US actions in Afghanistan criticized

Associated Press / June 4, 2009
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WASHINGTON - American troops made substantial errors and did not strictly follow rules for avoiding casualties during an air assault on Taliban fighters in May, a US defense official said, underscoring a central quandary for President Obama's Afghan counterinsurgency campaign.

The defense official said yesterday that a military investigation faulted some of the actions of American troops in air strikes May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians in Farah Province.

"Errors were made" in the attack, the official acknowledged on the condition of anonymity, discussing one of the preliminary findings on an event that has strained relations between Washington and Kabul and bred deep resentment among the Afghan people. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have also enraged Muslims worldwide.

Though the probe looked into the events in early May, commanders for well over a year have focused considerable attention on the problem. It looms as large as ever as the Obama administration streams 21,000 troops into Afghanistan to try to regain momentum in the faltering war.

One example the investigators cited, the defense official said, involved a US warplane given permission to launch an attack against a suspected Taliban site. The plane circled back and didn't reconfirm the target before dropping the bomb.