Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the commanding general of Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan, briefed reporters today at the Pentagon. He was asked about the photo that NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders obtained and published in this blog last week, showing a funeral for a mid-level Taliban fighter with more than 100 alleged Taliban fighters in attendance. Eikenberry said a strike was not ordered because the commander on the ground knew there was a village nearby and that women and children from the village may have been present. Eikenberry said that the villagers were possible Taliban sympathizers, but they were still innocents. He added that his commanders make those decisions every day, and he has complete confidence in them.
As for ongoing military actions in Afghanistan, Eikenberry admitted "significant challenges do remain," and as a result, U.S. troop levels will remain at the current level -- about 21,000 -- through early 2007.
"The enemy we face today in the field is not extremely strong," said Eikenberry, pointing out that the Taliban is quickly overwhelmed in a showdown against coalition forces. But Eikenberry conceded that "in some areas (the South and Southeast) there are more Taliban extremists than there were at this point last year."