Afghan alcohol ban after Nato staff were ‘too hungover’ to give explanation for airstrike that killed 70 civilians
Alcohol has been banned from Nato’s headquarters in Afghanistan in the wake of an airstrike that killed up to 70 civilians.
US General Stanley McChrystal, head of the International Forces in Afghanistan (Isaf), decided to bar boozing after launching an investigation into the bombing in northern Afghanistan.
Staff at the Kabul headquarters were ‘either drunk or too hungover’ to answer his questions.
He slammed forces for ‘partying it up’ as German Chancellor Angela Merkel also found herself under attack for the strike.
The command to drop two 500lb bombs on two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban came from Germany, while American pilots carried it out.
A preliminary investigation found that the bombs were dropped in breach of Nato guidelines, on intelligence from a single source who claimed all present were members of the Taliban.
Today Merkel has told the German parliament that the government will not accept ‘premature judgments’ on the airstrike.
‘I say this very clearly after what I have experienced in the last few days: I will not tolerate that from whoever it may be, at home as well as abroad.’
She told lawmakers that every death of or injury to an innocent person in Afghanistan is ‘one too many’, adding that Germany’s mission in Afghanistan remains necessary.
She spoke as General McChrystal noted in his daily Commander’s Update that too many Nato staff had been ‘partying it up’ and did not have ‘their heads in the right place’ following the tanker attack.
The General found he ‘couldn’t get hold of the people he needed to get hold of and he blamed it on all-night partying’, according to The Times.
‘General McChrystal is extremely focused on the mission and he feels that the folk who are here at the headquarters level need to be at the top of their game in terms of supporting the folks out in the field,’ an Isaf spokesman said.
‘The Kunduz incident provided an opportunity for him to articulate his concerns in this regard, but it was not the cause of the order nor is there any indication at this point that alcohol consumption was somehow a factor in the incident.’
American forces already ban all alcohol for their troops in Afghanistan, while British troops are only allowed to drink at special functions with explicit permission.
The rest of the 42 nations in Afghanistan, however, have varying rules on drinking.
There are seven bars on half-square mile Isaf compound. One insider told the Times: ‘Thursday nights are the big party nights, because FridayÂ’s a Â‘low-opsÂ’ day. They even open a bar in the garden at headquarters.
‘ThereÂ’s a Â‘two canÂ’ rule but people ignore it and hit it pretty hard.’
The airstrike occurred at 2.30am on Friday morning.
German Deputy Defence Minister Christian Schmidt yesterday defended his country’s commander on the ground for calling-in the war planes and demanded critics waited for the outcome of an investigation before apportioning blame.
It had been feared the tankers would be used in suicide bombings against German troops who are stationed in Kunduz province, north of the Afghan capital.
Civilian deaths and intrusive searches have bred resentment among the Afghan population nearly eight years after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban. There are fears the latest incidents will merely fuel the increasingly bitter feelings towards foreign troops.
In addition to criticism over the attack, America is also facing allegations that it stormed a hospital in Afghanistan.
In the latest allegations, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division entered the charity’s hospital without permission to look for insurgents in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, last Wednesday.
Anders Fange, the charity’s country director, said soldiers kicked in doors, tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients, and forced patients out of beds during their search.
When they left two hours later, the unit ordered hospital staff to inform coalition forces if any wounded militants were admitted, and the military would decide if they could be treated, Mr Fange said.
The staff refused, he said. ‘That would put our staff at risk and make the hospital a target.
‘This is simply not acceptable,’ Mr Fange added.
The charity said on its website that the troops’ actions were not only a violation of humanitarian principles but also went against an agreement between Nato forces and charities working in the area.
‘We demand guarantees … that such violations will not be repeated and that this is made clear to commanders in the field,’ a statement said.
U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker confirmed that the hospital was searched last week but had no other details. She said the military was looking into the incident.
‘We are investigating and we take allegations like this seriously,’ she said. ‘Complaints like this are rare.’
Last week’s airstrike came despite new rules for foreign forces limiting use of airpower to avoid civilian casualties.
The provincial government said most of the dead were militants, but the Afghan Rights Monitor said interviews with 15 villagers indicate that only a dozen gunmen died and 60-70 villagers were killed. The group called for further investigations.
A United Nations report in July said the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 per cent this year, with bombings by insurgents and airstrikes by international forces the biggest killers.
The report said 1,013 civilians were killed in the first half of 2009, 59 per cent in insurgent attacks and 30.5 perc ent by foreign and Afghan government forces. The rest were undetermined.