Afghans requested deadly US airstrike that killed 22: US commander
The top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan says the U.S. airstrike that killed 22 at a medical clinic in the city of Kunduz over the weekend was requested by Afghan forces.
Gen. John F. Campbell, speaking at the Pentagon, said he was correcting an initial U.S. statement that said the airstrike was meant to defend U.S. forces under fire.
In the incident early Saturday, Campbell said Afghan forces advised U.S. special operations forces on the ground that they needed U.S. air support, and the airstrike ensued. He said several civilians were “accidentally struck.”
He declined to provide more details, saying a military investigation is ongoing. He said he learned from the investigator that it was the Afghans, not the Americans, who requested the airstrike.
Residents of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz began venturing out of their homes as calm returned to the streets on Monday, officials said, in the first signs of normalcy following the deadly Taliban blitz last week that captured and held Kunduz for three days.
But clashes were still underway between government forces and the Taliban along Kunduz’s northern, southern and eastern outskirts on Monday, according to Khosh Mohammad, a member of the Kunduz provincial council.
Christopher Stokes, the general director of MSF, the charity’s French acronym, said on Monday he was “disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack.”
In the center of Kunduz, shops opened and people were seen walking the streets Monday, said Sarwar Hussaini, spokesman for the provincial police chief. Government troops have largely cleared the militants from the city after launching a counteroffensive last Thursday, he added.
Kunduz is an important city on the Tajikistan border, a hub for smuggling routes for drugs and guns to and from Central Asian countries, and alcohol into Afghanistan, officials have said.
The multi-pronged Taliban assault on Kunduz last Monday took the Afghan authorities by surprised and hugely embarrassed President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. The Taliban held the city in their grip for three days before largely melting away as the counter-offensive reclaimed Kunduz.
But they left destruction in their wake. Qayum Khan, a resident reached by telephone, described corpses on the streets but could not tell if they were civilians or insurgents. Grocer Sardar Wali said he felt it was “normal ... so I have opened my shop.”
Elsewhere, a Taliban attack on the far western city of Maymana, capital of Faryab province bordering Turkmenistan, was repelled by Afghan forces on Monday. The province’s deputy governor, Abdul Satar Barez, said the city came under the attack from four directions on Sunday night.
“It was a similar attack to that in Kunduz and the aim of the enemy was to overrun the city,” he said.