The American commander of the war in Afghanistan ordered an investigation into a Jan. 24 raid on two compounds after the new Afghan government said some of those killed and captured were not enemy fighters but officials loyal to interim leader Hamid Karzai.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that basic facts about the raid--including who shot first--have yet to be verified. He was unwilling to say whether U.S. forces misidentified the targeted compounds as hide-outs for Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters.
The U.S. troops killed at least 15 people and took 27 prisoners. One U.S. soldier was wounded.
"I don't think it was any sense on our part that we've done something wrong," Myers said. Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, ordered the investigation because "when there are allegations, you've got to go run them to ground," Myers said.
Myers said it was too early to conclude that the wrong people had been killed or captured. But he acknowledged that it is difficult in some cases for the American military to distinguish friend from foe.
"The situation over there can be very, very complex, with allegiances changing depending on the situation," he said.
Appearing with Myers, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Franks ordered the investigation after hearing from Afghan officials.
"In their view, there were some people involved in that shooting that were killed who were not Taliban or Al Qaeda," Rumsfeld said. Thus, Franks considered it appropriate to open a formal investigation, Rumsfeld said.
Some Afghans say that Taliban renegades were handing over weapons to Karzai's government at the site and that some pro-Karzai figures were killed and others--including a police chief, his deputy and members of a district council--were among those arrested.
Afghan security sources told the Reuters news agency that the U.S. forces had been deliberately misled by tribal factions. An anti-Taliban commander, Abdul Qadoos, was among those killed in the attack in the Kharz district of Uruzgan province, one of the sources said.
Myers said the affiliations of the 27 captives, who are being questioned in Kandahar, are not yet clear.
Two other U.S. military officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it appears that at least some of those killed and captured were neither Al Qaeda nor Taliban members but were Karzai supporters.
Rumsfeld acknowledged that infighting among Afghan factions is complicating the situation for U.S. forces.
The Pentagon's description of the raid, its target and the circumstances has changed. For example:
* U.S. officials initially told reporters that large amounts of ammunition--not weapons--were stored at the two compounds, about 50 miles north of Kandahar. But on Wednesday, Rumsfeld contradicted that by saying "large numbers of weapons" were confiscated by the U.S. raiders.
* In the immediate aftermath of the raid, Myers told a Pentagon news conference that although U.S. intelligence indicated that Al Qaeda fighters were occupying the compounds, the raiders found Taliban forces were there instead. And he said those taken prisoner were primarily Taliban members.
On Monday, however, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear. Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, said, "It just wasn't clear whom exactly we were dealing with." Nonetheless, Stufflebeem said, Franks was "confident in the intelligence derived as to what this appeared to be"--an enemy outpost and a legitimate target.
A spokesman for Franks, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, said Wednesday that those captives being questioned in Kandahar who turn out not to be Al Qaeda or Taliban members will be released.