US officials admitted on Saturday that US airstrikes in Kunduz province on Thursday had likely resulted in civilian casualties.
Afghan and US forces were looking for a meeting of Taliban leaders in the village of Bozi Kandahari. They were said to have faced significant enemy fire to which they responded by calling in air support. US officials did not provide any details about the number of casualties but Afghan officials and witnesses claim about 30 civilians including many women and children were killed and 25 injured when their homes were bombed while they slept. In the fighting 2 US troops and 3 Afghan special operations troops were killed as well.Rights groups and some Afghan leaders have criticized civilian deaths caused by US bombings and raids. Many claim the bombings undermine the war against the Taliban and radicalize families of victims.
Just over a year ago a US airstrike in Kunduz city hit a hospital killing 42 people, in what was said to be an error. However, no independent investigation was ever carried out as was demanded by Doctors Without Borders who ran the hospital.
General John Nicholson, who commands US forces in Afghanistan said:"I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives, regardless of the circumstances. The loss of innocent life is a tragedy and our thoughts are with the families. We will work with our Afghan partners to investigate and determine the facts and we will work with the government of Afghanistan to provide assistance."The US troops and Afghans were seeking a meeting of Taliban leaders planning a raid on Kunduz city. They claimed to have come under fire from several locations and had defended themselves with ground fire and the air attacks." Several Taliban leaders and members were reported killed during the engagement.
The Afghan military gave a more detailed account claiming that intelligence reports said that a senior Taliban leader in the area was holding a meeting in a certain house in the village. Special forces were lowered into the village by helicopter. A spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Mohammed Radmanash, said: "After our commandos descended, they came under fire from four directions. That's when we asked for air support." He said that the senior Taliban leader and 20 Taliban had been killed. Radmanash said the Taliban were to blame for the civilian casualties as they used people's homes to shelter and hide.
A senior leader of the village denied there were any Taliban in the village and complained that government forces had been harassing residents as they were originally from Kandahar the birthplace of the Pashtun Taliban. Most Kunduz natives are of Tajik or Uzbek ethnic origin. He also said that everyone was asleep late Wednesday when armed troops appeared, breaking through doors and putting up ladders to roofs. The leader who gave his name as Jamaluddin said:"There were Afghans and foreigners. They were screaming at everyone not to move. My cousin Noor Ali and 18 of his family members were killed. Their house was destroyed and parts of it are still burning. We buried the dead yesterday, but neighbors are still going through the rubble, looking for anyone who is alive or for bodies to bury."Jamaluddin said that 4 houses had been bombed with 35 people killed including 18 children and 8 women. He said there were no Taliban in the village but that villagers had to defend their honor and privacy. He said if the government attacks kept up villagers would all end up in support of the Taliban.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani sent a delegation to the village to investigate the bombings. Former president Karzai was much more critical saying: "Just show me one example of a bombing that has taken us one step closer to peace."According to a report in Al Jazeera provincial spokesperson, Mahmood Danish, said of the incident: "Afghan forces and coalition troops conducted a joint operation against the Taliban insurgents. In the bombardment 30 Afghan civilians were martyred and 25 others were wounded." General Qasim Jangalbagh police chief of Kunduz claimed that two senior Taliban leaders had been killed in the fighting and 65 Taliban fighters. The village is only about 3 kilometers north of Kunduz. Much of the area around Kunduz is controlled by the Taliban.About 10,000 US troops still are in Afghanistan. More than 5,500 Afghan forces have been killed already in 2016.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.