After suffering a number of setbacks in its bid to bring about the defeat of the US and its allies in Iraq, the New York Times has turned its attention to Afghanistan in its relentless quest to undermine the War on Terror. The Times reports that a senior British officer has asked US Special Forces to leave his area of operations, because he blames them for high levels of civilian casualties that are turning the local population against Nato forces.
British, US and Nato officials all deny that such a request has been made, although there have long been concerns about civilian casualties. As the times reports:
It is in fact the possibility of the population turning against them, or the unpopularity of the campaign back home, that most concerns the military, one NATO military official said. “We know we can beat the Taliban on the ground,” the official said. “The issue is the population.”
The Taliban know this, and they know that civilian casualties are one of their most effective weapons; they operate with callous disregard for the people they hide among, and exaggerate accounts of civilian deaths knowing that they'll be lapped up by a media more eager to report on setbacks than success.
Unfortunately, Nato can't beat the Taliban on the ground without US airpower, which is responsible for most Taliban casualties, and which is often directed by US Special Forces. The Times loves to paint a picture of US 'cowboys' undermining the 'softly-softly' approach of its more sophisticated European allies, but all troops know they have nothing to gain, and everything to lose by causing the deaths of civilians.
If you gave the Afghan people the choice between a relatively small number of civilian deaths and the return of the Taliban's brutal rule over the country, I know which option they'd choose.