Deaths may turn Afghans against U.S.

WASHINGTON JULY 3. A string of recent U.S. attacks in Afghanistan that killed civilians or allies illustrates one of the war's biggest dangers: turning Afghans against America and the transitional Afghan Government it supports.

In the latest incident, Afghan officials say 40 civilians died on Monday in a U.S. warplanes' attack in central Afghanistan. The Afghan Government led by Hamid Karzai demanded that the U.S. take ``all necessary measures'' to avoid more civilian casualties as its troops hunt for Al-Qaeda fighters. The hunt will take up to 18 months or more — a period during which Afghans' good feelings towards Americans could dissolve, Pentagon officials say.

``We have to worry about hanging around and being perceived as this outside force that has invaded and taken over the country,'' said military analyst Charles Pena of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.

``There are some ugly scenarios that could unfold unless we come to the conclusion that now is a good time to pull out. We really ought to reduce our profile and make sure we don't become the object of wrath inside the country.''

Neither Afghan nor U.S. authorities have calculated Afghanistan's civilian death toll in the war. Although estimates have placed the civilian dead in the thousands, a review suggests the toll may be in the mid-hundreds, a figure reached by examining hospital records, visiting bomb sites and interviewing witnesses.

— AP

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