'Rumsfeld's Renegades' Blamed for Afghan Deaths

Unit of 'cowboys' behind some of war's worst civilian casualty incidents
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2009 5:21 AM CDT
Students of Kabul University shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration against last week's coalition airstrikes on Bala Baluk district of Farah province, in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – A Special Forces unit set up by Donald Rumsfeld is being blamed for some of the worst civilian casualty incidents in the Afghanistan war, the Independent reports. The Marine Corps' Special Operations Command—known as MarSOC—ordered the air strikes that Afghan officials say killed 140 civilians last week, and has been heavily criticized for at least two other incidents causing dozens of deaths.

The unit was created three years ago by Rumsfeld, then defense secretary, despite the objections of Special Forces and the Marine Corps. Its members have been criticized within the military as "cowboys" who brought shame on the Marines. A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan denied that commanders have lost faith in the unit. "They have the same rules of engagement that everyone has," he said.