By Vladimir Gladkov
The commander of NATO’s forces in Afghanistan General John Allen has apologized for a NATO airstrike that killed as many as 18 civilians, including women and children, earlier this week. Air attacks and night raids became one the main factors that spoiled the relations between Washington and its main allies in fighting global terrorism – Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this context it is hard to believe that the words of regret can prevent the situation from getting worse. We bring you commentary by our observer Vladimir Gladkov.
The airstrike was part of the operation on capturing a commander of the Taliban movement who was hiding in one the village’s houses together with his armed unit. It was a residential building, moreover besides the residents there were guests who had come to a wedding party there. The extremists did not let them out hoping as always to hide behind the backs of innocent people.
In his statement General Allen said that the soldiers did not know about other people in the building. The troops which chased the insurgents came under fire decided to retreat and called the command asking for carrying out a missile strike on the shelter of the insurgents.
Although the situation is quite ambiguous it is very unlikely that explanations and apologizes will help the US prevent the negative consequences of the tragedy. Even before this missile attack there were many other incidents which made the relations between Washington and Kabul strained to the limit – starting from the unrest, which ensued the burning of Koran copies by the personnel of the NATO base and ending with the massacre in an Afghan village when mentally ill sergeant Robert Bales slaughtered 16 people.
The relations between the US and Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan also leave much to be desired. In fact Pakistan has frozen its relations with the US after a unit of the Pakistani soldiers was mistakenly killed by the US air strike. It would be difficult to find the worst moment for spoiling relations with such an influential ally. Frequent incidents when peaceful residents and Pakistani servicemen were killed by US drones enraged Islamabad and it blockred an important route through which NATO delivered ammunitions to Afghanistan. It should be noted that on failing to restore the relations with Pakistan the US made a new attempt to continue its operations with the use of drones on the Afghan-Pakistani border which enraged Islamabad even more.
Spoiled relations between the allies just prior to the final withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan are very disadvantageous for both sides. It should be noted that if earlier NATO was exclusively in charge for the night raids which aroused protests among peaceful residents, under the new agreement, which was signed in April, it is Kabul which is officially in charge for the military operations. Despite the fact that both the US and Afghan troops took part in the operation in the village of Sajawand the Afghan President Hamid Karzai is keeping on blaming the coalition troops for the tragedy.
There is no doubt that NATO’s troops should revise their strategy which only worsens the situation and leads to the spread of anti-American sentiments among the population. On the current stage the break up of relations between Washington with Karzai’s government would lead to the situation when Afghanistan, which is not ready to fight the extremists on its own, will turn into a hotbed of the global terrorism. This course of events would be threatening first of all for the US which is considered by the Taliban and Al Qaeda as enemy number 1.