- A firefight broke out in Afghanistan’s Helmand province after local police attempted to tear down a Taliban flag.
- Officials from the NATO-led mission Resolute Support say Afghan officials called in an airstrike, telling US forces that the area was clear of friendlies, but it was not clear, and the US strike killed as many as 17 local policemen, Stars and Stripes reported.
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A US airstrike conducted Thursday in Afghanistan killed more than a dozen local policemen and wounded just as many.
When a firefight broke out between the Taliban and the local police force after the latter attempted to take down a Taliban flag in southern Helmand province, Afghan forces on the ground called in an airstrike, telling the US that the area was clear of friendlies, Stars and Stripes reported, citing Resolute Support.
“Unfortunately, they were not, and a tragic accident resulted,” the NATO mission in Afghanistan explained in its statement. “We’re examining the miscommunication to ensure it is not repeated. We regret this tragic loss of life of our partners and are committed to improvement every day with every mission.”
The Afghan interior ministry initially said eight members of the Afghan security force were killed, but a military source and civilian sources in Helmand said 17 policemen were killed in the attack, according to Stars and Stripes. Another 14 policemen were injured in the strike.
Thursday’s airstrike is not the first major friendly-fire incident to occur in Afghanistan this year.
In March, US warplanes destroyed an Afghan National Army base after Afghan soldiers there mistakenly targeted a patrol of US and Afghan forces.
“The US conducted a precision self-defence airstrike on people who were firing at a partnered US-Afghan force,” Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson, a US military spokeswoman, told The New York Times at the time.
That incident resulted in the deaths of five Afghan soldiers. Another nine were wounded. “This is an example of the fog of war,” Richardson said.
Indeed, the warfighting landscape in Afghanistan is quite complex, and identifying friend from enemy can be a challenge. Last year, a number of US troops were killed in so-called green-on-blue attacks by members of the Afghan security forces.
The war in Afghanistan is now in its 18th year, and a victory on the battlefield is nowhere in sight. US diplomats are currently pushing to secure a negotiated peace, but there’s still more work to be done.
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