VILNIUS, Lithuania - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Saturday that he wants American commanders in Afghanistan to expedite their investigation of allegations that U.S. soldiers burned the remains of Taliban fighters they had killed and then used the scene to goad enemies to emerge from hiding.
Investigators should proceed with a "sense of urgency," Rumsfeld said, in light of potential damage to U.S. interests from a backlash in the Muslim world, which has expressed outrage.
Rumsfeld made clear that he is worried by publicity about the allegations, whatever their merit.
"The reality is that charges of that type are harmful," he said. "It's always disappointing when there are charges like that. It's particularly disappointing when they're true. That needs to be determined ...
"My hope is that the people, commands, that are responsible for their troops will accelerate the process ... because in the world we're living in, if you have to live with months and months of damage because of an unverified - an as-yet-validated - allegation, you suffer a great deal of damage."
Rumsfeld was in Lithuania to attend NATO defense ministers meetings beginning today.