"They placed explosives on a six-year-old boy and told him to walk up to the Afghan police or army and push the button," said Captain Michael Cormier, the company commander who intercepted the child, in a statement. "Fortunately, the boy did not understand and asked patrolling officers why he had this vest on."(Read the whole article at Indigo Continuum.)
Lieutenant Colonel David Accetta, ISAF eastern regional command spokesman, told the Guardian: "In the past we have not seen the Taliban sink that low, to use children as suicide bombers. The personnel secured the vest to make sure the child was safe."
Lt Col Accetta said the procedure for dealing with an armed minor had so far been untested in Afghanistan.
"It would have been difficult to know what to do considering it was a six-year-old boy and he was presumably going to push the button himself or someone was going to detonate it for him remotely," Lt Col Accetta said.
The rules of military engagement are easily muddied when a child poses a direct threat, he explained. "What we do if we identify the fact that an adult is wearing a suicide vest is we use whatever force we deem necessary to protect the lives of our soldiers and any civilians. Of course it makes it more difficult - it's a six year-old child."
"They will normally intermix with the civilian population with the thought that we won't engage them there, and it's true, we won't do that," Lt Col Accetta maintained. "They are deliberately putting civilians - women and children - at risk by bringing the combat into close proximity with them."
Using very young children is not a tactic commonly seen in Afghanistan and the ISAF hopes it isn't a new tactical battlefield element. American forces saw this same tactic used in VietNam, and it created great confusion among the soldiers who understandably have an aversion to purposely killing a child for any reason.
However, that was not the headline part of the story. Media outlets emphasized the deaths of 9 women, 3 babies, and a local mosque mullah in a NATO airstrike. "Infants dead in NATO attack" reads the headline of the Winnepeg Free Press. Most other headlines were similar and only later tell the rest of the story. Oh, by the way, TWENTY TALIBAN FIGHTERS were also killed alongside the presumably innocent babies.
The airstrike was precipitated by Taliban attacks on the nearby town of Gereshk. The Taliban attacks have killed 170 people in the past few weeks. Afghan President Karzai, our buddy, is hopping mad about the deaths. But he's ticked-off at NATO, not the Taliban. On Thursday Karzai said, the deaths are "difficult for us to accept or understand."
NATO commanders are adamant that the militants -- not foreign forces -- deserve most of the blame for the toll among civilians.
An alliance statement said NATO aircraft struck after Taliban fighters attacked troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force about 15 kilometres northeast of the town of Gereshk.
"A compound was assessed to have been occupied by up to 30 insurgent fighters, most of whom were killed in the engagement," the statement said.
Lt.-Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, expressed concern about Afghan police reports that civilians also died in the air strike. But he said insurgents chose the time and place for their attack, so "the risk to civilians was probably deliberate." "It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties," he said.
(Read the whole article at Indigo Continuum.)
What President Karzai meant to say before he said what he didn't mean was, "Yes, the Taliban are killing more civilians than NATO. But the Taliban are our Muslim bothers and killing is what Muslims do. For NATO forces to kill Afghani civilians is barbarous and unacceptable because NATO forces are infidels."
(H/T Curt at Flopping Aces)
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.