US military says Afghan security forces killed in airstrikes

An American flag is lowered beside an Afghan flag at the "Transition of Authority" ceremony at the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) base at Lashkar Gah in Helmand, 1 May 2006, as US forces officially hand over the Helmand base to British control.

Multiple Afghan security forces personnel were killed by US airstrikes this week while trying to come to the defense of Afghans under attack by the Taliban in Helmand province, said a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan.

While the Afghan national defense forces were under heavy attack by the Taliban late Thursday, they requested precision air support and airstrikes were called in, according to Col. Dave Butler. He said US authorities coordinated with the Afghans to make sure the area was clear of friendly forces and were told that it was.

“Unfortunately, they were not and a tragic accident resulted. Afghan Security Forces, as well as Taliban fighters, were killed in the strikes,” Butler said.

The New York Times and Washington Post first reported the incident.

Eight Afghan policemen were killed and 11 others were injured when Taliban attacked checkpoints in Helmand, according to a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Nasrat Rahimi. He did not provide any figures about casualties during the airstrikes.

Rahimi said a team of its officials, as well as some from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, will investigate.

The incident comes at a delicate time in US-led negotiations to bring the 17-year war in Afghanistan to a close. Butler said the US is “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,” Butler said.

In March, a US-Afghan convoy came under fire from friendly forces positioned near an Afghan National Army checkpoint in the Uruzgan province, US and coalition officials said.

The convoy attempted to communicate that it was a friendly group but was unable to deescalate the situation, according to the officials.

American forces had launched two “self-defense” airstrikes near the checkpoint, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers and wounding 10 more, according to the Afghan government and coalition.

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