Pentagon: No regrets about neglecting to kill Taliban gathered at cemetery -- but prosecute leaker
Once again, President Bush's fine words in recent speeches are belied by actions in the field. If reality only matched fiery pre-election rhetoric, we might actually stand a chance of winning this war. As it is, the only crime the military seems interested in pursuing is who leaked the photograph, and not what bonehead missed this priceless opportunity to kill a bunch of terrorists.
FOXNews.com - Pentagon: Release of Taliban Funeral Photo Unauthorized - Afghanistan | Map | War
KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military said Wednesday it is looking into the unauthorized release of a photo purportedly taken by an American drone aircraft showing scores of Taliban militants at a funeral in Afghanistan.
NBC-TV claimed U.S. Army officers wanted to attack the ceremony with missiles carried by the Predator drone, but were prevented under rules of battlefield engagement that bar attacks on cemeteries.
Lt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman with the U.S. military in Kabul, said the photograph was released to the network by someone who did not have the clearance to hand it out.
"It is an operational security issue and the photo was released at an inappropriate level," Lawrence told The Associated Press. "Inquiries are being made into how it was released."
The grainy black and white photo shows what NBC says are some 190 Taliban militants standing in several rows near a vehicle in an open area of land. The black outline of a box — apparently the sight of the drone — is positioned over the group.
NBC quoted one Army officer who was involved with the spy mission as saying "we were so excited" that the group had been spotted and was in the sights of a U.S. drone. But the network quoted the officer, who was not identified, as saying that frustration soon set in after the officers realized they couldn't bomb the funeral under the military's rules of engagement.
Taliban militants this year have been waging their bloodiest campaign of violence since their 2001 ouster from power in the U.S.-led invasion launched after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The U.S. military has previously used Predator drones with deadly effect, firing one missile into a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border in January in a failed bid to kill Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahri. The strike killed at least 13 civilians.
Here's some more from the NBC story:
U.S. military officials tell NBC News they had “high-level” Taliban fighters in their gunsights during a July reconnaissance flight but decided not to fire. The decision to pass on the target angered some in the military, but commanders say they have “no regrets.”
Army intelligence officers confirm the grainy black and white aerial photo taken by a Predator drone and obtained by NBC News on Tuesday shows some 190 suspected Taliban militants standing in several rows near a vehicle in an open field in Afghanistan.
The military said Wednesday that the group seen in the Predator image was likely gathered for a religious ceremony.“During the observation of the group over a significant period of time, it was determined that the group was located on the grounds of a cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed in a coalition operation nearby earlier in the day,” a coalition spokesperson said. “A decision was made not to strike this group of insurgents at that specific location and time.”
Even though U.S. military officials in Afghanistan had positively identified those gathered as Taliban fighters, including some “high-level Taliban leaders,” they told NBC News they have “no regrets” in refusing to give the order to attack the gathering.