Mullen: Afghan War Can’t Be Won by Killing Civilians

Joint Chiefs Chair Concedes Farah Strikes Put US Strategy in Jeopardy

Two weeks ago, a US air strike in Afghainstan’s Farah Province killed around 140 civilians, making it by far the deadliest single incident since the 2001 American invasion. Such incidents, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen today conceded, are putting America’s strategy in the seemingly endless war in jeopardy.

We cannot succeed in Afghanistan or anywhere else, but let’s talk specifically about Afghanistan, by killing Afghan civilians,” Admiral Mullen declared today at a talk at the Brookings Institution. “We can’t keep going through incidents like this and expect the strategy to work.”

The toll sparked protests from local civilians, and a demand from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to end all US air strikes inside the nation. Admiral Mullen insisted that rules had been in place for months to avoid civilian casualties, and offered no new solutions in the wake of the Farah killings, except to say “we can’t tie our troops’ hands behind their backs.” Yet, it seems, not doing so is a recipe for continued civilians deaths.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of