AFP, December 16, 2010
NATO air strike kills 4 Afghan soldiers: ministry
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it carried out an air strike Wednesday against insurgents in the area and that it was assessing claims of casualties
By Sardar Ahmad
KABUL — Four Afghan soldiers were killed in an overnight NATO airstrike in a Taliban flashpoint of southern Afghanistan, the country's defence ministry said Thursday.
"Initial reports we have indicate that an air strike last night killed four Afghan National Army soldiers who were on a patrol mission in Musa Qala district," defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.
Musa Qala is a restive district in Helmand province, one of the Taliban's main strongholds in its nine-year insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government and US-led NATO troops.
Azimi gave no further details but said an investigation was underway to find out what happened in the incident.
The incident emerged with the United States poised to publish a major review of President Barack Obama's surge strategy in Afghanistan announced a year ago, which has seen the US pour 30,000 extra troops into the country.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it carried out an air strike Wednesday against insurgents in the area and that it was assessing claims of casualties.
"We are aware that sources indicate that four Afghan army soldiers have been killed," ISAF spokesman Major Michael Johnson told AFP.
He was unable to confirm the deaths.
The Taliban have been waging an increasingly deadly campaign of violence after being ousted from government in 2001 by a US-led invasion, with the south and east of Afghanistan suffering the worst unrest.
The US war review later Thursday is likely to point to progress in the conflict, despite record levels of violence this year, ahead of a planned conditions-based withdrawal of some troops in 2011.
But the issue of civilian deaths during foreign military operations is particularly sensitive in Afghanistan. There have also been previous friendly fire incidents involving the deaths of Afghan troops and police.
On November 29, a trainee Afghan border policeman shot dead six American soldiers in the worst shooting of its kind in more than two years.
The United States is bankrolling a massive programme -- 9.2 billion dollars in fiscal 2010 -- to build Afghanistan's army and police so they can take over responsibility for security by 2014, as pledged by NATO in Lisbon last month.
There are currently around 80,000 Afghan police officers. US and NATO forces hope to bring that number up to 134,000 by October next year, alongside 170,000 personnel planned for the army by the same date.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out Thursday suggested that 60 percent of Americans believe that the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, up seven points since July.
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