U.S. military leaders will take extra steps to ensure innocent Afghan civilians are not killed or hurt in combat operations, but U.S. forces will retain the means of self-defense, Pentagon officials said here today.
Following a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan, issued an order saying there would be no bombing of civilian homes except in cases of self-defense.
There have been a few instances of NATO aircraft bombing targets and causing the deaths of innocent civilians. “The number of events directed against civilian compounds is a very small percentage of events in which air-delivered munitions are used,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said. “We do retain the right of self-defense in Afghanistan for force protection reasons. That’s an inherent right, and we will retain that right.”
At their regularly scheduled news conference, Little and Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby emphasized that NATO forces and Afghan leaders have agreed to limits on close-air support in the country. Coalition officials take seriously the prospect of civilian casualties, they said, and try to limit those to the extent possible.
“Our track record in Afghanistan is very good on this point,” Little said.
“Let me make it clear, that when it comes to civilian casualties in Afghanistan, we care about trying to avoid them,” he added. “Our enemies don’t.”
The Taliban and their terrorist allies intentionally inflict harm upon the civilian populations inside Afghanistan, Little said.
“They are responsible for the large majority of civilian casualties that occur in that country,” he said.