It is worth adding a postscript to the killings on 1st March just to draw attention to the full crassness of the massacre and the toe-curling ‘apology’ from Petraeus : 'We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions.These deaths should have never happened and I will personally apologize to President (Hamid) Karzai,'
ISAF said they were responding to a rocket attack, which had injured a contractor inside a nearby military base, on Tuesday when they targeted the children in Manogai district of Kunar province.
'Regrettably there appears to have been an error in the hand-off between identifying the location of the insurgents and the attack helicopters that carried out subsequent operations,' the statement said.
Hundreds of Afghan villagers took to the streets in Manogai district of Kunar province on Wednesday to protest the killing of the children. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the United States and Afghan government as they marched to the centre of the district, local resident Mohammad Anwar Ghazi said. The protesters called on US forces stationed in the region to leave, and demanded the government bring the perpetrators to justice, he said. District police chief Gul Rahman said that the demonstration was peaceful, and that villagers simply wanted the killing of civilians to be stopped. Karzai 'strongly condemned the merciless killing' in the stock and now daily statement issued by his office on Wednesday.
'The children, who were martyred in this NATO aerial bombing, were collecting firewood to heat their homes in this cold winter,' the president said. 'Is this the way to fight terrorism and bring stability to Afghanistan?'
Petraeus claimed to have given a recent direction to commanders to review their tactical directive intended to reduce civilian casualties. Under the new military guidance, the ISAF troops have allegedly been instructed to avoid using airstrikes in populated areas. Regardless of the outcome of the stock ‘ongoing investigation’, the US general said that he had ordered all ISAF leaders and members of ISAF attack helicopter crews to be re-briefed on the tactical directive. Bit late for the families.
Tuesday's incident came less than two weeks after 65 people were killed in NATO airstrikes in Ghaziabad district of the same province of Kunar.NATO then claimed all the casualties were armed insurgents, but a team dispatched to the area by Kabul reported that the dead included around 40 children and 10 women. Petraeus suggested then that some of the children may have been burned by their own relatives. NATO and Pertraeus would be claiming the same again if they hadn’t been caught out so red-handed and so recently in Kunar.