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Rumsfeld Details Hazar Qadam Actions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. forces' actions at Hazar Qadam Jan. 24 were justified and supported by intelligence information.

U.S. Special Forces soldiers took 27 prisoners and killed 16 during a raid on two suspected Taliban/Al Qaeda compounds near the Afghan village. Later, officials determined they were not Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters and released those detained.

Rumsfeld gave details of the incident during a press conference today in answer to allegations that the detainees were mistreated while under U.S. control.

Rumsfeld said the action resulted from sustained reconnaissance of the area. The "signature" of events in the compounds was persuasive and compelling, leading observers to believe there was Al Qaeda or Taliban activity at the two sites. However, he said, U.S. officials had enough doubt about the area's true nature to rule out air strikes. "Instead they decided to go in and conduct a ground direct-action activity," he said.

The Special Forces soldiers broke into two teams, each aimed at a compound. There was no weapons fire from one compound, which the Green Berets entered and detained a number of men.

"As they approached the second compound an individual saw them, went into the compound and, shortly thereafter, the people inside the compound started firing at the U.S. Army forces," Rumsfeld said. The soldiers returned fire. In all, the soldiers killed 16 Afghans who were firing on them.

The detainees were handcuffed and taken to a holding place. "The suggestion that anyone was mistreated while in captivity is not correct," Rumsfeld said. "There is very likely a situation where some of the people resisted being subdued and may have been bruised in the process. The suggestion that someone was harmed in some way after they were in captivity is not the case."

The U.S. forces involved in the incident only used lethal force after they were fired on, Rumsfeld said. "My impression is they did their jobs, and it is a difficult situation they are dealing with and they used good judgment throughout the process," he said.

No American will be disciplined over the incident, Rumsfeld said. "It is no mistake at all, if you are fired on to fire back," he said.

Rumsfeld said the situation in Afghanistan is very confused. "It is not a neat situation where all the good guys are here and the bad guys are there," he said, noting there are still pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban in the country.


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