Just who is Dr. Roshanak Wardak? She is a member of Afghanistan's parliament -- one of 68 women in the lower house -- committed to women's rights issues, as well as rebuilding schools and hospitals. Before turning to politics, Dr. Wardak was a gynecologist who practiced for 30 years, during which time she worked with Afghan women in refugee camps in Pakistan. She has witnessed the devastation this war has wrought upon innocent Afghan civilians; she has even experienced it firsthand. Six months ago, a Predator drone bomb landed 200 meters from her house.
As The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reported, "The blast, [Dr. Wardak] says, lifted her house off the ground and woke up the village. The curious went to see what happened. That's when the second drone struck, killing roughly 15 civilians."
We need to hear from experts like Dr. Wardak who understand the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, particularly as our country is sending more troops and more airstrikes, which, as we saw last month, result in rampant civilian deaths that fuel anti-American sentiment. That's why Brave New Foundation brought her to Washington, DC this week for the America's Future Now! conference and to meet with members of Congress.
Dr. Wardak told HuffPo, "Every time this bombardment happens by drone, tomorrow we discuss this matter in the parliament. And I'm so sorry that when we discuss this matter, American country and their leadership, their soldiers, they are losing their popularity among the M.P.s and also among, especially, the people. Very much they are losing their popularity."
Journalist Anand Gopal, who joined Dr. Wardak and renowned author Ann Jones in this congressional briefing and panel discussion, explained that the more troops we send, the more backup they will call for in the form of airstrikes, the more room for military error. And in fact, as The NY Times reported today, a military investigation found that such error directly resulted in the killing of up to 143 people (96 of whom were Afghan women and children under the age of 18) in the recent Farah province airstrike.
From The NY Times:
A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.
The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.
According to the senior military official, the report on the May 4 raids found that one plane was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but then had to circle back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs, leaving open the possibility that the militants had fled the site or that civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.
In another case, a compound of buildings where militants were massing for a possible counterattack against American and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, the official said.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee that reducing the civilian death toll in Afghanistan is "essential to our credibility," but the cycle of violence can only be broken by curbing the number of airstrikes.
Stay tuned for part four of Rethink Afghanistan, which focuses on the civilian casualties of this war. In the meantime, sign the petition calling on Congress to support Rep. Jim McGovern's calls for an exit strategy.