U.S. officials denied reports that an American airstrike killed roughly a dozen Afghan police officers this week.
“Following a review of footage from the strike conducted by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan in support of Afghan operations and in defense of Afghan forces in Azrah district, Logar province, Aug. 7, we have determined that no Afghan security force members were killed,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in the country, told Air Force Times.
Several news outlets cited locals and provincial officials who said that a mix of Afghan police officers and pro-government militia members were killed when the U.S. airstrike mistakenly targeted an Afghan police outpost.
The airstrike had been called in to help prevent the Azrah district center from being overrun by reportedly hundreds of armed Taliban fighters.
“The footage clearly depicts an attack on an Afghan security force observation post by a group of fighting-aged males using multiple heavy weapons and tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the Taliban from an open position on a ridgeline above the observation post,” O’Donnell said.
“Both the enemy and friendly locations were verified and cleared by Afghan security forces on the ground, through the regional coordination center, which is located with the 203rd Corps operations center, prior to the strike," he added. “Our determination is also supported by first-hand accounts from Afghan security force leaders and members present during the incident, who confirmed those firing upon them were Taliban members.”
Before the U.S. aircraft arrived overhead, the battle had already been raging for 10 days, two provincial council members told Stars and Stripes.
“But sadly, when the foreign forces’ helicopters arrived, their bombs hit them instead of the enemy,” one council member said.
However, U.S. officials don’t believe that statement is accurate, because neither U.S. nor Afghan government helicopters showed up to the battle, according to their narrative of the incident.
“No helicopters were involved, Afghan or otherwise, which speaks to the credibility, or lack thereof, of such misrepresentative claims,” O’Donnell said.
Another council member reported that before the airstrike, eight policemen and two civilians had already been killed during the fighting.
The Azrah district lies near Pakistan’s border, 50 miles south of Kabul. The district was last listed as Taliban-controlled, according to FDD’s Long War Journal, which notes that the “the Taliban control all but four villages in this district.”
U.S. and Afghan aircraft have stepped up their airstrikes this year in an effort to drive the Taliban to the negotiating table. Frequently, Afghan A-29 light attack aircraft and MD-530 helicopters conduct airstrikes on behalf of Afghan ground troops. Additionally, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan conducts close air support missions when needed.
In the first six months of this year, U.S. forces dropped more than 2,900 bombs across Afghanistan — almost double the number for the same period last year.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.