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Gen. McChrystal: We've Shot 'An Amazing Number Of People' Who Were Not Threats
Justin Elliott | April 2, 2010, 3:09PM
In a stark assessment of shootings of locals by US troops at checkpoints in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in little-noticed comments last month that during his time as commander there, "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."
The comments came during a virtual town hall with troops in Afghanistan after one asked McChrystal to comment on the "escalation of force" problem. The general responded that, in the nine months he had been in charge, none of the cases in which "we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it."
In many cases, he added, families were in the vehicles that were fired on.
Every two weeks, McChrystal participates in a virtual town hall in which soldiers in Afghanistan submit questions by chat that he answers over streaming audio.
TPMmuckraker has obtained a fuller transcript of the comments, which were first reported by the New York Times last week. The Times' Richard Oppel noted that since last summer U.S. and NATO troops killed 30 and wounded 80 Afghans in convoy and checkpoint shootings.
In response to a question about reducing such incidents, McChrystal told troops listening to the town hall:
"We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."
He continued: "That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."
Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for McChrystal said in an email to TPMmuckraker that "the general was urging his forces to exercise courageous restraint (by suggesting that it is unlikely that erratic behavior at a checkpoint constitutes a threat) while also expressing sympathy for the confusing and threatening situations in which both soldiers and Afghans find themselves."
Sholtis added that McChrystal "works harder at reducing civilian casualties than any wartime commander in a generation."