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Ackerman follows up on this story and gets a comment from a Petraeus spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus:

Some human-rights researchers are of two minds about the demolitions. “On the one hand, it’s horrifying to see this level of property destruction, but on the other hand, from a civilian protection standpoint, it’s not great to leave these booby-trapped towns in the state that the Taliban left them,” emails Erica Gaston, an Afghanistan-based researcher for the Open Society Institute. “Given the way in which the IEDs and other explosives have been planted (often wired into the walls of houses), defusing them by other means would likely be incredibly risky and not feasible for a very long time. There’s no easy answer.”

Clearing the houses of their explosive riggings without bombing them would likely mean U.S. or allied casualties prompting the choice that the 1-320th made, Gunhus says. “It comes down to, intellectually, do you level a town where no one’s living that would take you probably days and you’d probably lose some people, or do you level it and then rebuild it? Intellectually, think it makes sense.”

(Photo: A US Marine from 2nd radio battallion stands at Talibjhan base outside Musa Qala on January 19, 2011. A 140,000-strong force of NATO-led international troops stationed in Afghanistan currently fighting Taliban-led insurgency is now entering its tenth year. By Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images)

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