NATO attempt to stop Christmas attack draws blowback
(A bullet hole shattered the window at Tiger International, an Afghan armored car company hit by a Christmas Eve day NATO raid.)
Nawid Shah Sakhizada said he was hanging out with colleagues at his armored car company office when one of his security guards rushed in before dawn on Friday morning with confusing news.
NATO forces were outside -- and they were on the hunt.
There had been a brief gun battle and two other guards for Tiger International had been fatally wounded in the parking lot.
As Sakhizada headed downstairs to find out what was going on, he said the NATO forces opened fire through the wall of glass windows overlooking the parking lot. The guard leading him downstairs fell on the stairs as Sakhizada retreated to his office.
By the time the shooting was over, two Afghan guards were dead and two others were wounded.
The NATO forces, joined by Afghan colleagues, had converged on the parking lot at the Kabul office building because they had what they considered "credible" evidence that two vehicles parked there were packed with explosives in preparation for a Christmastime attempt to bomb the U.S. Embassy.
Sakhizada said the soldiers apologized for the deadly battle and cautioned him not to speak to the media.
But when he saw the official version of events, Sakhizada and other company officials decided to speak out.
“I asked them ‘What do we tell the families?’” Sakhizada told McClatchy Newspapers on Sunday. “I told them ‘you did not kill two cows. You killed two human beings. We have to answer to the families.”
NATO officials released little information to explain why they targeted the office complex and what information led them to suspect there were explosives in the vehicles out front.
Tiger International officials said the NATO team appeared to be focused on two of its ambulances in the parking lot.
But U.S. officials emphatically stated that the team opened fire only after the guards fired on them.
The incident drew the ire of Afghan government officials who accused NATO of failing to properly coordinate with Kabul security officials.
The Afghan Interior Ministry suspended one general and fired a colonel who helped NATO carry out the raid.
Night raids remain a polarizing tactic in Afghanistan. NATO officials say night raids are effective. Afghan President Hamid Karzai regularly criticizes night raids as counter-productive when they end with civilians killed in murky circumstances.
“Saying sorry is not so easy,” said Mohammed Faird Wafah, a friend of Sakhizada family who came to visit the office on Sunday. “Afghan blood is not so cheap. When something like this happens in the center of Kabul, what do you think happens in the more remote provinces?”
(Photo: Nawid Shah Sakhizada looks out the window where one of his company security guards was shot during a disputed NATO Special Forces night raid.)