US orders probe into civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq
Washington: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has constituted a committee to review the allegation of civilian abuse, injuries and casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last 10 years, the Pentagon announced on Friday.
Expressing concern over the civilian casualties in both the countries, where the US forces have been deployed in the last 10 years, Panetta in his order dated July 30 said that application of military justice to service members alleged to have committed offenses against civilians in the combat zones is of particular concern to him.
"We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas.
The abuses have been rare among our professional fighting force, but they become huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission and the foundation of our relationship with the host government and its people," Panetta said in his memorandum.
The new Board, which has been asked to complete its investigation within 210 days, is co-chaired by Judith Miller the former General Counsel of the Department of Defense and Maj Gen (rtd) Walter Huffman.
"This is part of the Secretary's ongoing interest in the accountability of particularly in deployed areas," Jay Johnson, General Counsel of Department of Defense, told Pentagon reporters during an off camera news conference.
The secretary has an ongoing interest in the application of military justice and accountability issues, he added.
Responding to questions, Johnson said the number of cases could be significant as it goes back to 10 years.
This is not about any pending case or investigation, he clarified.