Atrocities in Afghanistan: A Troubling Timetable *Updated*


By Voices Co-coordinators

Since April of 2010, Voices activists have maintained a partial listing of civilians killed by U.S. led ISAF/NATO troops in Afghanistan. All of the information we’ve assembled is available in the mainstream news. We realized that we ourselves were not paying close enough attention, - we weren’t pausing to ask questions and absorb the details, and so we’ve tried in the past several months to carefully update the “Afghan Atrocities” timetable.

We invite others to join us in considering ways to express remorse and condolence to the people whose loved ones have been killed. It’s important to note that President Obama has set “a clear and achievable mission-to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies and prevent their return to either country.” Yet, the U.S. director of the National Security Agency, Jim Jones, has acknowledged that there are only 50 – 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and 300 to 400 members of the group in Pakistan.

Before he was fired for insubordination, General McChrystal acknowledged that U.S. forces have killed civilians who meant them no harm. During a biweekly video conference with US soldiers in Afghanistan, he was quite candid. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force,” said General McChrystal. “To my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

Those families and individuals that General McChrystal referred to should be our primary concern. We should try to imagine the sorrow and horror afflicting each individual whose tragic story is told in the “timetable” of atrocities committed against innocent people. How can we compensate people who have endured three decades of warfare, whose land has been so ravaged that, according to noted researcher Alfred McCoy, it would cost $34 billion dollars to restore their agricultural infrastructure. The $33 billion dollar supplemental funding bill passed by the U.S. Congress to pay for U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could have been directed toward helping Afghanistan replant its orchards, replenish its flocks, and rebuild its irrigation systems.

The list below describes, in part, the suffering and agony that people in Afghanistan have endured since April, 2009. To focus on this list doesn’t excuse atrocities committed by Taliban fighters. It does indicate our own responsibility to urgently educate others and ourselves about a deeply disturbing pattern: U.S./NATO officials first distribute misleading information about victims of an attack and later acknowledge that the victims were unarmed civilians.

Date: September 1, 2010
Place: The Rostoq district of the Takhar Province
Circumstances: According to Afghan officials, ten election campaign workers have been killed in an air strike by Nato-led forces in the northern province of Takhar.
The governor of the province, Abduljabar Taqwa, told the BBC that Rostoq was a peaceful and secure area. “Without any co-ordination, without informing provisional authorities,” Mr. Taqwa said, they attacked on their own, civilian people who were in a campaign convoy.”
Initial U.S./NATO response: September 2, 2010 US Marine Corps Maj Gen David Garza said: “We’re aware of the allegations that this strike caused civilian casualties and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of the accusations.”
The ISAF Joint Command for Afghanistan goes on to assert “After careful planning to ensure no civilians were present, coalition aircraft conducted a precision air strike on one sedan and later followed with direct fire from an aerial platform. The vehicle was traveling as part of a six-car convoy, but no other vehicles were hit in the strike. The security force was unable to immediately dispatch a ground force to assess the results, but initial reflections indicate eight to 12 insurgents were killed or injured in the strike, including a Taliban commander.”
Read the Entire International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan Press Release

Date: August 26, 2010
Place: Manogi District of Kunar province
Circumstances: Afghan authorities accused international forces of killing six children during an air assault on Taliban positions. In eastern Kunar province, provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee said a group of children were collecting scrap metal on the mountain when NATO aircraft dropped bombs to disperse Taliban fighters attacking a nearby base. “In the bombardment six children, aged six to 12, were killed. Another child was injured,” the police commander said.
Initial U.S./NATO response: August 27, 2010 ISAF said in a statement that “officials are aware of civilian casualty allegations as a result of the engagement and are conducting an investigation.”

Date: August 23, 2010
Place: Talah wa Barfak district of Baghlan Province
Circumstances: Officials and residents of Baghlan Province, in northern Afghanistan, accused NATO troops Monday of killing eight civilians during an early morning raid. Mohammed Ismail, governor of the Talah wa Barfak District, said troops entered a district house at 2 a.m. and killed eight civilians, wounded 12 and took nine prisoners.
Initial U.S./NATO response: Maj. Michael Johnson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO force is known, said NATO authorities were unaware of any such attack.

Date: August 20, 2010
Place: Pusht Rod district of Farah province
Circumstances: According to an ISAF Joint Command report, issued on August 21, 2010, a woman and two children were accidentally killed by an air attack. The report states that six insurgents were killed as they got out of a vehicle and several other suspected militants were detained during an operation in the Pusht Rod district of Farah province. “Also during the operation,” the report states, “a civilian woman and two children were accidentally killed when a coalition force air weapons team engaged the insurgents.”
U.S./NATO acknowledgment that Coalition forces killed civilians: “We deeply regret what occurred on yesterday’s operation,” U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, a spokesman for NATO, said in expressing condolences to relatives. “We are taking a step-by-step approach in investigating what went wrong.”

Date: August 17, 2010
Place: Arghandab district of Kandahar province
Circumstances: During a fire fight, a civilian irrigating a field was shot and killed when a joint force being attacked by insurgents returned fire.
Initial U.S./NATO response: Coalition forces plan to meet with local elders about the incident, which remains under investigation. (RAHIM FAIEZAP NewsAug 18, 2010 03:23 EDT)

Date: August 12, 2010
Place: Lashkar Gah district, Loyadera area of Helmand Province
Circumstances: ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) said they were investigating a report that NATO airstrikes killed civilians during a NATO/ISAF operation. Four wounded and three dead Afghan civilians were brought to a nearby checkpoint. They had been in a building which was attacked by aerial bombardment. Two of the wounded civilians later died. In a separate report, ISAF said Afghan and coalition forces had come under fire in an area of Helmand and that an Afghan woman had been shot by ISAF troops during the engagement. The woman later died.
U.S./NATO acknowledgment that Coalition forces killed civilians: On August 15, the ISAF said it believes there is evidence civilians were in the compound targeted by coalition forces during the operation. “

Date: August 12, 2010
Place: Musa Qal&rsquo district of Helmand province
Circumstances: According to an ISAF Joint Command report, issued on August 12, 2010, Afghan and coalition forces were attacked by Taliban fighters with small arms. They returned fire and “an Afghan civilian woman was shot by International Security Assistance Force soldiers. The woman was given immediate medical attention by coalition forces, but subsequently died of her wounds.
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: ISAF officials deeply regret this unfortunate loss of life and express their sincerest apologies to the family. (www.isaf.nato.int/…/isaf…/afghan-woman-killed-during-fire-fight-in-helmand.html)

Date: August 11, 2010
Place: Sayed Abad district of Wardak Province,
Circumstances: Provincial spokesman Shahedullah Shahed told AFP that NATO “Coalition and Afghan forces went to a house to capture a Taliban commander,” provincial spokesman Shahedullah Shahed told AFP. “During the attack unfortunately three civilians were killed." On Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, an AP photo showed a crowd of about 300 villagers who yelled ‘Death to the United States’ and blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as they swore that U.S. forces had killed three innocent villagers, officials said.
Initial U.S./NATO response: August 12, 2010 ISAF spokesman Captain Ryan Donald said three "insurgents" had been killed in the raid. U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: None, as yet. The case is still under investigation.

Date: August 5, 2010
Place: Nangarhar province eastern Afghanistan
Circumstances: According to The Pak Tribune  a vehicle carrying a coffin and a dead man’s relatives was bombed and eleven civilians, including women and children, were killed
Initial U.S./NATO response: August 5, 2010—As sited in The Jakarta Globe, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said it had operated in the area on Wednesday and was "aware of civilian casualty allegations as a result of these operations and is conducting an investigation.”
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that Coalition forces killed unarmed civilians: August 5, 2010 — "Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families," said Rear Admiral Greg Smith, ISAF Director of Communication. "We will partner with the Government of Afghanistan to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident, and to provide solatia to the families of the civilians killed during the engagement."

Date: July 23, 2010
Place: Sangin district in Helmand province
Circumstances: On July 26, the Afghan National Directorate of Security stated that on July 23rd the American-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed “52 civilians…including women and children” in a “rocket attack.” The Kabul government later revised the number of people killed to 39.
U.S. /NATO initial response: July 27, 2010— “Any speculation at this point of an alleged civilian casualty in Rigi village is completely unfounded,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, director of communications for the American and NATO military coalition. “We are conducting a thorough joint investigation with our Afghan partners and will report any and all findings when known.”
U.S./NATO acknowledgement that Coalition forces killed unarmed civilians: August 5, 2010—“A senior intelligence official told the New York Times (see paragraphs 9 – 15) that six civilians died with eight Taliban fighters when a troop fired a Javelin rocket into a structure from which U.S. Marines took fire. When asked to explain the discrepancy between his tally and that of the Afghan government, the unnamed official cited “political challenges.”

Date: July 8, 2010
Place: Jani Khel district of Paktia Province
Circumstances: According to Reuters’ Rob Taylor in Kabul, 10 Jul 2010 , a joint Afghan and NATO investigation team found six civilians died on Thursday, (July 8), when artillery shells went astray in Paktia Province.
Initial U.S./NATO Response: Initially, the coalition reported that eight Afghan civilians had been injured and taken to a nearby NATO outpost for treatment, and that one subsequently died. Later, it was determined that the bodies of those killed had been removed before NATO units arrived on the scene following the errant rounds, NATO said in a statement.
U.S. /NATO Acknowledgement: On July 10, 2010 NATO admitted killing six people with stray artillery on Thursday, (July 8). “ISAF officials offer sincere condolences to those affected,” the statement said, “and accept full responsibility for the actions that led to this tragic incident."

Date: July 7, 2010
Place: Northern Balkh province on the outskirts of Mazar-I Sharif
Circumstances: Professor Juan R. I. Cole wrote, on July 11th, that  Afghans alleged that on Wednesday, July 7th, US forces wrongly killed two Afghan security guards in a raid on a market in the northern Balkh province on the outskirts of Mazar-i Sharif. According to an Afghan newspaper, about 1,000 demonstrators marched from the shrine of Ali to the offices of UNAMI, a UN organization, chanting and walking for 3 hours in protest against the wrongful killing.
Initial U.S./NATO Response: NATO said that the two security guards declined to lower their weapons, which is why they were shot, and that NATO forces were pursuing elements of the Haqqani Network in the area.
U.S./NATO Acknowledgment: No comment.

Date: June 19, 2010
Place: Khost Province Circumstances: According to the New York Times, NATO airstrikes killed ten civilians, including at least five women and children.
Initial U.S./NATO response: June 19, 2010, coalition forces issue a statement saying that “Precision airstrikes were used in self defense against a large number of armed insurgents.” And that “We are aware of conflicting reports of civilian casualties made by local officials and are therefore reviewing the operational details of the engagement.”
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: The June 19th NATO statement also says, “Our mission is to protect the population, and we will accept full responsibility if civilians were unintentionally harmed in this intense fight against insurgents.”


Date: April 28, 2010
Place: Surkh Rod district, near Jalalabad
Circumstances: According to Safiya Sidiqi, a member of the Afghan parliament, dozens of Afghan and U.S. soldiers entered her family home, blindfolded and handcuffed men and women, and killed her brother-in-law, Amanullah, a 30 year old car mechanic with five children. “They shot him six times. In his heart, in his face, in his head,” Sidiqi said on Thursday, April 29th. Both legs were broken.
Initial U.S./NATO response: April 29, 2010—An Afghan-international security force killed one armed individual while pursuing a Taliban facilitator in Nangarhar last night.
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the person killed was an unarmed civilian: None, as yet. The case is still under investigation.

Date: April 20, 2010
Place: Khost Province
Circumstances: A NATO military convoy attacked a car approaching a checkpoint, claiming that the car sped up after being warned to stop. Four young men were killed. According to the New York Times, “The shooting Monday night in Khost province sparked an immediate outcry from the victims’ family, who insisted that all four were civilians driving home from a volleyball game. ‘The youngest boy was just 13,’said Rahmatullah Mansour, whose two sons and two nephews were killed in the shooting. Mansour said that the victims in Monday’s shooting were his sons Faizullah, 13, and Nasratullah, 17; and nephews Maiwand and Amirullah, both 18. He said all were students except Amirullah, who was a police officer.”
Initial U.S. / NATO response: April 21, 2010—From the New York Times: “Without offering proof, NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their “associates.” In a statement on Tuesday, NATO said the vehicle ignored warning shots and accelerated toward the military convoy. But the statement did not challenge the Afghan account that no weapons were found in the vehicle.”
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:
April 22, 2010—NATO acknowledges that four unarmed Afghans who were killed this week when a military convoy opened fire on their vehicle were all civilians, correcting an earlier claim that two of the dead were “known insurgents.”


Date: April 12, 2010
Place: Kandahar
Circumstances: According to the New York Times, “American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, (April 12).” The attack killed five civilians and wounded 18.
Initial U.S./NATO response: A statement issued by the American-led military command in Kabul said that four people were killed. It said “an unknown, large vehicle” drove “at a high rate of speed” toward a slow-moving NATO convoy that was clearing mines.
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: April 12, 2010—“ISAF deeply regrets the tragic loss of life in Zhari district this morning. According to ISAF operational reporting, four civilians were killed, including one female, and five others were treated for injuries at the scene of the incident today. Upon inspection, NATO forces discovered the vehicle to be a passenger bus.”

April 13, 2010—The New York Times reported that “a military spokeswoman confirmed that a convoy traveling west, in front of the bus, opened fire, but said the second convoy was traveling east toward the passenger bus. She also said the driver of the bus was killed. A survivor, however, identified himself as the driver and said he did not violate any signal from the troops. ‘I was going to take the bus off the road,’ said the man, Mohammed Nabi. ‘Then the convoy ahead opened fire from 60 to 70 yards away,’ he said.”


Date: February 21, 2010
Place: Convoy en route to Kandehar
Circumstances: U.S. aerial forces attacked a three-car convoy traveling to a market in Kandehar. The convoy had planned on continuing to Kabul so that some of the passengers could get medical treatment. At least three dozen people were passengers in the three cars. The front car was an SUV type vehicle, and the last was a Land Cruiser. When the first car was hit by U.S. air fire, women in the second car jumped out and waved their scarves to indicate that they were civilians. U.S. helicopters continued to fire rockets and machine guns, killing 21 people and wounding 13.
U.S./NATO initial response: February 22, 2010—The day after the attack, the U.S.-led military coalition said that NATO forces had fired on a group of “suspected insurgents” who were thought to be on their way to attack Afghan and coalition soldiers a few miles away. When troops arrived after the helicopter strike, they discovered women and children among the dead and wounded.
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:
Feb 24, 2010—General Stanley McChrystal delivered a videotaped apology.


Date: February 12, 2010
Place: Paktika Province
Circumstances: In a night raid, U.S. forces attacked a home where 25 people, 3 of them musicians, had gathered for a naming celebration. A newborn was being named that night. One of the musicians went outside to relieve himself. A flashlight shone in his face. Panicked, he ran inside and announced that the Taliban were outside. A police commander, Dawoud, the father of the newborn, ran outside with his weapon. U.S. forces opened fire, killing Officer Dawoud, a pregnant mother, an eighteen year old, Gulaila, and two others.
U.S. / NATO initial response: February 12, 2010—U.S. forces claimed that the women had been killed earlier, in an honor killing. Nato’s initial press release bore the headline: “Joint Force Operating in Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery.” The release said that after “intelligence confirmed militant activity” in a compound near a village in Paktika province, an international security force entered the compound and engaged “several insurgents” in a firefight. Two “insurgents” were killed, the report said, and after the joint forces entered the compound, they “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.”

March 16, 2010—The UN issued a scathing report, stating that the U.S. had killed the women. Villagers told Jerome Starkey, reporting for the Independent, that U.S. troops tried to tamper with evidence by digging bullets out of the womens’ bodies and out of the walls.

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:
April 6, 2010—Almost two months later, the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that international forces had badly bungled the raid that night in Paktika, and that U.S. troops had, in fact, killed the women during their assault on the residence. One of the women was a pregnant mother of ten, and the other was a pregnant mother of six children.


Date: February 2010
Place: Helmand Province
During this month, U.S./NATO forces launched a military offensive against three hamlets in the Marja district. Researcher Prof. Marc Herold presents a detailed summary and analysis of Afghan civilians killed directly by U.S/NATO forces during this particular month.


Date: December 26, 2009
Place: Kunar Province
Circumstances: In a night raid, U.S. forces, claiming to attack a bomb-making factory, attacked a house where eight youth, aged 11–18, were sleeping. They pulled the youngsters out of their beds, handcuffed them, and executed them. Villagers said that seven of those killed were students and one was a neighboring shepherd.
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: February 24, 2010—U.S. forces issued an apology, admitting that the U.S. had killed seven schoolboys and a neighboring shepherd.
Date: May 4, 2009
Place: Farah Province near the town of Granai
Circumstances: Mainstream media reports estimate that between 86 and 140 people, mostly children, died in a US air attack. According to Reuters, only 22 of the victims were adult males.
Initial U.S./NATO response: The following chronology indicates multiple attempts on the part of US officials to avoid blame.
May 6, 2009—U.S. officials plea ignorance and state that an investigation is under way. (http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54224)
May 6, 2009—According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, Captain Elizabeth Mathias says, “This was not coalition forces. This was Afghan national security forces who called in close air support, a decision that was vetted by the Afghan leadership.”
May 7, 2009An Armed Service Press Service report announces that a team is “investigating differing accounts of the events leading up to the casualties. Those accounts include allegations that the Taliban tossed grenades into homes to ‘frame’ Afghan and coalition forces.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that “The United States and coalition partners do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties.” He went on to say that “While there have been civilian casualties caused by American and NATO troops, they have been accidental. When the Taliban cause casualties, they are on purpose.”
May 8, 2009—Pentagon spokesperson Col. Greg Julian insists that earlier estimates of the death toll were “grossly exaggerated”.
May 10, 2009—In an interview with Mike Wallace, General David Petraeus suggests that the Taliban forced people “to remain in houses from which the Taliban was engaging our forces”.
May 15, 2009—Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway again blames the Taliban for civilian casualties. “We believe that there were families who were killed by the Taliban with grenades and rifle fire,” he said, “that were then paraded about and shown as casualties from the airstrike.”
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:
May 13, 2009—Referring to the May 4th raids in an Afghan press interview, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry admits that “there were a number of civilians killed, a number of civilians wounded. We don’t know the exact amount. You are aware that our President of the United States and our Secretary of State and our Secretary of Defense have all very explicitly expressed their condolences for what happened.”
June 2, 2009—According to The New York Times “A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.”


Date: April 9, 2009
Place: Khost Province, Ali Daya
Circumstances: U.S. forces were positioned on the rooftop opposite the home of Brigadier Artillery officer Awal Khan. In a night raid, U.S. forces burst into Awal Khan’s home. Awal Khan was away from home. His family members ran to the rooftop, believing that robbers had entered the home. When they emerged on their rooftop, U.S. forces on the opposite roof opened fire, killing Awal Khan’s wife, his brother, his 17 year-old daughter Nadia, and his fifteen year-old son, Aimal and his infant son, born just a week earlier.
U.S. /NATO initial response: April 9, 2010, coalition forces issue a statement that the four people killed by troops were “armed militants.” Later that same day another statement admits that further inquiries “suggest that the people killed and wounded were not enemy combatants as previously reported.”
U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: The Times of London reported the following, on April 11, 2009:
The US military conceded that its forces killed the civilians in error during the night-time raid that targeted the neighbouring compound of a suspected militant. The father of the dead family is a lieutenant-colonel in the Afghan Army fighting the Taleban in the restive province of Ghazni.
The US military reported that two males, two females and an infant were believed to have died in the incident, and two other women were wounded. A relative of the dead family told reporters that the dead infant was a boy born last week. “This was a terrible tragedy,” a US spokesman, Colonel Greg Julian, told The Times.