KABUL — A misdirected US airstrike killed at least seven Afghan police officers in the hard-pressed southern province of Oruzgan, Afghan officials said Monday.
Taliban insurgents have taken control of much of the province and have besieged its capital, Tirin Kot, for weeks, held off mainly by the US air support for Afghan security forces.
On Sunday around noon, a police post known as Saqi, on the main highway into Tirin Kot, was under assault, and an airstrike hit the post instead of the attackers, said Abdul Qawe Omari, deputy police chief for the province.
“It was hit mistakenly and due to wrong directions or coordinates being given,” Omari said. “The fighting was ongoing at the time.”
A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Brigadier General Charles H. Cleveland, confirmed only that “we conducted an airstrike against individuals firing on, and posing a threat to, our Afghan partners in Tirin Kot on 18 September.”
His statement continued: “We don’t have any further information on who those individuals might have been or why they were attacking ANDSF forces.” The initials refer to Afghan security forces, including the military and the police. “US, coalition, and Afghan forces have the right to self-defense and in this case were responding to an immediate threat.”
Cleveland referred any further questions to Afghan authorities.
Taliban insurgents in the past two days had forced the Afghan police to abandon 38 posts securing the main highway linking Tirin Kot to Kandahar, according to Abdul Karim Khadimzai, head of the provincial council in Oruzgan. “The main reason is low morale among police,” he said. “The Taliban have seized a vast area of the province.”
Afghan officials said they had made progress recently in pushing the insurgents back from the provincial capital, where earlier this month they were inside the city attacking the police headquarters and governor’s compound.