running up that hill
- Jan 3, 2007
- in Wonderland, with my Alice
AND:Marine unit ordered out of Afghanistan
WASHINGTON - Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under U.S. investigation, and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country, officials said Friday.
Army Maj. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III, head of Special Operations Command Central, ordered the unit of about 120 Marines out of Afghanistan and initiated an investigation into the March 4 incident, said Lt. Col. Lou Leto, spokesman at Kearney's command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.
It is highly unusual for any combat unit, either special operations or conventional, to have its mission cut short.
A spokesman for the Marine unit, Maj. Cliff Gilmore, said it is in the process of leaving Afghanistan, but he declined to provide details on the timing and new location, citing a need for security.
In the March 4 incident in Nangahar province, an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from gunmen. As many as 10 Afghans were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made an escape. Injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.
U.S. military officials said militant gunmen shot at Marines and may have caused some of the civilian casualties.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, which was one among several involving U.S. forces in which civilians were killed and injured.
Leto, the spokesman at Special Operations Command Central headquarters, said the Marines, after being ambushed, responded in a way that created "perceptions (that) have really damaged the relationship between the local population and this unit."
Therefore, he said, "the general felt it was best to move them out of that area."
Gilmore said the Marine company would complete its overseas deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is the larger unit it sailed with from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in January, but it will no longer operate in Afghanistan.
Of the four Marine Special Operations Command companies that have been established since the command was created in February 2006, the one ordered out of Afghanistan was the first to deploy abroad, Gilmore said. By September 2008 there are to be nine companies operating as part of two special operations battalions, he said.
For years the Marines resisted creating special operations units, arguing that would run counter to their philosophy of viewing all Marines as elite fighters and not singling out elements as special. But former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pressed them to establish a separate command - the Marine Special Operations Command - to train and equip forces for the multi-service Special Operations Command.
There are about 25,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, mostly conventional combat forces and support units.
This sucks BIG TIME !WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Marine Corps special operations unit has been ordered out of
Afghanistan amid an investigation into a March 4 incident in which the US soldiers allegedly fired on civilians, marine spokesmen said.
At least eight civilians were killed and 35 wounded after a US military convoy was ambushed by a suicide bomber in Nangahar province, prompting the US forces to open fire.
The Afghan government charged that the civilians were killed by US gunfire, prompting a US military investigation.
Members of the unit who are still required for questioning in the ongoing investigation will remain in Afghanistan, said Lieutenant Colonel Lew Leto, a marine spokesman, on Friday.
But the rest of their 120-member company is being redeployed out of Afghanistan and will rejoin the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit elsewhere in the region, he said.
He said they were being pulled out because the commander of the marine corps special operations forces decided the unit could no longer be effective in conducting counterinsurgency operations after the March 4 incident.
"That's why they were moved out. Not because of the investigation," Leto said.
The civilian deaths sparked angry protests that drew hundreds of people to the site of the attack, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai."
Photographers and cameramen working for international news organizations had photographs and video of the aftermath of the attack taken and deleted by US forces.
The US military said the images were deleted "to protect the integrity of the investigation."
It said the ambush began when a five-vehicle military convoy came under attack "from several directions" on a busy highway between the eastern city of Jalalabad and the Pakistan border.
The ambush included a car bombing and small arms fire in a crowded marketplace, and US troops opened fire in defense, it said.
When the shooting was over, eight civilians were dead and 35 wounded, a coalition statement said. The US military had earlier said 16 civilians were killed. It did not give a reason for the drop in the death toll.
The Afghan government said 10 Afghans were killed and 25 wounded "as a result of return fire."
"The local population's perception of the response to that ambush damaged the relationship between the local population and the MSOC (marine special operations company), which degraded the MSOC's ability to effectively conduct counter-insurgency operations," said Major Clifford Gilmore, another marine spokesman.