With Sunday’s civilian killings fresh in their minds, the United States has reportedly curbed the situations in which ground troops will be allowed to call in air strikes in the Marjah region. No longer will planes be allowed to launch air strikes near civilian homes, “unless troops face imminent danger.”
On Sunday US forces attempted to fire rockets at a group of militants in Marjah, only to have those rockets veer 300 yards off target and destroy a home full of civilians, killing 12 of them. NATO has since barred the “High Mobility Artillery Rocket System” from use until further review.
Air strikes, however, have been causing civilian deaths for years in Afghanistan. Most recently, an air strike yesterday in neighboring Kandahar Province killed five civilians. NATO said they called the strike in against what they thought were people “planting an IED explosive device,” though they admitted that after the investigated it turned out the people were just civilians by the side of the road.
NATO in general and the United States in particular have repeatedly promised wholesale changes to their policies aimed at dramatically reducing the number of civilians they kill. So far those policies have not had the desired effect and civilian tolls continue to soar in the nation, fueling tensions between the international forces and the Afghan populace.