251,287 cables indexed
Reference ID: 09KABUL1652
Subject: ICRC REPORT ON FARAH CIVCAS INCIDENT STATES 89 CIVILIANS WERE KILLED
Origin: Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Created:24 Jun 2009 Released:30 Aug 2011
Tags: AF, MOPS, PGOV, PINS, PREL

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001652

SIPDIS

FOR SRAP, SCA/A
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR FLOURNOY
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82 AND POLAD
KABUL FOR COS USFOR-A

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MOPS, PINS, AF
SUBJECT: ICRC REPORT ON FARAH CIVCAS INCIDENT STATES 89
CIVILIANS WERE KILLED

Classified By: Asst. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, for reasons 1.4 (a),
(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary. ICRC Head of Mission Reto Stocker met with
Ambassador Eikenberry on June 13 and delivered a written
report on the events associated with the battle in Bala
Baluk, Farah Province, on May 4. The ICRC concluded that the
civilian death total was considerably higher than the number
estimated by ISAF investigators. Nevertheless, Stocker
praised the cooperation of ISAF and U.S. military officials
in gathering information for the ICRC report on casualties
that resulted from fighting between insurgents and
ANSF/Coalition forces. The ICRC interviewed more than 50
villagers and came to the conclusion that 89 civilians were
killed in bombings on the evening of May 4, with an
additional 13 wounded. Although Stocker had seen an edited
version of the aerial video from the B-1 bomber, he still
believes that the last 2 bombs dropped hit civilians and not
enemy fighters. The ICRC report was provided to assist
Coalition authorities investigating the incident and will not
be released publicly. End summary.

2. (U) ICRC Head of Mission Reto Stocker visited Amb.
Eikenberry on June 13 and delivered a copy of his written
report on the May 4 battle in Bala Baluk, Farah that resulted
in an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Stocker
noted that in the past he had delivered such
&interventions8 to military personnel in Afghanistan, and
this was the first time he was doing so with civilian
leadership (he did not explain why).

3. (U) Stocker said that he had always had positive
experiences in working with military officials on such
sensitive issues in the past, and praised ISAF and U.S.
military officials for providing &open doors8 in discussing
the Bala Baluk incident.

4. (U) ICRC representatives visited Bala Baluk 3 times after
May 4 to gather information, interview local residents, and
get the lay of the land. They interviewed more than 50
villagers in Ganjabad and Gerani over a period of 13 days.
They avoided compiling lists of victims, but did provide a
complete list of interviewees in their report. They also did
not use graves as evidence since many of the villagers
described finding only body parts that were not suitable for
normal burial.

5. (C) Stocker made it clear that the ICRC is not an
investigative body, and that the report was prepared to
assist the authorities in their own investigations. He said
he has a high degree of confidence in its finding that 89
civilians were killed on May 4, with another 13 injured. He
said there were clearly a large number of insurgents killed
as well. Although he had seen an edited version of the
aerial video taken by the B-1 bomber, he took issue with
allegations by some that the villagers had all cleared out of
the target area before the conflict began.

6. (C) In a detailed discussion with the Ambassador on the
sequence of events, Stocker agreed with U.S. military
officials that the first group of individuals hit with the
first bomb from the B-1 near the mosque were insurgents. He
found no villagers who alleged that civilians were killed in
that strike. However, he did not agree that subsequent lines
of people observed moving rapidly between structures were
insurgents. He showed photos of narrow paths where the
movements took place, saying they tied in with the aerial
video, and described multiple accounts by witnesses of
families fleeing the battle with parents carrying children in
their arms. Stocker said that 47 and 42 residents were
killed in the second and third strikes, respectively. In
support of this claim, he made the case that it would have
been illogical for insurgents not killed in the first bombing
to continue to gather in groups that could be targeted from
above, whereas it would have been logical for civilians to
have sought shelter away from the fighting.

7. (C) The Ambassador thanked Stocker for his thorough review
of the events of May 4 and his contribution to developing all
of the facts. He said he would continue to follow the
official investigations in light of the information provided
in the ICRC report, and raised several questions. Signal
intelligence that the ICRC was not privy to indicated
insurgent commanders were operating from the same areas where
the bombings took place, and that that information
cross-checked with the aerial video. The Ambassador

KABUL 00001652 002 OF 002


mentioned that during his visit to Farah with President
Karzai on May 19, he was struck by the low-key and subdued
discussion of the events of May 4 by the villagers who were
most affected by it. That low-key reaction may indicate that
casualties were lower than reported by other sources. The
Ambassador noted that NDS Saleh made a similar comment on the
flight back to Kabul. The attraction of solatia payments for
the deaths of family members could not be ignored as another
incentive for higher alleged civilian casualty figures.

8. (C) The Ambassador noted complicating factors, such as the
enthusiasm of ANSF to confront Taliban forces in the area,
despite the plea of U.S. mentors to hold off until proper
plans could be drawn up. The battle moved from daylight into
nightfall, a more challenging environment to differentiate
between insurgents and civilians. Errors may have been made
on the Coalition side, but the ICRC report can only help sort
out the truth.

9. (C) Comment. Reto Stocker is one of the most credible
sources for unbiased and objective information in
Afghanistan, and has 4 years of experience as head of the
ICRC mission here. The ICRC survey of local villagers is
certainly exhaustive, and the report finds significant
consistency in the testimonies provided. At the same time,
Stocker twice mentioned that they had placed a great deal of
confidence in the statements of one particular source, later
noting that the Red Crescent had an office near where the
evening,s fighting took place. The list of interviewees
mentions no one associated with the Red Crescent. A copy of
the report has been sent to SCA/A electronically. End
comment.
EIKENBERRY