On 60 Minutes last night, Afghan President Hamid Karzai described his efforts to get President Bush to “rethink…the use of air force” in Afghanistan, which has killed more than 270 civilians in 17 air strikes in 2007 alone. Karzai says he delivered that message “privately” to President Bush in August using “clear words”:
HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: The Afghan people understand that mistakes are made. But five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, they cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power.
PELLEY: You are asking the American government to roll back the air strikes. Do I understand you?
KARZAI: Absolutely. Oh, yes, in clear words.
PELLEY (voice-over): Karzai told us he delivered those words privately to President Bush in August.
The increased use of air strikes is not limited to the war in Afghanistan. U.S. commanders in Iraq are trumpeting the fact that troop casualties have dramatically declined this past month, falling to one of the lowest levels in 2007. But as USA Today reported last week, “the U.S. military has increased air strikes in Iraq four-fold this year.” “The shift means greater safety for our ground troops,” notes Slate’s Fred Kaplan, but “it also generates more local hostility.”
Such increases in “local hostility” undermine the counterinsurgency strategy laid out in the U.S. Army’s field manual, by creating “collateral damage that turns people against the host-nation government and provides insurgents with a major propaganda victory.”