NYT underlines end to civilian deaths.
In an editorial headlined Measuring Success in Afghanistan, the New York Times recalled 2,000 Afghan civilians were killed last year in a war America has not been winning.
But the US must win it, it stressed. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Obamas choice to be the next military commander in Afghanistan, has defined Americas essential goals there in a way that represents an overdue change in military strategy, the paper commented.
At last weeks confirmation hearing, the new American general told lawmakers: The measure of effectiveness (in Afghanistan) will not be the number of enemy killed.
It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence. Afghans need shielding, not just from militancy-linked violence, but also from errant American fire that has taken an unacceptably high toll, according to The Times.
The civilians have to be protected from the imprecise airstrikes that American commanders came to rely on because they lacked sufficient ground troops.
In May, it pointed out, one particularly deadly episode killed dozens of civilians in western Afghanistan.
Although the Pentagon says 20 to 30 residents lost their lives in Farah air raids, the Afghan government has put the civilian death toll at 140.
The Times reported last week on the initial conclusions of a Pentagon investigation, citing significant mistakes by troops that contributed to the high civilian death toll.
The military personnel disregarded a regulation against bombing high-density residential areas in the absence of imminent threat and failed to reconfirm a target after a bombing delay.
Such mistakes are costly,not just in civilian lives but in broader support for the presence of American troops and the military campaign against the Taliban, argued the editorial, which said Afghans had few illusions about the Taliban, because they had suffered the movements medieval punishments.
But they have little enthusiasm for a war in which foreign troops and Taliban fanatics shoot at each other with seeming indifference to the civilians caught in the cross-fire,the NYT maintained.
It continued change the way ordinary Afghans viewed the campaign against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies would be General McChrystals most essential task For the success of counterinsurgency operations, it explained, support and intelligence tips from the local population were necessary.
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