A military investigation has concluded that U.S. forces acted in legitimate self-defense in launching an August air assault against Taliban militants in Afghanistan that it said left 33 civilians dead, including at least 12 children.
A summary of the classified report, released Wednesday by the U.S. Central Command, said the military's initial conclusion that only five to seven civilians died in the Aug. 21-22 raid was erroneous. The Afghan government and human rights organizations, as well as the United Nations, have said at least 90 civilians were killed by U.S. and Afghan ground forces and a U.S. AC-130H gunship in the village of Azizabad in western Afghanistan.
The discrepancy led to sharp tensions between the U.S. and Afghan governments and resulted in a decision by Central Command to send a senior officer from outside Afghanistan to reinvestigate the initial military findings.
The report, which said 22 “anti-coalition militants” were also killed in the attack, recommended that the military conduct more comprehensive, transparent investigations in the future, and called for improved coordination with the Afghan government when disputes arise. Unlike the initial investigation, which relied solely on U.S. military reports, a team took testimony from village elders, U.S. and Afghan soldiers, and Afghan government, human rights and U.N. officials.