A recent comment by an U.S. Army officer about looking for "children with potential hostile intent" has increased concerns about targeting policy and the killing of civilians in Afghanistan.
The statement was attributed to Army Lieutenant Colonel Marion Carrington in a Marine Corps Times article of December 3 that appeared under the headline, "Some Afghan kids aren't bystanders." In recounting an incident in mid-October in which three Afghan children — ages 8, 10 and 12 — were killed in Helmond Province, the Times article described Marines directing a strike at "three shadowy figures that appeared to be emplacing an "improvised explosive device" in the ground. The Marines got clearance for air strike, the Times said and "took out the targets."
The article appears to contradict earlier accounts of the killing. While the Marine Corp Times article indicates the children were the shadowy figures targeted in the strike, the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul issued a statement at the time of the incident saying it might have "accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians." A New York Times article dated October 19 said the children were out gathering dung for fuel, and quoted the governor of a neighboring province who said the children were "wandering by" when they were struck by shrapnel from a strike on Taliban members who were placing the explosives in the ground. Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the coalition forces, said at the time that reports of the children killed were being investigated.
"I.S.A.F. did conduct a precision strike on three insurgents in Nawa district, and the strike killed all three insurgents," Wojack said. "None of our reporting shows any civilian casualties or any children." Yet a tribal council member who found the children's bodies said he did not see any other bodies in the area. And while earlier reports had described the action as an air strike, the New York Times ran a correction in its October 19 article, nothing that military officials said the "precision strike" was an artillery barrage.
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