A Kabul-based think tank has accused international forces in Afghanistan of misleading the public by calling military operations "Afghan-led," even when Afghan forces do not take a leading role.
The Afghanistan Analysts' Network charges in its report issued Wednesday that NATO applies the term so broadly that it has, in at least one instance, used it to classify an assault conducted primarily by U.S. forces.
The report lists the July 2011 shooting of an Afghan journalist by an American soldier as an example. Omaid Khpulwak, who worked for foreign and Afghan media, was killed last year in a counterattack after Taliban insurgents stormed the offices of national broadcaster RTA in southern Uruzgan province.
The report's author, Kate Clark, wrote that NATO said Afghan forces had led the counterattack, while the Afghan government blamed Khpulwak's death on the Taliban. However, a U.S. military investigation determined that one of the American soldiers clearing the building shot and killed Khpulwak after mistaking him for an insurgent.
Clark noted that although Afghan troops did fight the Taliban at a separate attack on the governor's compound, "their role at RTA was dismal, virtually negligible." She said NATO's press release of the twin attacks gave a "glutinously adulatory account" of the Afghan forces and failed to mention any international military involvement.
A U.S. forces spokesman told the Associated Press that it was still appropriate to call the response "Afghan-led," because Afghan forces were overseeing the entire response that day to all attacks.
Coalition countries are pulling out their troops ahead of a 2014 deadline, after which Kabul plans to take full control of security operations in Afghanistan.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.