Is It Even Possible To Win Hearts and Minds Militarily?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Foreign Policy | Posted on 13-04-2010


Is it even possible to make more friends than enemies in Afghanistan?

With each civilian death, an entire family, a group of friends, neighbors, and other sympathetic Afghans probably turn anti-American and anti-occupation.

The New York Times had an article yesterday about our troops opening fire on a bus of civilians. How many minds did this turn away?  Can you even win the hearts and minds of a population with military action, when the main function of a military is force and violence(Don’t mean this condemningly. This is what militaries are for.)?

KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing as many as five civilians and wounding 18, and sparking anger in a city where winning over Afghan support is considered pivotal to the war effort.

The American-led military command in Kabul called the killings a “tragic loss of life” and said troops fired not knowing the vehicle was a bus and believing that it posed a threat to a military convoy clearing roadside bombs from a highway.

The deaths triggered a vitriolic anti-American demonstration, infuriated officials and appeared likely to harm public opinion on the eve of the most important offensive of the war, in which tens of thousands of American and NATO troops will try to take control of the Kandahar region, the spiritual home of the Taliban, this summer.

Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the area around a station where the damaged bus was taken on the western outskirts of Kandahar. They blocked the road with burning tires for an hour and shouted, “Death to America” and “Death to infidels” while also condemning the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to people in the area.

This does not sounds like future friends of ours.

The Kandahar governor, Tooryalai Wesa, called for the commander of the military convoy who opened fire to be prosecuted under military law.

“If you want to stop the bus, it should be shot in the tires,” Mr. Wesa said. “Why shoot the people inside?”

This is a very good point. By no way would I criticize our troops actions, for I cannot image the pressure and daily fear they must deal with. Unfortunately, the Afghans are not going to be sympathetic to our troops when they fear our troops and have to worry about being killed for doing nothing wrong.

Two people who had been on the bus said that an American convoy 60 to 70 yards ahead opened fire as the bus began to pull to the side of the road to allow another military convoy to pass from behind.

“An American convoy was ahead of us and another convoy was following us, and we were going to pull off of the road, and suddenly the Americans opened fire,” said one, Nida Muhammad, a passenger who suffered a shoulder wound.

“We were not close to them, maybe 60 yards away from their convoy,” Mr. Muhammad said. A helicopter came for some wounded, he said.

“This bus wasn’t like an a suicide bomber, and we did not touch or come close to the convoy,” he said. “It seems they are opening fire on civilians intentionally.”

Again, I wouldn’t blame our troops, but it is not good if Afghans think we are “opening fire on civilians intentionally.” All blame should be directed towards our leaders at this point. To this day, there still seems to be no end in site. Our interests are not being served by a long and increasing unpopular occupation.

Civilians Killed as U.S. Troops Fire on Afghan Bus –

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