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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Afghans defend US air strikes
Graves in Afghanistan
The civilian death toll "could be higher than thought"
Afghanistan has rejected criticism that American military strategy and poor intelligence have led to heavy civilian casualties in the country.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the BBC that fewer than 500 civilians were believed to have been killed in US air strikes - a low figure considering the size of the military campaign.


The Afghans and the Americans are fighting the same war against terrorism

Tayeb Jawad, president's spokesman
The statement came after a survey in the New York Times newspaper said more than 800 Afghan civilians had been killed in US air strikes because of poor intelligence and the use of overwhelming force.

A BBC correspondent in Kabul says comments by other senior Afghan officials criticising American actions could indicate a split in the government.

Mr Karzai's spokesman, Tayeb Jawad, said that they were asking the US to be more careful in the hunt for Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters.

He said they wanted the Americans to verify intelligence reports and to rely more on pinpoint bombing.

He said: "Of course even one life is too many for us... but the fact is that the Afghans and the Americans are fighting the same war against terrorism. This is a combat that we share.

"It is very critical for the Americans and the Afghans to keep Afghans civilians on our side and so the aim and the objective is to reduce the number of casualties as much as possible."

US survey

The survey was carried out by the US aid group Global Exchange which sent teams into Afghan villages over a six-month period.

Although its report lists more than 800 civilians killed in US air strikes, it says that figure is likely to rise as information comes in from more remote areas.

The group accuses the Pentagon of relying on inaccurate or misleading information provided by Afghan warlords, and of preferring air strikes to ground operations that might put US forces at risk.


AC-130 gunship
US errors

  • 10 October 2001: 76 reported killed in US raids
  • 13 October: Pentagon admits 2,000lb bomb hit residential area of Kabul
  • 16 October: Red Cross warehouse in Kabul accidentally bombed
  • 22 October: Taleban claim 50-70 killed when bombs struck Kabul hospital
  • 5 December: US bomb kills three Americans and six Afghan soldiers
  • 17 April 2002: Four Canadian soldiers killed when F-16 drops bomb on training exercise
  • 1 July: US AC-130 gunship bombs village in Uruzgan province - 48 civilians reported killed

  • The New York Times quoted Pentagon officials as saying strategy had changed in recent months, shifting towards increased use of ground forces to hunt down remaining fighters.

    Confusion still surrounds a bombing raid earlier this month in Uruzgan province, which killed up to 48 civilians, 22 of whom were said to have been attending a wedding party.

    US officials have given contradictory accounts of events which led up to the attack.

    Afghan Foreign Minister, Abdullah Abdullah, was quoted by the New York Times as saying that any further loss of life could lead to a withdrawal of Afghan support of the US campaign.

    He called for a greater say in the way the campaign was being conducted.

    "If things do not improve, well, I will certainly pray for the Americans and wish them success, but I will no longer be able to take part in this," he was quoted as saying.

    The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra, in Kabul, says Dr Abdullah's comments highlight a possible split in the government, but are unlikely to result in a backlash for the Americans.

    Afghanistan desperately needs US support, and is keen to keep its ally on side.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Dumeethra Luthra
    "Mistakes have led to a growing anger"
    New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall
    "The Afghan government hasn't done its own survey".
    Chief of Staff Sayed Tayyeb Jawad
    "We haven't been keeping track of the exact numbers"

    Key stories

    European probe

    Background

    IN DEPTH
    See also:

    16 Jul 02 | Americas
    13 Jul 02 | South Asia
    04 Jul 02 | South Asia
    02 Jul 02 | South Asia
    02 Jul 02 | South Asia
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