One of the marchers banners, according to the Washington Post, labeled the U.S. government as the guardian and master of [the] ruling Mafia in Afghanistan, a reference to the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Two incidents led up to the protest. In the first, 52 civilians died in Sangin, Helmand Province, July 23 in what local residents say was a NATO rocket attack from a helicopter gunship. It was the largest number of civilian deaths in a single incident since last September, when more than 100 died from a NATO airstrike in Kunduz Province.
An investigation by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistans intelligence agency, determined that a NATO rocket hit a house where women and children were seeking shelter from fighting between foreign troops and the Taliban. Karzai confirmed the attack and deaths.
One man, Mohammed Usman, said he pulled 24 bodies of women and children from the rubble. A farmer, Haji Abdul Ghafar, showed a reporter for the Guardian newspaper his son and nephew, who were recovering in the hospital. He said he lost three sisters, three daughters, and another son.
The U.S. command in Kabul issued a statement July 26 that its joint investigation with Afghan forces of the Sangin incident has thus far revealed no evidence of civilians injured or killed.
Anger at the toll on Afghan civilians boiled over in Kabul July 30 after an SUV carrying U.S. mercenaries from DynCorp International collided with a car transporting Afghans. The crash resulted in four Afghan deaths, the Post reported.
Hundreds of Afghans surrounded the U.S. vehicle and another that came to assist it. The two cars were torched. The contractors, and both Afghan and NATO security forces that arrived, were pelted with rocks. The Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported that other Afghans joined the protest, chanting slogans against foreign troops and Karzai.
We poor people are not just here to be killed, an Afghan woman named Rabia told the Post. She said she saw the July 30 protest against the U.S. contractors and decided to join the August 1 march.
Many times NATO troops and these cars have killed our innocent people, a young marcher named Samia told the Post. They never care whether we are Afghans or animals.
We want NATO troops and American troops to leave Afghanistan, she continued. Even with their huge army, they couldnt do anything in the past 10 years. And in the future they wont be able to do anything. The result will be just death and casualties.
The Afghan Interior Ministry announced that 270 civilians died in the war in July, an increase from the previous month. July ended as the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 66 soldiers killed.
U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates underscored the very narrow nature of any U.S. troop reduction next July, the original deadline announced by the White House to begin troop departures. We are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011, Gates said August 1. We are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks.
My personal opinion is that drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers.
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