The Taliban apparently shot down a Chinook helicopter killing all 17 aboard. Hostile Fire May Have Downed U.S. Copter.
If confirmed, Tuesday’s attack would apparently be the first time a U.S.-led coalition aircraft here has been downed by hostile fire, representing a major new threat to the coalition. The U.S.-backed mujahedeen war against Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s finally turned when the Afghan fighters acquired the ability to shoot down Soviet aircraft.
Concerns already have been on the rise that rebel attacks here have been escalating into a conflict on the scale of that in Iraq.
More than 660 people have been killed in Afghanistan since March — including 465 suspected insurgents, 29 U.S. troops, 43 Afghan police and soldiers, and 125 civilians — a level unprecedented since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.
The violence has left much of desperately poor Afghanistan off-limits to aid workers.
Afghan and U.S. officials have predicted that the situation will deteriorate in the lead-up to legislative elections in September — the next key step toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.
That is bad enough but it is this Chicago Tribune story that really bodes ill:
Shayesta Khan should not have been killed. He was about 75, a village elder with a long white beard and a white cap, a peacemaker who settled local squabbles. He said he liked the Americans and once helped U.S. troops search a villager’s home for weapons.
Khan never expected U.S. soldiers to show up at his house in the middle of the night. When they did, bursting into his family compound on May 17, Khan was asleep. By the time the soldiers left, Khan was dead, shot in his pajamas in his bedroom.
Such errors have happened before–homes have been bombed by mistake, innocent people have been caught in crossfire. But Khan’s death is different.
He was an old man shot in his bedroom, and despite an informant’s tip, no bombmaking material was found in the family compound. His death prompted the Afghan government to pay Khan’s family about $4,000 and make a rare public criticism of U.S. troops. It also has highlighted the increasing tension between Afghans and Americans in some parts of the country.
Afghan officials worry insurgents could use the death to recruit followers or turn people against the U.S.-led coalition.
The family said the soldiers arrived after midnight, breaking open a side door, where steps lead to an open area outside Khan’s bedroom. In the confusion, family members heard shouts and then gunshots.
Khan’s sons said he was trying to light the lantern above his bed when he was shot. Intelligence official Esmati, who has investigated the case, said he believes Khan was trying to grab a shirt. The bullets hit just above Khan’s bed and the door. They appear to have been fired from outside, through the windows.
Afghan officials who saw the body said Khan was shot several times, on the left side of his head and body. Azimi, the defense spokesman, said Khan was innocent.
“Someone should be put on trial for this,” he said. “He was just an old man, lying down in his bed. This was not just a mistake. He was not running away.” Emphasis added.
We failed to finish the job in Afghanistan because of Bush’s urgent desire to invade Iraq. NATO had offered to put up to 60,000 troops into the country (this is following the successful invasion) and was rebuffed by the Administration. The Stabilization force they did allow was, and is, restricted to Kabul. OBL was allowed to get away. Tensions are rising between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And now we are killing respected elders in their beds and our birds are being shot out of the sky.
Bush did not just break the prime rule “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” once. He did it twice.
It is a real heartbreaker because if we had done Afghanistan right and deferred Iraq until it could be done legally and properly, America and Americans would be a lot more popular around the world right now.