US says airstrike did not kill Afghan forces
KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. airstrike in eastern Afghanistan this week did not kill any Afghan security forces despite contrary claims by local officials, the U.S. military said in a statement on Wednesday.
Officials in Logar province had said a U.S. airstrike early Tuesday morning mistakenly hit a police outpost in Azra district, killing several local Afghan police. However, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said footage of the incident shows insurgents are to blame for the officers’ deaths rather than the airstrike.
“The footage clearly depicts an attack on an Afghan security force observation post by a group of fighting-aged males using multiple heavy weapons and tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the Taliban from an open position on a ridgeline above the observation post,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a USFOR-A spokesman, said.
Both enemy and friendly locations were verified and cleared by Afghan security forces on the ground prior to the U.S. strike, O’Donnell added.
“Our determination is also supported by first-hand accounts from Afghan security force leaders and members present during the incident, who confirmed those firing upon them were Taliban members,” he said.
Afghan security forces had been battling the Taliban for 10 days in different parts of Azra — a strategically important district bordering both Pakistan and Kabul province — when American airpower was called in, according to Mohammad Qaseem Sidiqi, a provincial council member.
The district is considered “contested,” meaning it is not controlled by either the government or the insurgency.
When told of the U.S. military’s findings on Wednesday, Sidiqi said: “It is clear to us that at least ten Afghan Local Police were killed by the U.S. bombing. The foreign forces will have their claims, but we are in continuous contact with villagers in Azra.”
Likewise, Afghan Interior Ministry findings as of Wednesday evening continued to show nine police officers were killed and 14 wounded by the U.S. strike, according to the Ministry’s spokesman Nasrat Rahimi. He added that an investigation was ongoing.
The U.S. regularly disputes the number of casualties caused by its airstrikes in Afghanistan. In its reports released each quarter, the United Nations routinely attributes more Afghan civilian casualties to U.S. forces than the U.S. admits, citing different methodology for determine numbers.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.