14 Americans Killed in Helicopter Crashes in Afghanistan
14 Americans Killed in Helicopter Crashes in Afghanistan

NATO officials in Afghanistan say three coalition helicopters crashed Monday in two unrelated incidents, killing at least 11 U.S. troops and three American civilians.

NATO officials say one helicopter crashed in western Afghanistan after U.S. and Afghan forces raided what was described as a militant hideout.

Earlier Monday, two coalition helicopters collided and crashed in southern Afghanistan.

In both cases, authorities say they believe hostile fire was not involved. But the American deaths come as U.S. President Barack Obama considers whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The director of Afghanistan Rights Monitor, Ajmal Samadi, tells VOA that the debate half-a-world away is alienating the people of Afghanistan, causing them to question Washington's commitment.

"That leaves Afghans in a limbo between a government, which is corrupt, and a Taliban that is extremely violent," said Samadi.

He also notes that eight years after the U.S.-led invasion into Afghanistan, the Taliban is still strong, especially in the country's south.

"We have a shadow government of the Taliban," he said. "And I am afraid some people in Afghanistan are even talking about the return of the Taliban because they see the power of the Taliban."

Meanwhile in Kabul, Afghans clashed with police for the second day during protests held over allegations that foreign troops had desecrated the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Afghan health ministry officials say 15 people were wounded in Monday's protest.

The violence comes as Afghans prepare to go to the polls for a November 7 presidential runoff election between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Widespread fraud marred the August 20 presidential election, and international observers have voiced concern about the country's ability to hold a new election in such a short amount of time.

Mr. Abdullah told reporters in Kabul Monday that the head of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission has "no credibility" and should be immediately replaced.