31st March 2011
Karzai’s angry reaction is understandable. The deliberate killing of innocent civilians is a despicable act and a setback to winning the battle of hearts and minds. Such incidents fuel anti-American sentiments, serve Taliban and al-Qaeda propaganda, and make General Petraeus’ population-centric counterinsurgency efforts more difficult. Karzai is also right to pressure the coalition forces to do more to avoid civilian casualties in anti-Taliban air strikes. But the irony is that Karzai’s criticism of civilian casualties is only directed at the U.S. and allied forces, not against the Taliban.
According to the U.N, the Taliban were responsible for 75 percent of civilian deaths last year. Deaths caused by the Afghan government and foreign forces were 16 percent, down by 26 percent from 2009. But the public perception in Afghanistan is that U.S. troops are responsible for most of civilians killed. This is because President Karzai regularly lashes out at the United States, but refuses to blame the Taliban for civilian casualties. Government officials even do not use the term Taliban, and instead use vague terms such as “enemies of Afghanistan” and most recently “disgruntled brothers.” Indeed, in the same speech on Wednesday, Karzai thanked Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has reportedly said that his forces are not involved in burning schools and attacking public places.
Perhaps the Let’s Spread Democracy Everywhere people will eventually realize that expecting gratitude from a Muslim is like expecting mercy from a snake. We should be destroying their ability to annoy us, and letting them do what they choose to with what’s left.