Where “Military Victory” Is an Oxymoron

When it comes to Afghanistan, “military victory” is an oxymoron.  Even President Obama and his Defense Secretary Robert Gates say so. Repeatedly.

The only path to peaceful resolution to the Afghanistan conundrum, they point out, is by winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.

That is why the grim news from Afghanistan about the cover up of the a botched US military raid of a baby shower near Gardez is so devastating. Unfortunately, the public response to-date from US and NATO officials in Kabul has been dreadful. It turns out that the Obama administration’s Afghanistan strategy is being defeated by self-inflicted wounds, and it is unclear that US officials over there even have a clue that they continue to inflict them.

This is why a truly independent investigation of what happened is so critical to the President’s strategy in Afghanistan. Please join our campaign calling on the president to investigate the baby shower raid that resulted in the killing of innocent Afghans, including two pregnant women.

If you haven’t read about this horrendous incident, and the US response to it, brace yourself.

Afghan investigators are claiming that US Special Operations forces tried to cover up the horrific killing of five Afghan citizens in February following a raid of what turned out to be a baby shower.  Three women were killed. Two of them were pregnant. Also killed was a police commander and his brother, a government prosecutor.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, military officials went about fueling Taliban claims about how barbaric the foreign military occupation is by immediately putting out false information about the raid.  They claimed that NATO soldiers had stumbled upon the “bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed” after the raid was over.  According to the New York Times, military officials also claimed at the time that the bodies showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife and appeared to have died several hours before the raid.  They went on to imply that the women had been killed by their own families. CNN reported the story under the headline: “Bodies Found Gagged, Bound after Afghan ‘Honor Killing’” .

Now it turns out that the claims by the US military were false.  The London Times and New York Times reported this week that Afghan investigators have determined that American forces tampered with evidence at the scene and even “dug bullets out of their victims bodies” after the killing.

The US led military command finally admitted on Sunday night that their previous denials of any involvement in the killing of the women were false.  Special Forces had, indeed, killed them.  Still, they denied any cover up. A US military official declared: “We strongly deny having dug any bullets out of bodies. There is simply no evidence.” While denying any tampering with evidence, he went on to say that the military is “further investigating” the incident. Who else might possibly have had a motive to cover up the evidence at the scene was left to the imagination.

The Taliban could have hardly made this up to fuel their campaign against the foreign invaders and military occupiers.

Don’t get me wrong – I think that the current US strategy in Afghanistan is a grave mistake and cannot be set right by correcting the Pentagon’s botched reaction to a horribly botched raid. But, this incident is one more illustration of why a military led strategy in Afghanistan – that is tone deaf to the damage that something like this does to its own cause – is doomed to failure. Nothing short a complete demilitarization of US Afghanistan policy is required. But, while no one his holding their breath that this is in the cards, at the very least the administration can take steps to deal responsibly with this horror. And stop the damage that it continues to inflict on its own cause.

A thorough and truly independent investigation of the baby shower killings is required NOW. Justice and accountability demand it. So does a strategy that is dependent on winning “hearts and minds”.