An Unintended Massacre In Afghanistan

Here's one aspect to policing a vast and ungovernable country, where duplicity and human error can easily lead to unintended, but still devastating tragedy:

Col. Rauf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the police chief of the western region, denied that there were any Taliban in the village at the time of the strikes. “There were no Taliban,” he said by telephone. “There is no evidence to show there were Taliban there that night,” he said.

The dead included 50 children, 19 women and 26 men, Colonel Ahmadi said.

A presidential aide who declined to be identified said that the Interior Ministry and the Afghan intelligence agency had reported from the region that there were no Taliban present in the village that night. The Afghan National Army, whose commandos called in the airstrike along with American Special Forces trainers, were unable to clarify their original claim, he said.

A spokesman for the Afghan Army declined to comment on Saturday.

A tribal elder from the region who helped bury the dead, Haji Tor Jan Noorzai, said people in the village were gathered in memory of a man who was anti-Taliban and was killed last year, and that tribal enemies of the family had given out false information.

“It is quite obvious, the Americans bombed the area due to wrong information,” he said by telephone. “I am 100 percent confident that someone gave the information due to a tribal dispute. The Americans are foreigners and they do not understand. These people they killed were enemies of the Taliban.”