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Pentagon Says Appropriate Force Used in Afghan Battle

A U.S. military commander used an appropriate level of force and demonstrated sound judgment during a battle last month in Afghanistan that Afghan officials say killed dozens of civilians. That is the conclusion of a U.S. military investigation into the incident as we hear from VOA correspondent Meredith Buel in Washington.

Brigadier General Perry Wiggins told reporters at the Pentagon that a probe of the battle in which coalition forces say more than 130 Taleban insurgents were killed shows the U.S. commander, whose identity was not revealed, acted correctly.

"Coalition ground force was continuously engaged by intense enemy fire after entering an area of known Taleban activity," he said. "On-scene commander used all necessary means available and took all appropriate actions necessary to defend his unit. The on-scene commander demonstrated sound judgment."

The fight occurred in late April in the Afghan town of Shindand, in western Herat province.

U.S. special operations forces called in air strikes that Afghan officials say killed about 50 civilians.

The fighting sparked large demonstration against the United States and the Afghan government in the region.

Following the incident, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said civilian deaths are unacceptable.

General Wiggins, however, says there is no mention of civilian casualties in the report he received after the investigation into the battle.

"Throughout the engagement all targets were positively identified as hostile and were under observation at the time of the engagement," he added. "The on-scene commander used appropriate level of force to respond to the continuous enemy threat and protect his unit. The on-scene commander's assessment of the enemy's situation was consistent with, and supported the reliable intelligence from varied sources."

Wiggins told reporters that U.S. commanders will not order strikes on areas where intelligence shows civilians could be hurt.

He blamed the Taleban for putting Afghan civilians in harm's way.

"The bulls-eye needs to be squarely placed on the Taleban with regards to these types of putting civilians at risk," he said. "The enemy is operating in high concentrations of civilians. They are doing it premeditatively. They are putting [using] civilians as human shields. That is very disturbing to all soldiers because we go to great lengths, as commanders and as soldiers on the ground, to protect the lives of civilians during the course of our operations."

Wiggins says the thought process commanders go through before ordering air strikes is very calculated and methodical.