U.P.I.: Officials claim war toll suppressed

U.P.I.: Officials claim war toll suppressed

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

United Press International (UPI) says it has been told by a member of the Bush administration that the Pentagon is not reporting casualties to U.S. Special Forces troops fighting near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The source, who did not want to be identified, said: “Some fatalities could be involved.” He added there are estimates of between 25 and 40 Americans killed to date, but he said those figures have not been confirmed.

Another official said the Pentagon extrapolates casualty figures from a single operation. The source said some casualties have been the result of friendly fire, but most have happened in intense fire fights with the Taliban.

It also was stated that British Special Air Services troops in combat in Afghanistan also took casualties that were not reported in Britain.

“The administration is managing the war differently,” said one U.S. intelligence officer. “We’ve begun to do what the British used to do so well—lie. It’s an ‘all of our aircraft returned safely’ approach,” he said.

So far as casualties are concerned, the official said: “Look, you cannot wage a hard war in earnest without taking casualties. We are waging war in earnest.”

Another U.S. intelligence official told UPI that during the war in Bosnia: “There were U.S. casualties in that campaign that simply were never declared. I think the Pentagon thought, ‘Hell, we got away with it then, why not now?’”

While in Chicago recently, Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, said no Americans had been killed in operations in Afghanistan. A State Department official termed that statement: “Crazy.”

“The rationale in denying the losses is that you don’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy,” he said.

The issue of casualties in the “war on terrorism” arose after an Oct. 20 commando raid on the home of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in a village five miles northwest of Kandahar.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh first commented on the casualties in that operation and how it was mishandled by top brass. Hersh told UPI: “The standard for being wounded was very flexible. If you had a shrapnel wound which could be stitched up, and you could still walk, then you weren’t classified as a casualty.”

A government source said: “Hersh is right on the money. The Pentagon doctored the figures of casualties. We are back in the Gulf War syndrome where we won a great victory with hardly any casualties. I think it’s a misreading of the U.S. public mood.”

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