US-led air strikes killed at least 30 civilians, including babies and children, in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, just days after it was reported that a US aerial attack in northern Iraq killed eight members of a family, including a pregnant woman and three children.
Al Jazeera reports Thursday’s air strikes were in support of US and Afghan forces targeting senior Taliban commanders in Kunduz. “Afghan forces and coalition troops conducted a joint operation against the Taliban insurgents. In the bombardment 30 Afghan civilians were martyred and 25 others were wounded,” provincial spokesman Mahmoud Danish told reporters.
The Washington Post reports local officials said the death toll was much higher than reported, with as many as 100 civilians killed or wounded in a series of air strikes around Kunduz, Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city. The Khanabad district of Kunduz province was briefly captured by Taliban forces earlier this year; Afghan and American troops have been fighting to clear remaining Taliban fighters from the area.
Two US troops were killed in ground clashes during the operation. The US military said it carried out the air strikes to protect “friendly forces” during the fighting. “The service members came under fire during a train, advise and assist mission with our Afghan partners to clear a Taliban position and disrupt the group’s operations in Kunduz district,” a Pentagon statement said. NATO said it would investigate the civilian deaths.
Last October, a US air strike on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz killed at least 42 people, including 24 patients, 14 staff and four caretakers, and injured dozens more. US forces fired on victims fleeing the attack, which MSF called a “war crime.”
Earlier this week, the Guardian reported a US air strike on a home in Fadhiliya village, near Mosul, killed eight family members, including a pregnant woman and three children, on October 22. Russian state television identified the slain family patriarch as Amer Mohammed Yusuf and reported his wife, children and grandchildren were also killed.
Mala Salem Shabak, who represents Fadhiliya in the Iraqi parliament, demanded an end to US-led bombing. “We call on the coalition to stop bombing the villages because they are many civilians in these areas,” she said.
The US admitted conducting air strikes in the area on October 22. “The Coalition takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and will further investigate this report to determine the facts,” a US military spokesperson said in a statement. The Fadhiliya strike came as Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by US Special Forces and coalition air strikes, fought on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was captured by Islamic State fighters in 2014.
Last month, a top Russian general accused the United States of killing 60 people and wounding 200 more in an air strike on a girls school near Mosul. “There is an ample evidence of the US-led coalition’s airstrikes on residential areas, schools and other civilian infrastructure in Mosul and other inhabited localities in the Nineveh province,” Russian General Staff commander Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said. “Over 60 people, including children, died as a result of these actions over the last three days. More than 200 were wounded.”
Russian forces are fighting in neighboring Syria to defend longtime dictator Bashar al-Assad from Islamic State and other insurgents; according to human rights groups and observers, Russian air strikes have killed more than 2,000 Syrian civilians. Amnesty International says US-led coalition air strikes have killed at least 300 civilians in Syria, where a United Nations envoy says more than 400,000 people have died during the course of a five-year civil war.
Over the past half century, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth. According to a 2015 study, more than 1.3 million people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan during the course of the 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism.
The top US commander in Afghanistan vowed to fight on in what has long been by far America’s longest war. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, the senior US military commander in Afghanistan, told reporters. He was referring to the deaths of the two American troops, not the dozens of Afghan men, women and children killed in the air strike.