Photo: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan flag over Marjah
From the AP:
MARJAH, Afghanistan — Crouched on packed earth at a barricaded Marine encampment, the village elders issued their complaint: U.S. troops had killed an innocent 14-year-old boy. Secretly, the Marines didn’t believe them. No matter. They apologized, called the death a tragedy and promised to offer a condolence payment to the boy’s family.
Here we see the act of assuaging "Arab anger" -- something of primary concern to Gen. Petraeus and the Obama administration -- in its wider Islamic context: Apologize for no reason and pay up. Or, in Islamic terms, prostrate one's self as befits an infidel and offer jizya-style protection money. Call it the COIN/sharia twofer.
It’s all part of a strategy that sometimes involves swallowing their pride in an effort to persuade wavering Afghans to turn away from the Taliban.
Brilliant, isn't it? Show systemic weakness of character, self-loathing and gullibility and win "the people" over.
Since U.S., Afghan and NATO forces wrested Marjah from the Taliban, they’ve been going to extraordinary lengths to cultivate townspeople who had lived under insurgent control for years.
Cultivate -- as in "buy."
That’s a tall order in a place where many Taliban fighters still hiding here are from Marjah — supported or at least tolerated by the surrounding communities.
Winning over the population, including former Taliban fighters, is considered more important than hunting down insurgents. The strategy is expected to serve as a model for a bigger operation planned for later this year around Kandahar, the largest city in the south.
In order to make the locals happy, the Marines use money everywhere it seems like it can buy a little goodwill. Shopkeepers are paid for locks broken in the fighting and farmers for damage to their fields when helicopters land.
Marines have disbursed more than a quarter million dollars in battle-damage payments in central Marjah alone, said Maj. David Fennell, head of a group of civil affairs Marines handling the disbursements.
They’re also trying to be careful about where they tread.
I hate to break it to Centcom, but what the AP is about to describe sounds like nothing less than a variation on the rules imposed to dominate and humiliate dhimmi populations living in thrall to Islamic law, as catalogued in such works as Bat Ye'or's The Dhimmi.
The Marines moved a new battalion base out of an abandoned high school when residents complained they were living in a building that they should be for students.
Then they decided to shrink the new base to accommodate locals who were worried about its walls cutting off a footpath. When residents decided they wanted enough room for a vehicle to get through, they agreed to reduce the size of the base some more.
And sometimes the strategy involves accepting the word of village elders, some of whom may be Taliban sympathizers themselves, to keep the peace.
That’s what unfolded Monday night as three Marine snipers hid knee-deep in water in a ditch, watching for militants at a spot where they’d found two bombs in the past week. The snipers saw people moving around a building believed to be an insurgent hideout. Then someone released dogs that charged them.
In the middle of this, the snipers saw a male with a shovel and a yellow jug — the type insurgents use for bombs — on the roadside. They shot and killed him, then started taking rifle fire from a nearby building. The Marines rushed out of the area and made it back to their base.
Tuesday morning the elders arrived to complain. They identified the person who was shot as a boy trying to collect water for his mother.
Anything for mother.
Officers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, apologized, describing the death as a tragedy and offering a condolence payment to the boy’s family.
Not that they believed the elders.
“The kid looked taller than me. He appeared, not to be a kid,” said Sgt. Ben Parker, a 24-year-old from Atlanta who was one of the three snipers and stands at 5-foot-8.
Lt. Shawn Miller, the executive officer of Alpha Company, met Wednesday with town elders, who raised the issue of the boy’s death again.
Miller apologized but pointed out that bullets were being fired and his Marines were being chased by dogs. Miller said he could see the shots from where he was at the nearby base.
“If you could see the bullets, why couldn’t you see he was a child?” one of the elders asked.
“This was a tragedy,” Miller said, again, to the group of about 10 assembled bearded men. “Because of a very sad misinterpretation, an innocent person was hurt.”
He also said, for the second day in a row, that the Marines would pay his family.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the Afghan army commander attached to Alpha Company passed no public judgment on the boy’s innocence, but berated the elders for not watching over their children better.
“Why did someone send him out at night to get water? Why are you letting your children out like that?” Capt. Iqbal Khan asked.
After the meeting, Khan said he would not say that the men were lying, but that the evidence was not in their favor.
“First, 8 p.m. is not a proper time to go out and get water for the household. Second, the boy must have been older because parents wouldn’t send such a young boy out like that,” Khan said.
Most suspicious: Though Miller has offered condolence payments to the boy’s family, no one has come forward to claim them.
Perhaps it's not enough yet.
“The father is the only one who hasn’t shown up,” Miller said.
Parker says he doesn’t mind his commanders going out and apologizing for a shooting. He and the officers are sure they killed an insurgent.
“We haven’t had any bombs in that spot since,” Parker said.