Mar 14, 2019 11:26 UTC
  • US airstrike kills 5 Afghan troopers

At least five Afghan soldiers have been killed and nearly a dozen more wounded in a US airstrike in Afghanistan’s central province of Uruzgan, the Afghan Ministry of Defense says, blaming a “lack of proper coordination” between the sides for the incident.

According to a statement released by the Afghan Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the incident occurred near an Afghan army post on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Tarin Kot, overnight on Tuesday.

The statement said that a joint Afghan and US patrol initially came under fire by what it thought to be a group of Taliban militants. The fire was in fact coming from the Afghan outpost, as the troopers at the post also apparently mistook the patrol for militants.

Not knowing that at first, the patrol called in US precision airstrikes to eliminate the threat. It only later realized the source of the fire but failed to communicate in time, and the airstrikes hit the post anyway, killing and injuring the Afghan soldiers.

“It was so dark and a misunderstanding happened after which five army soldiers were killed and 10 others were wounded,” Col. Qais Mangal, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, further said in the statement, adding that the ministry had already begun an investigation into the incident.

In a separate statement, a spokesman for US-led forces in Afghanistan, Bob Purtiman, said that they were operating in a “complex environment” where Taliban militants “do not wear uniforms and use stolen military vehicles to attack government forces.”

“The strikes were conducted after Afghan and US forces came under effective small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire and requested air support in self-defense,” he added.

Afghan military officials say 17 Afghan troopers had been at the post in total, with only two managing to escape the incident unhurt.

Large parts of Uruzgan still remain under Taliban control. In recent years, the militants have also managed to make repeated incursions into the provincial capital.