Weighing In

Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top US military official in Southwest Asia, said last week he’s seen footage of the controversial US air strike on May 4 in Afghanistan’s Farah province and it clearly shows that the bombs targeted and hit Taliban militants waging an ambush against a joint US-Afghan force. Petraeus told National Public Radio May 29 that video from a B-1 bomber depicts “bombs hitting individuals who are the Taliban.” (NPR transcript) Petraeus said this video does not disprove that civilians were killed, nor did he dispute that some were. Instead, he said it’s “a very tough case” because the coalition force was under intense attack and Afghan political, military, and police leaders asked for the fire support. “We don’t want our forces going into combat with one hand tied behind their back, but we also cannot take actions that might produce tactical victories but undermine the efforts strategically,” he said. The interim findings of US Central Command’s investigation into the incident estimate that 60 to 65 Taliban extremists were killed and 20 to 30 civilians may have died, a far lower civilian toll than the Afghan government’s figure of up to 140 civilians. (Includes AFPS release by John Kruzel)