AntiWar.com & The Washington Post & Reuters & The Guardian – 2016-11-06 23:55:38
US Confirms Airstrike That
Killed Over 30 Afghan Civilians
Locals Say 36 Slain in the Attack, Dozens Wounded
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
Relatives sit next to the bodies of children who were killed by an airstrike called to protect Afghan and US forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3. (Nasir Wakif/Reuters)
(November 6, 2016) — Over the weekend, Pentagon officials confirmed that the US was behind airstrikes against the north Afghan village of Bouz Kandahari, which they conceded “likely resulted in civilian casualties.” The attack was initially reported to have killed at least 30 civilians, with subsequent reports from locals saying they’d buried 36 killed in the attack.
The Thursday morning strikes were called in after a pair of US soldiers were killed in fighting with the Taliban, and Afghan officials claimed the locals were being used as “human shields” by the Taliban when the airstrikes were launched against the village.
The villagers, however, insist that the claims are false, that there were no Taliban in the village at the time, pointing out that no Taliban were hit in the airstrikes. The Pentagon has subsequently promised an investigation, saying they need to determine the facts.
Despite angry protests from the villagers, and promises of investigations from the US and UN both predicated on the idea that large numbers of civilians were killed, the Afghan Defense Ministry continues to change its story to prevent the attacks as justified. Previously claiming fighters were hiding in the city, they now report that the Taliban leadership lived in the village and were targeted, even though the weekend burials appear to have included no military-aged males.
US Military Acknowledges Anti-Taliban
Airstrikes Killed Afghan Civilians
Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin / The Washington Post
An Afghan man holds up the body of a child killed during clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz province after a joint raid by U.S. and Afghan forces targeting senior Taliban commanders killed two American service members and 26 civilians.
KABUL (November 5, 2016) — US military officials here acknowledged Saturday that US airstrikes in embattled Kunduz province on Thursday had “likely resulted in civilian casualties” when Afghan and US forces, searching for a reported meeting of Taliban leaders in a village, faced “significant enemy fire” and called for air support.
The US officials did not provide numbers or details of the casualties, but Afghan officials and witnesses have said that 30 civilians, including many women and children, were killed and about 25 others wounded when their homes in Bozi Kandahari village were bombed as the families slept. Two US service members and three Afghan Special Operations forces were also killed in fighting there.
The civilian deaths have drawn sharp criticism from rights groups and some Afghan leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai, who has long complained that Western bombings and raids cause needless deaths and undermine the war against Taliban insurgents.
Thursday’s incident came just over a year after an errant US airstrike in Kunduz City killed 42 people in an emergency hospital amid heavy fighting. Taliban fighters, who seized the strategic northern city for more than a week in October 2015, attacked it again a month ago and have remained active in the surrounding area ever since, taking cover in residential areas to avoid capture.
Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of US forces in Afghanistan, issued a statement saying: “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.” He said US military officials will work with Afghan authorities to investigate the incident and provide assistance to the villagers.
US and Afghan military officials spoke at a joint news conference here Saturday, although their accounts of the events Thursday differed slightly. The US officials said Afghan forces, with assistance from US advisers, raided the village in search of “Taliban leaders who were planning additional attacks” in Kunduz City.
Coming under heavy fire from “multiple locations,” they said, the forces “defended themselves with ground fire and US air-to-ground engagements.” The US officials said several Taliban leaders and members were apparently killed in the clashes, but that the insurgents “continue to pose a threat to Kunduz.”
Afghan military officials gave a more detailed description, saying that the raid had been prompted by intelligence reports that a senior Taliban leader in the area, Maulvi Mutaqi, was holding a meeting in a house in Bozi Kandahari. Late Wednesday, they said, Special Forces were lowered into the village from helicopters.
“After our commandos descended, they came under fire from four directions. That’s when we asked for air support,” Gen. Mohammed Radmanash, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said in an interview. He said that both US and Afghan attack helicopters responded, and that Mutaqi and more than 20 other Taliban forces were killed.
“The cause of the civilian casualties are the Taliban, because they use people’s homes to shelter and hide,” Radmanash added. The senior defense spokesman, Gen. Dawlat Waziri, said that some of the civilians killed in the airstrikes were family members of two local Taliban leaders.
But a senior leader of Bozi Kandahari, in a lengthy telephone interview Saturday, denied there were any Taliban members in the village and said government forces had been harassing the residents because they were originally from Kandahar, the birthplace of the ethnic Pashtun Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Most Kunduz natives are of Tajik or Uzbek ethnic origin.
The leader, a livestock trader who gave his name as Jamaluddin, said everyone in the village was asleep late Wednesday when armed troops appeared, putting up ladders to rooftops and breaking through doors.
“There were Afghans and foreigners. They were screaming at everyone not to move,” he said. He said some villagers began defending themselves with stones and other objects. Then the bombing started and continued for five hours, he said.
“My cousin Noor Ali and 18 of his family members were killed. Their house was destroyed and parts of it are still burning,” Jamaluddin said. “We buried the dead yesterday, but neighbors are still going through the rubble, looking for anyone who is alive or for bodies to bury.”
He said four houses were bombed, killing 35 people including 18 children and 8 women. “You need to ask the authorities why they did this. There were no Taliban here, but we as Muslims have to defend our honor and privacy,” he said. “If there were Taliban here, the government forces wouldn’t have dared to come.”
Jamaluddin said both government and Afghan fighters enter the village often. “We are hospitable to both sides. But the government considers us all Taliban, just because we come from Kandahar,” he said. “If they keep behaving this way, everyone in Kunduz will rise up and become a Taliban themselves.”
President Ashraf Ghani expressed sadness over the casualties and sent a delegation to the village to investigate the bombings. Karzai was far more critical, saying his concern over civilian casualties caused him to refuse to sign a security agreement with Washington, which Ghani signed as soon as he took office. Today, about 10,000 US forces remain in Afghanistan, along with combat aircraft that they are allowed to use to assist Afghan ground forces in trouble.
“Just show me one example of a bombing that has taken us one step closer to peace,” Karzai said Friday, adding that he had called families in Boz Kandahari to express his concern. Fifteen years after US and NATO forces began fighting in Afghanistan, he asked, “Do we have more Taliban or less, more radicalization or less, more terror or less? Is this really a war on terror, or is it something else in which the lives of Afghans don’t matter?”
US General Pledges Investigation into Afghanistan Airstrike Casualties
KABUL (November 5, 2016) — The top American general in Afghanistan has promised an investigation into civilian casualties caused by an airstrike in support of Afghan special forces and their US advisers near the northern city of Kunduz this week.
More than 30 civilians, half of them children, were killed on Thursday in a strike on the village of Buz Kandahari, just outside Kunduz, that was called in when a special forces raid encountered heavy fire from Taliban militants.
Gen John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said he deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives.
“An initial investigation has determined that efforts near Kunduz on 3 November to defend Afghan National Defense and Security Forces likely resulted in civilian casualties,” he said in a statement. “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 raid targeted three Taliban leaders in the village, who officials said were planning attacks on Kunduz. It met “significant enemy fire from multiple locations” and called in support from US aircraft.
Afghan officials said 33 civilians, including 17 children, appeared to have been killed.
The intensity of the fighting, in which three members of the Afghan special forces and two US advisers were also killed, underlined how precarious the situation around Kunduz remained, a month after the insurgents threatened to overrun the city.
A defence ministry spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said the Taliban militants targeted in the raid were senior figures in their own houses. “They weren’t ordinary people who had gathered. They were leading fighting in Kunduz. They were the commanders of their military commission,” he told a news conference, adding that the Taliban leaders were willing to use their own family members as human shields.
“They hold meetings in their own houses and if there are civilian casualties, it’s an achievement for them because they can say the government killed civilians,” he said.
After Two US Troops Killed, US Airstrikes Kill
At Least 30 Afghan Civilians Around Kunduz
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
KUNDUZ (November 3, 2016) â€“ Two US soldiers and four Afghan special forces were killed, and three other US soldiers wounded in heavy fighting with the Taliban this morning, as the Taliban attempted to surge into an area around the northern city of Kunduz. As they usually do, the troops called in airstrikes to “break the siege.”
Instead of breaking the siege, the US warplanes pounded the village of Bouz Kandahari, destroying a number of houses and killing at least 30 civilians. 25 further civilians were wounded in the attack, fueling protests outside the governor’s office in Kunduz.
NATO conceded immediately that the coalition was behind the airstrikes, but appeared relatively unrepentant about it, insisting all the civilian deaths were because the Taliban were using the houses for “cover,” which of course is not a legal justification for bombing the houses.
US commander Gen. John Nicholson issued a statement after the incidents, offering condolences to the families of the two US soldiers who were slain. Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said he was “saddened” by the deaths of the US troops, but neither offered much of anything in comments on the dozens of dead civilians.
Thirty Civilians Die in Airstrike Called to Protect US and Afghan Troops
Sune Engel Rasmussen / The Guardian
KABUL (November 3, 2016) — As many as 30 civilians were killed in an airstrike on Thursday morning called in to protect US and Afghan troops involved in heavy fighting with the Taliban near Kunduz.
The airstrike, requested after two US service members were killed, had been meant to break a siege around the village of Bouz Kandahari, three miles from the centre of Kunduz, according to Saeed Mahmoud Danish, the spokesman for the provincial governor.
He said the civilians got caught up in the line of fire because the Taliban were using their houses as cover.
The joint operation between Afghan and US forces began late on Wednesday and killed 26 Taliban fighters, including two prominent commanders, according to local officials.
It was not immediately clear who conducted the fatal airstrike.
Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, said Afghan special forces had conducted airstrikes around the village. The US and NATO mission in Afghanistan said in a tweet: “US forces conducted strikes in Kunduz to defend friendly forces. All civilian casualty claims will be investigated.”
Brig Gen Cleveland, a US military spokesman, said: “As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and airstrikes were conducted to defend themselves. We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.
“As this was an Afghan operation, we’ll work with our partners to investigate but refer you to them for additional details in the near term. We’ll provide updates as we have them.”
A US airstrike on a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz in October 2015 killed 42 people.
The governor’s spokesman put the number of killed civilians in Bouz Kandahari at 30, while Gen Qasim Jangalbagh, a police official in Kunduz province, said 26 civilians had died.
According to an internal western security report, the US-Afghan forces came under fire and were surrounded until about 6am, when they broke the siege and escaped.
Cleveland said the US soldiers had been killed at about 3am or 4am, but did not release further details.
The Afghan ministry of defence said the two American soldiers, who were “advising” their Afghan counterparts on the ground, were killed in a fire exchange with insurgents, which also killed three Afghan special forces.
Early on Thursday, villagers who tried to transport the dead civilians to the city were reportedly stopped by security forces. Later in the day, residents staged a demonstration, protesting about the killings.
Laghmani, a prominent elder in Kunduz, said local media and community leaders had tried to go to the village where the airstrike took place, but had been stopped by security forces.
The security situation around Kunduz, which Taliban fighters managed to enter last month, a year after they briefly captured the city in their biggest success in the 15-year war, remains precarious.
Although US combat operations against the Taliban largely ended in 2014, special forces units have been engaged in combat, providing assistance to the Afghan army and police.
Thousands of US soldiers remain in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training and assistance mission and a separate counterterrorism mission.
A US service member was killed last month on an operation against Islamic State fighters in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Afghan forces, largely fighting alone since the end of the international combat mission, have experienced thousands of casualties, with more than 5,500 killed in the first eight months of 2016.
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