Pentagon expected to issue report on Afghan deaths



The air strikes, which heightened tensions between Kabul and Washington over a rising civilian death toll across Afghanistan, were carried out against what U.S. military officials described as a legitimate Taliban target in Farah province in early May.

The U.S. and Afghan governments have clashed over the civilian toll, with Kabul putting deaths at 140 civilians, making the military action the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the question of whether to release an unclassified summary of the air strike investigation report has also brought debate between the Pentagon and State Department officials, with top military officials including Army General David Petraeus urging its release.

In the end, the Pentagon decided tentatively to release the unclassified summary but a final review of the material had not yet been completed, according to officials.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell suggested the report could be released as early as Tuesday afternoon but declined to offer a public commitment.

“I am assured that it is being worked and that hopefully it will be released rather soon,” Morrell told reporters. “Hopefully it can come in hours and not days.”

The use of air power as part of a two-day battle near the villages of Geraani and Ganj Abad has fueled public anger against Western forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged an end to U.S. air strikes in the milf porn country, a call rejected by Washington.

The U.S. military has said that 20-35 civilians died out of 80-95 killed in the incident, the rest being Taliban insurgents. Meanwhile, an Afghan human rights watchdog has said the bombing killed 97 civilians and no more than two members of the Taliban.

U.S. military officials say the report’s release is favored by top commanders including Petraeus as a way to show American accountability on civilian casualties, a topic that experts say could turn Afghan public opinion against the West if mismanaged.

Pentagon officials have already said the report acknowledges that U.S. personnel made mistakes in carrying out the operation in Farah.

“It contributes to our credibility for us to own up to what we did, express regret for the loss of civilian life and show that we are capable of self-assessment,” said one official.

The Pentagon first raised expectations a week ago that an unclassified report would be released along with a videotape showing Taliban insurgents at one of the bombing sites.

But officials said disclosure plans soon drew criticism from the State Department, which feared the report’s release would only underscore U.S. mistakes.

“Those who opposed the release felt we’d already talked about this and so let’s just move on,” said a military official.

Morrell suggested the report’s release was favored by officials at “the highest levels” of the Pentagon but declined to characterize Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ position.

He also played down suggestions of administration disagreements but acknowledged that timing had been affected by Farah report’s circulation to officials outside the Pentagon.

“It’s one thing if you do things internal to this building. But often times, when you reach out and include others, it takes longer than you anticipate,” Morrell said.

“There is a great interest throughout the government about all matters Afghanistan these days, particularly civilian casualties,current politics,” he added.


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