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Pentagon Frustrated In Refuting Taleban Claims Of Civilian Casualties

U.S. aircraft resumed their attacks Thursday on Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban, for the fifth consecutive day of hitting forward Taleban positions along the front line with the opposition northern alliance.

There was also another series of intense bombing raids near the southern city of Kandahar, the Taleban headquarters.

But such raids on military targets near cities and villages, are causing frustration for the Pentagon, since it is hard for the U.S. to refute Taleban charges of civilian casualties and pictures carried on Arab television stations.

U.S. military officials say they do report it, when they confirm a bomb or missile has gone astray. But as General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, points out, it is often difficult to know the truth. “Every time there is an allegation of unintended civilian casualties, we go on the hunt to try to figure out what is ground truth the best we can, given that we’re not generally there on the ground to do that ourselves," he said. "And so we use imagery and other means to try to determine fact from fiction.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it’s hard to know if civilian casualties have been caused by U.S. bombs, or Taleban anti-aircraft fire falling back to earth.

The problem, he says, is that the Taleban are the ones in a position to get their version out first. “They are able to say anything they wish and we prefer not to do that. We prefer to stick to the truth," he said. "Therefore, when they come running out with these charges, it seems to me that one ought to recognize that, as the General said, it’s our task to find out what we can and to do it as promptly as we can, and to be as open and forthcoming as we can, which we have and are being”

Secretary Rumsfeld said in recent days, the Taleban have begun hiding troops, weapons and ammunition in mosques and residential areas, making it more difficult to attack them without hitting holy sites or innocent civilians.