American officials acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the US military was responsible for at least some of the 100 recent civilian deaths in western Afghanistan. The air strikes have led to angry protests in Afghanistan and calls for the US to withdraw from the country. While initial military reports blamed the Taliban for the deaths, one Pentagon official told the New York Times: "It looks like at least some of the casualties were caused by the airstrikes."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on a visit to Afghanistan, told reporters that "we regret any—even one—innocent Afghan civilian casualty," but blamed insurgents for using civilians as shields. The UN estimates that more than 2000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008, a figure that has become a focal point for Afghan opposition to the American presence in the nation.