Myers: Doesn't Believe Afghan Detainees Were Beaten
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2002 Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he doesn't believe 27 Afghans detained during a U.S. raid were abused during their two weeks in U.S. custody.
U.S. forces launched an attack Jan. 24 on a suspected Al Qaeda hideout in the village of Hazar Qadam, Afghanistan. Fifteen Afghans were killed and another 27 detained. Since their release Feb. 6, several detainees have alleged abuse by U.S. troops.
"At this point in the investigation, I don't believe that any of the detainees were subject to beatings or rough treatment after they were taken into custody," Myers told Pentagon reporters today. He said all the detainees were medically screened when they reached the U.S. detention facility in Kandahar.
"There were no issues of beating or kickings or anything of that sort," Myers said.
Myers said it's not surprising some people were killed or injured in the initial attempt to detain them. "They were armed. The rules of engagement permit you to shoot back," he said. "The fact that they were detained and not killed, I think, is an indication of just how professional and disciplined and dedicated our folks are."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. Central Command officials from Tampa, Fla., are investigating the allegations.
"Any time there is a suggestion that U.S. forces have made a mistake, it is something that we take very seriously as a country, and certainly the armed forces and the Pentagon do," Rumsfeld said. "We do that because we care that things be done as well as it's humanly possible to do them."
Myers noted that U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan make life-and-death decisions every day.
"If there were mistakes made, we're going to find that out," he said. "But I think the American people need to know that we have the best forces in the world, the best trained people who are making these decisions and, 99.9 percent of the time, making them exactly right."
U.S. forces have located the exact impact site of a U.S. Hellfire missile that's believed to have struck a group of Al Qaeda members Feb. 4 near Zawar Kili in eastern Afghanistan, Myers said. The missile was fired from a CIA Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.
Poor weather conditions prevented U.S. teams from reaching the site immediately. Myers said the U.S. searchers had to clear at least a foot of snow from the site to search for evidence of who'd been hit and what they'd been doing. The U.S. team has since left the site, but intelligence assets will keep an eye on it and the region, he noted.