NATO Air Strike Kills 2 Afghan Children
A NATO helicopter strike on suspected Taliban resistance fighters killed two Afghan children near the southeastern town of Ghazni on Saturday.
Reuters reports that NATO initially reported that the deadly strike was carried out after Afghan forces requested air support as they battled the insurgents; the alliance then changed its story and announced that the attack had been conducted independently. In February, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a decree prohibiting Afghan forces from calling in NATO air strikes in residential areas after a strike killed 10 civilians, most of them women and children, in Kunar province.
NATO spokesman Maj. Adam Wojack told reporters that Afghan police had been patrolling Ghazni when they were attacked by insurgents.
“International Security Assistance Forces [ISAF] supported the Afghan unit in contact by engaging the insurgent forces with helicopter-delivered direct fire,” Maj. Wojack said.
“This was an independently acquired and engaged target,” Wojack added.
ISAF announced it is investigating the children’s deaths.
“We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously. Afghan and ISAF officials are assessing the incident,” a statement said.
A Reuters reporter confirmed seeing the bodies of two dead children who locals said died during the NATO helicopter assault. One of the children was dressed in a school uniform. The reporter also saw a toddler’s hand and foot at the site of the air strike.
Col. Mohammed Hussain, a senior Afghan police detective, said that nine Taliban fighters were killed and eight civilians were wounded during the incident.
The issue of civilian casualties has long strained US-Afghan relations, with Karzai once even threatening to turn on the occupiers or even join the Taliban if the US-led forces did not reduce the number of innocents killed. While such casualties have declined recently, some critics claim the US does not value Afghan life the same as it does American life because the killing of so many innocent men, women and children would not be tolerated if the dead were Americans.
US apologists claim that Taliban fighters operate in close proximity to civilians and point out– correctly– that the vast majority of Afghan civilian deaths are caused by the Taliban and other insurgents.