Officials in Afghanistan said Monday an American air attack has killed at least eight policemen in a volatile central province.
The police personnel were guarding a security outpost on a main highway outside Tarin Kot, the provincial capital of Uruzgan, on Sunday evening, regional Highway Police Commander Samunwal Rahimullah Khan told VOA.
“An airstrike killed one police officer and when seven others returned to the security post, foreign aircraft carried out another raid, killing all of them,” he said.
The Afghan commander denounced the attack and asserted there were Taliban posts in nearby areas with the white insurgent flag raised on them, “but we are unable to understand why Americans targeted our policemen.”
A U.S. military spokesman has confirmed an airstrike was conducted in Tarin Kot on September 18, saying it targeted “individuals” firing on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
“We don't have any further information on who those individuals might have been or why they were attacking ANDSF forces. U.S., Coalition, and Afghan forces have the right to self-defense, and in this case were responding to an immediate threat,” Brigadier General Charles Cleveland told VOA.
Tarin Kot is among several Afghan provincial capitals that have faced serious Taliban attacks lately.
The insurgents earlier this month fought their way into the besieged city, but were not able to hold their ground when Afghan forces staged a counteroffensive with the help of U.S. air power.
U.S. President Barack Obama in June gave authorization to the U.S. military in Afghanistan to mobilize its air and ground support when needed to assist Afghan partners in preventing key urban centers from falling to the Taliban.
Airstrikes causing civilian casualties and sometimes mistakenly hitting Afghan forces have long caused friction between Kabul and Washington.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a long-time critic of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, warned last week the new authorization was a further erosion of the country's sovereignty.
"How could the U.S. president authorize U.S. troops to launch attacks on their own in Afghanistan?,” Karzai asked while speaking to Reuters. "Don't we have a government here? Aren't we a sovereign country?”
But Karzai's successor, President Ashraf Ghani, has welcomed the new U.S. permissions and officials in Washington say they were agreed to by the Kabul government.