Just a week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai chastised international forces for being "careless," some Afghan officials reported Saturday that possibly 100 or more civilians had been killed in a NATO and U.S.-led assault.
The battle in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, which was prompted by a Taliban ambush, began Friday night and continued into Saturday morning, Afghan officials said. It ended with international forces bombing several compounds in the remote village of Hyderabad.
[NATO Spokesman Maj.] Thomas said U.S. ground forces helping to carry out a NATO mission had come under fire by Taliban insurgents using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Thomas said the troops responded by firing on insurgents who were shooting from a compound and a network of trenches. U.S. helicopters and NATO bombers were later brought in for support, he said.
Thomas said troops returned to the area after the battle and found what appeared to be civilian bodies among the dead insurgents in the trenches. "This confirms for us again that militants are willing to fire from among civilians," he said.
"We are deeply saddened by any loss of innocent lives," U.S. Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a coalition forces spokesman, said in a statement. "Insurgents are continuing their tactic of using women and children as human shields in close combat."
Karzai has not accepted that argument, repeatedly criticizing international troops for not doing more to protect noncombatants. After a series of particularly deadly incidents in June that Karzai blamed on poor coordination, he told reporters that international troops would have to "work the way we ask them to work."
Questions as to how civilians got in trenches aside, yes, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are perfectly content to let you bomb civilians. That's because the more you do it, the better it is for them, even if the casualties are provoked by their actions. For what it's worth, here's more of what I think about this issue here, here and here.