Fact Check: Obama on Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 14, 2007; 9:24 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Barack Obama said it, the Republican Party pointed out in a screaming headline Tuesday that highlighted the presidential candidate's comments on Afghanistan and the killing of civilians.

Behind the scenes, Obama's rival campaigns buzzed about his statement uttered Monday during a campaign stop in New Hampshire when he was asked about his plan to move troops into Afghanistan.

"We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there," Obama said.


The suggestion whispered by Obama's opponents was that he was maligning the efforts of troops fighting in Afghanistan by stating they are "just" out there killing civilians.

The Republican National Committee simply repeated the comment as one of their "They Said It!" series used to highlight statements by opponents that supposedly put them in a bad light. RNC Chairman Mike Duncan followed up later in a statement demanding that Obama apologize for his "offensive" statement.

"It is hard to imagine that anyone who aspires to be commander in chief would say such a thing about our brave men and women in uniform," Duncan said. "Obama owes our armed forces an apology _ today."


A check of the facts shows that Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians.

The U.S. and NATO say they don't have civilian casualty figures, but The Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Tracking civilian deaths is a difficult task because they often occur in remote and dangerous areas that are difficult to reach and verify.

As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can't be attributed to one party.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the civilian deaths during a meeting last week with President Bush.

Bush said he understands the agony that Afghans feel over the loss of innocent lives and that he is doing everything he can to protect them. He said the Taliban are using civilians as human shields and have no regard for their lives.

"The president rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty," Bush said of Karzai. "And I assured him that we share those concerns."


On the Net:


© 2007 The Associated Press