Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll — BI
First it was reported as a a green on blue “insider attack,” then it was a bizarre three-way fight between insurgents, Americans, and Afghans, and finally it was presented as simply a “misunderstanding.”It’s a misunderstanding which ended with two Americans dead, and a crossing of the fatality count of 2000 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001. The attack also killed three Afghan soldiers.
The incident was first reported as an “insider attack,” but later reports said there may have been insurgent gunfire involved. That’s where the misunderstanding comes in to play—supposedly a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) or a mortar was fired at patrolling American troops, who in turn thought it came from a nearby Afghan Army outpost.
Then there’s the report which came out of The New York Times, which said that Americans were fired upon by Afghans first, following an argument or disagreement.
From the report:
Provincial Police Chief Abdul Qayoum Baqizoi said the fight broke out when an Afghan soldier among seven soldiers at the checkpoint opened fire on the Americans; in the ensuing gun battle, three Afghan soldiers were killed, including the one who had first opened fire. “We still don’t have a clear picture of what happened,” Mr. Baqizoi said.
He quoted one of the surviving Afghan soldiers as saying, “I heard some noise and verbal argument and suddenly heard the shooting and then one of the coalition soldiers threw a hand grenade so I fled from the checkpost and hid myself behind our Humvee.”
And also that of the Associated Press, which includes NATO statements that characterise the catalyst of the gunfire as, not a mortar or an RPG, but from a “conversation.” From the report:
“After a short conversation took place between (Afghan army) and ISAF personnel, firing occurred which resulted in the fatal wounding of an ISAF soldier and the death of his civilian colleague,” the coalition said in a statement.
Perhaps in response to all the uproar over the 2,000 mark and insider attacks, Pentagon press secretary George Little became rather short, saying that 2,000 deaths is one of the “arbitrary milestones defined by others” that the U.S. administration does not mark.
He went on to say that “every” U.S. death is important of it’s own right.
Whether or not it’s arbitrary, or under what circumstances it happened, the shootout frames a larger, clearer issue with the campaign: that American troops and their Afghan counterparts continue to target each other. Whether the number is arbitrary, whether it’s a “disagreement” or “misunderstanding,” the continued deaths illustrate a widening gulf between the Americans and the organic Afghan troops meant to eventually take their place.
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