As a joint US-Afghan convoy passed through a district in northern Kunduz Province Tuesday night into Wednesday morning known to be rife with insurgents, the troops came under “an onslaught of machine gun fire.” The force “requested precision air support” from US aircraft in response, and soon enough, the heavy weapons fire was silenced.
“Unfortunately, the machine gun fire was coming from another group of Afghan security forces,” US Army Col. David Butler, a spokesperson for US Forces-Afghanistan, told Task & Purpose.
Six Afghan National Army troops were killed in the airstrike, the third instance of deadly friendly fire in the past 92 days. No US troops were killed or injured in the incident.
On May 17, a US airstrike during a fierce firefight between Afghan soldiers and Taliban insurgents in Helmand Province accidentally hit the Afghan regulars, killing 17 and wounding another 14 of the allied troops, Sputnik reported.
Before that, on March 13, a similar event to Wednesday’s occurred in central Uruzgan Province: a US convoy passing through the valley under cover of night came under fire from an Afghan National Army fort, which mistook the Americans for a Taliban force, Sputnik reported. The resultant airstrikes leveled the fort, killing five of the 17 troops inside and wounding another 10.
“Six of our soldiers were martyred in the airstrike of foreign forces,” Afghan Defense Ministry spokesperson Col. Mohammad Zubair Arif said Wednesday morning. “Government posts came under enemy attack, the airstrike was summoned for help, but instead our troop posts were hit.”
“This is not the first time,” said Amruddin Wali, who chairs the local provincial council. “People do criticize such incidents. Some even say they are doing it intentionally.”
“We regret the tragic loss of our Afghan partners,” Butler said. However, he seemed to shift the blame onto the Afghans, noting the operation had been “extensively planned and coordinated with US and Afghan security forces to prevent an event like this from occurring.”
Kunduz Province is no stranger to wrongful civilian deaths from US airstrikes, either. A March 25 airstrike on the provincial capital of Kunduz killed 10 children from the same family, Sputnik reported at the time. The city’s hospital was annihilated by a US Air Force AC-130 gunship in October 2015, killing at least 42 people - something the US refused to admit was a war crime.
In fact, an April report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found that US forces killed more Afghan civilians in the first three months of 2019 than the Taliban and other insurgents fighting the Afghan government had. Before April, US forces killed 309 Afghan civilians, while insurgent forces killed only 227, Sputnik reported.
The US has been at war with the Taliban since it invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew the Taliban government, which Washington held responsible for al-Qaeda’s deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Arlington on September 11 of that year. Peace talks began earlier this year in Doha, Qatar.