15 Oct 2010

US General consoles Norgrove aid worker family

The head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, conveys his regrets over the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove to her family.

US General consoles Norgrove family

General Petraeus spoke directly to Linda Norgrove’s father today to offer his condolences and express his regret at the aid workers death.

On a visit to London, the general admitted he was “disturbed” it had not been clear immediately that an American grenade could have killed Miss Norgrove during a rescue attempt.

Officials had initially suggested the aid worker had been killed by a hostage-taker wearing an explosive suicide vest during the rescue attempt.

General Petraeus said he did not want to speculate as an active investigation had now been launched.

Speaking at an event organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, the general said: “This morning I talked with Mr Norgrove and conveyed him not only the most sincere condolences but also an update on the investigation that is ongoing.

“This is an active investigation and I don’t want to speculate. It was disturbing clearly not to have the correct facts the morning after the operation was conducted and to be provided those later after the taskforce commander conducted further examination.”

Gunship killings
General Petraeus said it emerged that US special forces may have inadvertently killed Miss Norgrove only when a “sharper image” of the rescue attempt was later reviewed. The general said there were around six different videos of the operation.

“It was very clear there was a throw-in motion and an explosion followed that and a grenade had been employed,” he said.

“It was disturbing clearly not to have the correct facts.General Petraeus

The general also disclosed that an AC-130 helicopter gunship had been in the area during the events, and had killed two insurgents as they fled the scene.

He said the investigation was being headed by a two-star US officer and a one-star British officer who had experience in special forces operations.

It was being conducted from “outside theatre” to ensure its “integrity”, General Petraeus added.

“We had a massive array of assets to support this [operation] with the best operators in the world who risked their lives,” he said.

‘Critical’ autopsy
The General added: “We will investigate to determine the specific facts in a joint and completely transparent US-UK effort. That will then be shared completely with the Norgrove family as soon as the results are established.

“Of course there is an issue of the autopsy that has to be conducted – that will be done here in the UK.

“That is a critical element because one cannot jump to conclusions about what may have been the cause of death just yet.

“We obviously have suspicions. I have communicated my assessment of that to the Prime Minister; provided him an update yesterday; talked about the personal commitment I have to the investigation and how high a priority it is of ours.

“Beyond that I don’t want to get on to the specifics of an active and ongoing investigation.”

Talking to the Taliban
During his visit to RUSI General Petraeus said Nato forces had helped ensure a senior Taliban commander was able to reach Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.

General Petraeus said several senior Taliban leaders had been in touch with the Afghan government and other countries involved in Afghanistan but he described the talks as preliminary.

It’s a feature of any insurgency that you do end up fighting and talking at the same time. Mark Sedwill

Speaking to Channel 4 News Nato ambassador Mark Sedwill said Nato forces were facilitating negotiations with senior Taliban members – including those based in Pakistan.

“It’s a feature of any insurgency that you do end up fighting and talking at the same time,” he said.

“There are some of the leading Taliban leaders, including some of those based in Quetta or associated with the Quetta Shura who are, it would seem, wearying of the fight and who are showing an interest in contact with the Afghan government.

“Some of these people are pretty significant, but we mustn’t yet start to characterise this as the whole of the Taliban is entering some kind of negotiation. That isn’t the case. These are really just channels of communication and it’s at the very early stages.”