U.S. Says 16 Killed in Raids Weren't Taliban or Al Qaeda

John Cox hazel_motes52 at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 22 05:32:56 MST 2002

U.S. Says 16 Killed in Raids Weren't Taliban or Al Qaeda

February 22, 2002


WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
said today that 16 Afghan fighters killed by American
troops north of Kandahar last month were not members of the
Taliban or Al Qaeda. While he described the deaths as
"unfortunate," he issued no apology and said there was no
reason for disciplinary action.

In describing the results of the official inquiry into the
Special Forces mission, Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States
alone generated the intelligence that pointed to two
compounds in the Hazar Qadam Valley as enemy garrisons.

Evidence has been mounting that the two raids, carried out
overnight on Jan. 23, resulted in deaths and detainment of
fighters loyal to the new interim Afghan government. Some
officials had speculated that the United States might have
been duped into mounting the attacks by false information
from rival warlords.

A number of questions remained unanswered today - officials
said Mr. Rumsfeld himself asked for clarification on some
points from the United States Central Command - and certain
details contradicted reports from villagers in Hazar Qadam,
including assertions that 21 people died in the raid.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the American troops returned fire in
self-defense only after the Afghans shot first, but he
conceded that it was reasonable to assume that the Afghans
fired first because they saw or heard unknown troops, the
Americans, approaching.

But Mr. Rumsfeld said he was convinced that American forces
acted appropriately in planning and carrying out the
operation, even though the fighters turned out to be troops
loyal to Jan Muhammad Khan, the local governor and an ally
of the interim government, and not terrorist leaders or
their Taliban allies.

"With respect to the people that fired on the American
forces and then were killed, clearly in retrospect that's
unfortunate," Mr. Rumsfeld said. But he also said: "Let's
not call them `innocents.' We don't know quite what they
were. They were people who fired on our forces."

He rejected claims by some of the 27 captured Afghans that
they were beaten or kicked while in American captivity for
two weeks. "From everything I've been told, the people
involved in this operation handled themselves in an
appropriate way both during and after the incident," Mr.
Rumsfeld said.

Asked whether any disciplinary action would be taken, he
replied: "Why would there be? I can't imagine why there
would be any."

Even though the Defense Department issued no formal apology
to those detained or to the families of those killed, the
Central Intelligence Agency has distributed up to $1,000 to
some of the victims' families, officials said.

Mr. Rumsfeld's comments today placed no blame on the troops
who carried out the mission, those who collected what
proved to be incorrect intelligence and those who then
planned and ordered operations based on those flawed

He said that the compounds had been under surveillance for
"several weeks" and that the information was "persuasive
and compelling."

Officials declined to provide details of the intelligence,
except to describe stolen vehicles and extensive nighttime
activities at the compounds. An unclassified executive
summary of the inquiry described the actions around the
buildings as "consistent with compounds used for military
purposes by the leadership of Al Qaeda and Taliban."

The intelligence operation is shared by the military and
the C.I.A., and officials said no operation of this type
would have been mounted unless there was agreement on the
meaning of the information.

Even so, it appears that questions about the certainty of
the intelligence arose in the planning stages of the
mission, because suggestions about calling in airstrikes on
the compounds were rejected in favor of sending in Special
Forces who could scout the area, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

One of the most gruesome descriptions from the raids'
aftermath concerned dead Afghans found bound in plastic
handcuffs, which prompted some local villagers to question
whether the fighters had been executed while in custody.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said today that standard procedures during a raid
required American troops to handcuff the wounded as the
troops advanced through a building, to make sure even
injured enemies were unable to grab a weapon. Subsequently,
some of the injured may have died of their wounds, he said,
"but they certainly weren't shot in their handcuffs."

Twenty-six of those captured in the raids were from one
compound where the Special Forces achieved an element of
surprise. "Most of the Afghans present dropped their
weapons when confronted," said the executive summary of the
inquiry. "Others fled. Only those that shot at or clearly
threatened U.S. forces were engaged, resulting in only two
Afghans killed."

Just as the assault was being mounted on the second
compound, "an armed Afghan emerged from one of the
buildings, saw the U.S. forces and quickly returned
inside," the summary said.

"As he did not threaten the U.S. forces, he was not fired
upon," the inquiry found. "However, it appears that the
individual alerted the others in the building as U.S.
forces shortly thereafter came under heavy fire. The U.S.
forces returned fire and began to forcefully enter the
buildings of the compound."

At that compound, one Afghan surrendered and was detained,
and 14 were killed, the summary said. Only one American was

It remained unclear whether the Americans identified
themselves before the attack.

Special Operations soldiers from one other allied nation
also participated, but the United States has declined to
identify it.

The Pentagon has more than a dozen other inquiries under
way; two are reviewing so-called friendly fire incidents
that resulted in the deaths of American military personnel
and the others are looking into allegations of civilian

Mr. Rumsfeld said today that it would be wrong to describe
them all as investigations. "The word `investigation'
sometimes has the implication of more formality or a
disciplinary action," he said, "which is not the case in
the overwhelming number of incidents when we have to go out
and determine and have a review of what took place."


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