Five Afghan soldiers were accidentally killed and eight injured in an overnight American drone operation, an incident that is sure to anger outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, even as Western leaders quickly apologized.
Regional official Din Mohammad Darwish said "we believe the strike was the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone." He added, "the area is frequented by insurgents both foreign and local, and drone strikes are carried out quite often in that part of Charkh. The [Afghan National Army] outpost was part of the security belt in the province." Another local leader, Abdul Wali, responded with more anger, commenting "the coalition knows the location of every Afghan outpost. How can such incidents happen?"
The accident, one of the deadliest cases of friendly fire in the war's history, took place at an outpost in Logar Province. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) responded to the event by saying "we value the strong relationship with our Afghan partners, and we will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again." NATO said it was an "unfortunate incident," and that it is looking into what happened.
Military casualties from drone strikes are less common than civilian ones, although a recent report revised estimates of Afghan soldier death significantly upward, suggesting that the army suffered more deaths than previously thought.
Aimal Faizi, a Karzai spokesman, said "we condemn the attack on the Afghan National Army in Logar. The president has ordered an investigation." The president has repeatedly condemned casualties from U.S. drone strike, and the issue has contributed to the chilly relations between Kabul and Washington. Just last week, the Afghan president, who has refused to sign a security pact with the U.S. before he leaves office next month, told The Washington Post that "Afghans died in a war that's not ours." He added an unfriendly message to Washington, which we think he'd reiterate today : "To the U.S. government, give them my anger, my extreme anger."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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