KABUL — A NATO airstrike aimed at an insurgent redoubt killed at least two civilians, further straining relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan at a time when the two countries remain at odds over a security agreement that is key to keeping international troops in the country past the end of the year.
The strike occurred Wednesday during a joint NATO and Afghan operation in a Taliban-heavy district of Parwan province, roughly two hours north of Kabul, when coalition and Afghan special operations troops came under heavy fire and called for air support, according to a statement from the NATO-led Afghan Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The ISAF statement said Afghan commandos and their ISAF advisers came under fire from two compounds before they called in the strike, which also killed 10 insurgents.
An ISAF servicemember was killed in the fighting. On Thursday, the Pentagon identified the victim as Sgt. Daniel T. Lee, 28, of Crossville, Tenn., saying he died from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.
Parwan deputy governor Shah Wali Shahid said in a phone interview with Stripes that initial reports indicated seven civilians were killed, including several children in a village called Wazghar. According to a report in the Washington Post, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said eight civilians were killed in the strike.
The incident happened in Ghorband district, an area that has been under intermittent Taliban control for about two years.
“ISAF regrets any civilian casualties and will continue working with our Afghan partners to determine all the facts surrounding this incident,” the ISAF statement read.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said eight civilians were killed in the strike.
Civilian casualties have long been a source of tension between Karzai and the U.S., and Karzai has demanded a stop to airstrikes in civilian areas.
Last week, U.S. marines accidentally killed a young boy in Helmand province, according to a Reuters report.
The latest incident comes amid both a controversy over the planned release by Afghan authorities of more than 70 prisoners ISAF accuses of planning attacks against coalition and Afghan troops. Washington and Kabul are also still negotiating a bilateral security agreement that would pave the way for a residual international military force, likely to be between 10,000 and 15,000 troops, to stay in Afghanistan past Dec. 31 for a training and counter-terrorism mission.