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Pentagon denies high civilian death toll in Afghanistan

Russia Today [1]
Saturday, Aug 30, 2008

The Pentagon is denying claims that its policy in Afghanistan is causing a high death toll among civilians. Hundreds of Afghan citizens have died – a number that the American media refers to as ‘a spate of civilian deaths’. Only last week up to 90 people were killed by NATO air raids on Herat province, according to UN and Afghan officials.

“This is a terrible tragedy. And this sort of thing is happening too much. Even if we dispute how many people died in this particular case, certainly it is happening too often,” says Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy from Brookings Institution, DC.

The Pentagon continues to insist only insurgents died. It calls the attack legitimate and discards eyewitness accounts to the contrary as poor intelligence. This has fuelled anger against foreign troops, particularly American, and provoked demonstrations.

“Afghan National Army forces and Americans attacked us during the night and bombed us,” said local man Mohammad Jamil.

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Many Americans are sympathetic and condemn the bombings. This is evident in blog entries and comments posted in online discussion forums. Some blame the U.S. government and express disappointment and concern about America’s reputation.

The rage of Afghan civilians has put massive pressure on President Hamid Karzai.

To date U.S. operations in Afghanistan have been largely unregulated, but now Karzai has ordered a review of foreign troop activities – a step similar to the one taken by the Iraqi government which demanded a timetable for troops’ withdrawal.

Meanwhile, a debate on the incident at the UN Security Council was blocked by the U.S., the UK and France.

Troops withdrawn from Iraq will probably be sent to Afghanistan where the shortage has led to increased air strikes by U.S. forces costing the lives of innocent people.

However, if the Pentagon continues to deny or downplay the importance of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, it risks undermining the trust and confidence of the Afghan people and losing the support of its allies.