Afghans re­quested deadly US airstrike that killed 22: US com­man­der

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ROBERT BURNS AND LYNNE O’DON­NELL

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.

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