the civilians after the killings, remains to be seen.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.