In the hubbub over Afghan civilian deaths due to a misplaced rocket attack, comes this story from the front page of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
Taliban using civilians as shields
As U.S. and Afghan forces try to prevent civilian deaths in Marjah, enemy holdouts are fighting amid its citizens.
By Alfred De Montesquiou and Rahim Faiez, Associated Press
MARJAH, Afghanistan – Taliban fighters holding out in Marjah are increasingly using civilians as human shields, firing from compounds where U.S. and Afghan forces can clearly see women and children on rooftops or in windows, Afghan and U.S. troops said yesterday.
The intermingling of fighters and civilians, they said, is part of a Taliban effort to exploit strict NATO rules against endangering innocent lives to impede the allied advance through the town in Helmand province, 380 miles southwest of Kabul.
Two more NATO service members were killed in the Marjah operation yesterday, the alliance said in a statement without identifying them by nationality.
Their deaths brought to six NATO service members and one Afghan soldier killed since the attack on Marjah, the hub of the Taliban’s southern logistics and drug-smuggling network, began Saturday. About 40 insurgents have been killed, Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal said.
In five days of fighting, the Taliban has also shown a side not often seen in nearly a decade of American military action in Afghanistan: the use of snipers, both working alone and integrated into guerrilla-style ambushes.
Almost every American and Afghan infantryman present has had frightening close calls. Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.
War is hell, and not only for the warriors: civilians die as well. But this is an old tactic: the Palestinian fighters in Gaza and the West Bank use it, the Viet Cong used it, really anybody who wants to hide from a superior, concentrated force can use it, if that force is making efforts to not kill non-combatants. Then, of course, the civilized West will cry about civilian casualties, and many — including some of the commenters here — will say that the civilian deaths are a reason we shouldn’t fight the war at all.
If we surrender to such logic, then it means any group which is willing to hide amongst the civilian population automatically wins.