U.S. defense officials are reporting growing dissension in Taleban-controlled areas of Afghanistan over the use of civilians as human shields.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the latest civilian dissent stems from the Taleban's placement of anti-aircraft weapons in residential areas. "We know of certain knowledge, they're putting anti-aircraft batteries on top of buildings in residential areas for the purpose of attracting bombs so that, in fact, they can then show the press that civilians have been killed. And I can tell you that the Afghan civilians don't like it," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld also told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that workers for relief organizations are being seized, beaten and threatened with death if they report Taleban misuse of humanitarian supplies. He said he confirmed this with the United Nations World Food Program. "Why don't we hear non-governmental organizations talking about the fact that their warehouses are broken into, the materials are taken, their workers are beaten? And the answer is, it's very simple, the Taleban will shoot their people if they do, so they keep their mouths closed," he said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has a new problem with its own air drops of humanitarian relief supplies. The more than one million ration packets already dropped into Afghanistan are bright yellow, the same color as deadly cluster bomb canisters, some of which have fallen to the ground unexploded.
General Richard Myers, Chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said efforts are under way to prevent any fatal accidents. "We have dropped fliers that show the pictures and the proper language to explain why you want to go to one and you don't want to go to the other," he said. "We hope that helps. Another thing we're doing is with the food packets is changing the color of their design. We're going to, .. I think it's going to be blue."
But General Myers says the changeover will take time and in the meantime, airdrops of the easily visible yellow food packets will continue.