CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) - "The United States expressed regret Sunday for any civilian deaths from US-led military operations in Afghanistan, without confirming reports of nearly 90 killed in one incident this week.
"We regret the loss of life among the innocent Afghanis who we are committed to protect," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said as US President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch."
Initially "US-led coalition forces denied killing any civilians" in Thursday's airstrike.
The next day they thought there might be five.
An Afghan minister who visited the area put the civilian death toll at 90, a human rights group at the scene estimated it at 78 and the Interior Ministry reported 76 noncombatants dead, including 50 children.
The attacks sparked angry protests on Saturday from locals, who set fire to a police vehicle and waved banners reading “Death to America”.
A school principal and police official said Afghan soldiers tried to hand out food and clothes Saturday in Azizabad — the village where the U.S.-Afghan operation took place Thursday. But villagers started throwing stones at the soldiers, who then fired on the Afghans and wounded up to eight.
Karzai responded by firing two top Afghan commanders for "negligence and concealing facts". The operation was led by Afghan National Army commandos with air and ground support from the coalition, including a US C130 gunship overhead.
Meanwhile, as reported over at The Hill Times, in an article you should really read in full ...
The Sunday Times reported on Aug 17 that the U.S. is planning an 'Iraq-style troop surge' after Americans take over the Afghanistan mission in January.
Janice Gross Stein, director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto : "What the United States is talking about is integrating the missions. They recognize that there are serious difficulties arising because there are two separate missions in Afghanistan now, and have been from the beginning: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and the International Security Assistance Force. Right now there are two Americans in command of both, and what they are talking about is integrating the bulk of the American troops, who are in Operation Enduring Freedom."
Chris Sands, a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., [rightwing]think tank (italics mine):
"Canadians are rather conflicted about why they're in Afghanistan. Some people saw this as an apology for not going to Iraq [and] some people actually genuinely think that being in Afghanistan is about helping the Afghan people, and if that's your position then I'd think this is all good, because it's going to be more help and more substantive help."
Some people actually genuinely think it's about helping the Afghan people, he says.
Mr. Sands goes on to explain that the Americans will bring "U.S. professionalism" and "some of the success from Iraq into the Afghan theatre as well".
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said he "believes an increased American presence will have "disastrous" results on the ground that will have long-term implications for the people of Afghanistan" due to "the American tactic of aerial bombings where there are civilians" because "that's the way they do things".
He also expects "the Conservative government to "lowball" the degree of American involvement."
"The Hill Times inquired with communication shops at both the Department of National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs about an increased American presence in the NATO-led mission, however neither responded.
Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Alta.), the Parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, and Conservative MP Wajid Khan (Mississauga-Streetsville, Ont.), a member of the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, were also contacted, but staff for both MPs said they were unavailable for comment."
But in Calgary, Harper had a statement :
"I join with Canadians who stand proudly in support our men and women of the Canadian Forces as they courageously risk their lives every day to bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten. We will honour their sacrifice by continuing on with this vital mission. Canada's commitment to peace and security in Afghanistan remains resolute. We will not allow the Taliban to deter us from continuing to help Afghans rebuild their country."Or bombing them back to the stone age.
How long are we going to let Harper get away with this charade of pretending to be one of the fools who "actually genuinely think that being in Afghanistan is about helping the Afghan people"?