U.S. Airstrike Kills Afghan Forces Amid Battle With TalibanKABUL, Afghanistan — An American airstrike killed at least a dozen Afghan security forces during intense fighting with the Taliban near the Afghan capital, officials said Tuesday.
Hundreds of armed Taliban militants made a run for the Azra district center in Logar Province, about 50 miles south of Kabul, late on Monday, and the fighting continued overnight, officials said. Shamshad Larawi, a spokesman for the governor, said that American airstrikes had been called in for support, but that because of a misunderstanding, the planes mistakenly targeted an Afghan police outpost.
Mr. Larawi played down the number of casualties, which remained unclear. Members of the provincial council said the strike had killed 12 security personnel, a mix of Afghan police officers and pro-government militia members. Haji Abdul Satar, a tribal elder from Azra, said he counted 19 dead, among them 17 Afghan police officers and pro-government militia members and two civilians.
Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for United States forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that the strike had been carried out and said reports that it had killed Afghan forces were being investigated.
As security has deteriorated across Afghanistan, with Afghan forces continuing to face Taliban attacks in their defensive positions, airstrikes by both American and Afghan forces have increased.
In the first six months of this year, United States forces dropped nearly 3,000 bombs across Afghanistan, nearly double the number for the same period last year and more than five times the number for the first half of 2016.
Civilian casualties from aerial bombardments have increased considerably as a result, the United Nations says.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has documented 149 civilians killed and 204 injured by airstrikes in the first six months of this year, a 52 percent increase from the same period last year.
The Taliban’s push for Azra began around midnight, and the fighting lasted for nearly five hours before they were pushed back, said Mr. Satar, the tribal elder. Some sources suggested that a large number of Afghan forces had also been killed before the airstrike, making it a deadly night.
The district governor of Azra, Hamidullah Hamid, said there had also been civilian casualties in the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces before the airstrike. A Taliban rocket killed two girls ages 12 and 14, he said, while 18 other civilians were wounded.
Zer Gul, a commander of the local police whose forces came under fire, said the Taliban managed to overrun five outposts before Afghan forces retook them. The militants suffered heavy losses as well, he said, despite the United States’ mistake.
“Instead of the Taliban, the Americans bombed the Afghan police,” Mr. Gul said.