Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lashed out Monday at the leadership of the Taleban and the al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan over the issue of civilian casualties. Mr. Rumsfeld's comments came as U.S. air strikes continue into a second week.
The secretary's criticism was sparked by fresh allegations that the U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan may be killing hundreds of civilians. "We know of certain knowledge that the Taleban leadership and al-Qaida are accomplished liars; that they go on television and they say things that we know are absolutely not true," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters the Pentagon has good information about where the weapons that are being fired or dropped from U.S. aircraft are going. If there are unintended casualties, he said, defense officials admit it - as happened on Saturday when a bomb dropped by a Navy fighter missed a helicopter at Kabul airport and landed in a residential area, killing four civilians.
But Mr. Rumsfeld said other cases blamed on the United States may have in fact involved casualties caused by the Taleban or al-Qaida.
Mr. Rumsfeld repeated past assertions that the U.S. campaign is not aimed against the Afghan people or Afghanistan itself. He noted the United States is continuing air drops of humanitarian relief supplies into the country.
Mr. Rumsfeld also disclosed that there have now been leaflet drops and special radio broadcasts to underscore the U.S. message. "We are working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them and we want to help free their nation from the grip of the Taleban and their foreign terrorist allies," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said U.S. forces are aggressively targeting Taleban and al-Qaida leaders, troops and facilities.
But he declined to comment directly on a published report in the New Yorker>/i> magazine suggesting U.S. forces missed an opportunity to kill Taleban leader Mullah Omar on the first night of air strikes.