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article imageOp-Ed: US Afghan bombing reportedly kills 17 Afghan police

By Ken Hanly     May 18, 2019 in World
After one report claims that US airstrikes in the Helmand Province hit the 601 highway battalion of the Afghan police killing 17 and wounding 11, the US is trying to blame the Afghan military for the incident.
Friendly fire strikes in Afghanistan
Friendly fire strikes have become more common especially when, as now, the US forces are relying heavily on air strikes rather than ground actions. The strikes have hit whatever looks to them as a group of combatants. Sometimes they do not ensure that they are not hitting combatants on the wrong side.
Afghan Defense Forces called in the strike
Officials say the air attack was called in by the Afghan Defense Forces who were engaged in fighting the Taliban somewhere in the area. The US claimed they had asked the Afghan Forces to make sure the area was clear of friendly forces but they failed to do so.
A recurring problem with US airstrikes is that the US does make a strenuous effort to make sure what they are bombing are the enemy forces. In recent months the US has been killing more Afghan civilians.
Casualty reports differ
The casualty figures cited are from Tolo news. However, Radio Free Afghanistan put the dead at only nine.
Afghan spokesperson Colonel Dave Butler said: “During heavy fighting with the Taliban in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, our Afghan National Defense and security partners requested precision air support. We support our Afghan security partners, we deconflicted the requested support with an Afghan coordination unit to ensure the areas were clear of friendly forces. They reported and confirmed the areas were clear of friendly forces. Unfortunately, they were not and a tragic accident resulted. Afghan Security Forces as well as Taliban fighters were killed in the strikes. 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 earlier said it was investigating whether the officers were killed in an airstrike or in clashes with the Taliban. It appears that the airstrikes contributed to the killings although they seemingly were engaged with the Taliban at the time as well.
Taliban control or contest much of Helmand province
As in many other provinces the Taliban control or contest more than half of the districts in Helmand. They regularly deliver heavy blows to the Afghan forces who have taken the lead in the battle since late in 2014 from NATO forces. There have been off and on peace talks but so far no peace deal. Without the aid of the US, the Afghan forces no doubt would be even less able to meet the challenge of the Taliban insurgency.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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