In “The Trouble with Embeds,” I discussed Jerome Starkey’s reporting on the deaths of three Afghan women in a raid that occurred on February 12. NATO public affairs officers described them as the victims of attacks by “militants.” But Starkey insisted that they had been killed by allied forces. Now the U.S. military is admitting that its claims were untrue:
After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid. The admission immediately raised questions about what really happened during the Feb. 12 operation — and what falsehoods followed — including a new report that Special Operations forces dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the true nature of their deaths. A NATO official also said Sunday in an interview that an Afghan-led team of investigators had found signs of evidence tampering at the scene, including the removal of bullets from walls near where the women were killed. A senior NATO official later denied on Monday that any evidence tampering occurred. The disclosure could not come at a worse moment for the American military: NATO officials are struggling to contain fallout from a series of tirades against the foreign military presence by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has also railed against the killing of civilians by Western forces.
Amazingly, NATO spokesmen continue to reject the suggestion that there was a cover-up. The Times makes the obvious point:
But it was not immediately clear on Sunday night how troops who shot the women and later examined their bodies would not have recognized that it was their bullets that killed them.