‘Friendly fire’: US Airstrike Hits Afghan police officers & MSF appeals for protection

On July 21st, the New York Times reported that an American airstrike in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand has killed several members of the Afghan security forces.

The police have been struggling since 2014 as the resurgent Taliban militants have regained territory in the province.

A force of about 300 Marines in Helmand is advising the Afghan forces, and trying to help the Afghan Army to recapture some of the territory lost to the Taliban. The military gains have proved difficult to sustain because the police forces are unable to hold the cleared areas.

Bashir Ahmad Shakir, the chairman of the security committee of the Helmand provincial council, said that as many as 17 police officers, including two front-line commanders, may have been killed. The strike had targeted a checkpoint in the Parchaw area (above) seized by the Taliban on Thursday, recaptured on Friday by Afghan forces and then reoccupied by the Afghan police force. “It is not yet clear how the post was hit, maybe because of wrong coordinates as the post was abandoned yesterday and retaken today,” Mr. Shakir said.

The American strike happened late Friday afternoon in the Gereshk district of Helmand Province. The United States military has carried out 52 strikes in Helmand over the past five days to support Afghan forces who have been the targets of coordinated Taliban attacks in recent days.

A statement by the United States military in Afghanistan expressed regret for the casualties and said “aerial fires” in support of an operation by Afghan forces had “resulted in the deaths of the friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound.”

Today we read that Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) reopened a small medical clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Saturday. It is their first facility there since the American airstrikes that destroyed a hospital in 2015, see reference in Political Concern.

Since the attack by American special forces, which killed 42 patients, medical staff, and caregivers at the MSF trauma center, MSF has been trying to secure assurances from American and Afghan military officials that their medical facilities would be respected and protected.






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