Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Perspective: With a drawdown in troops, an increase in air strikes?

Above: Flight crew members signal the pilot of an F/A-18A Hornet assigned to the "Red Devils" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, to launch off the flight deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in June. The Nimitz is currently supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Air strikes in Iraq have doubled over the rate last year.

On June 18, seven children were killed during a US-led air strike against a suspected al-Qaeda sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan. Three days later, at least 25 civilians died during a similar "incident" in Helmand province in the south of the country.

The same day, a US air strike aimed at a house in the Iraqi town of Baquba accidentally hit a different structure, wounding 11 civilians. The Pentagon is investigating the errant strike.

The above "incidents" are part and parcel of warfare, initially denied, later called "accidents", rationalized as "collateral damage", regularly "under investigation", and always "regrettable".

Yet as US President George W Bush's "surge" policy ebbs in the quagmire of Iraq, and the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization force struggles to maintain order in Afghanistan, increasing calls in Congress and among the US public for a gradual withdrawal of combat troops may result in an escalation of the use of air power.

As Tom Engelhardt, the essayist of, writes, "Barring an unexpected change of policy, some version of this list of 'errant' incidents, multiplied many times over, is likely to represent the future of both Afghanistan and Iraq".

Read the rest at Asia Times