US 'not to blame' for Afghan casualties

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The Pentagon cleared itself of blame yesterday for a series of incidents in which civilians were killed by US military operations in Afghanistan.

A report, which also looked at cases of "friendly fire", in which 10 US soldiers were killed, concluded that America was not at fault.

General Tommy Franks, the chief of US Central Command, said: "The fact is that we're never going to be able to absolutely eradicate the loss of life – and in some cases the loss of the wrong life – when we are engaged in these kinds of operations. If we're honest and we're sincere, we want to be lifelong learners from each one of these incidents."

The Afghan and US governments have not calculated the total of civilians killed but some estimates have put the figure in the thousands.

General Franks said US soldiers were killed by "friendly fire" because of procedural or communications errors.It also emerged that Stanley Harriman, the first US soldier killed during the recent Operation Anaconda, may have been killed by fire from an American AC-130 gunship.