Pentagon: Afghanistan Air Strike Hit Legit Targets
By Donna Miles
Pentagon Official: Afghanistan Air Strike Hit Legitimate Targets
An air strike earlier this week in eastern Afghanistan was based on credible intelligence from multiple sources and by all indications struck its intended targets, the Pentagon's press secretary told reporters today.
NATO International Security Assistance Force troops used precision-guided munitions in the late Nov. 26 air strike in the mountainous Nuristan province, killing several insurgents, Geoff Morrell said during a Pentagon briefing. Abdullah Jan, the western Nuristan Taliban commander, is believed to be among those killed.
Morrell dismissed press reports that the attack had mistakenly killed civilian construction workers. He noted that the closest known construction site was a kilometer away from the target area and that no structures, vehicles or other construction equipment were anywhere near the impact area.
"We deem it at this point a legitimate air strike," Morrell said. He cited reports from ISAF and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan. "They had a legitimate target, they had multiple credible sources, and they believe they got their target," he said. "And at this point, there is no indication to believe there were the civilian casualties as are being described."
Morrell emphasized that the United States and its coalition partners never target civilians in their operations, but noted that "the Taliban most certainly does." Taliban fighters "most certainly put civilians in harm's way, use civilians as human shields (and) launch attacks from the midst of civilians," he said. "And they often, in the aftermath of a legitimate operation like this one, raise this issue of civilian casualties," he said.
"We have no indication at this time that there were anything other than legitimate targets killed in this operation," he said.