commander of Western forces here: apologizing after his troops
accidentally killed five Afghan soldiers.
“Friendly fire” incidents are relatively rare, but
they stir animosity among many in the Afghan military, whose
partnership with the NATO force is central to
Afghan and NATO officials both said the incident was
under investigation, but in the past, such accidental deaths have been
blamed on poor communication and coordination and — often — nighttime
The five Afghan soldiers were killed before dawn by
a NATO airstrike as they prepared to attack insurgents in the Andar
district of Ghazni province, in south-central
Petraeus, who formally assumed command of NATO’s
International Security Assistance Force on Sunday, conveyed personal
regrets to the Afghan government, said ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen.
Afghan officials, though, made clear that such occurrences carry a political cost.
“We strongly condemn this incident,” said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen.
Azimi said the
Western military officials also had losses of their
own to report: the deaths of three American soldiers a day earlier in a
single explosion in the south. Insurgents have been using massive IEDs,
or improvised explosive devices, which can penetrate many of the
armored vehicles in use by NATO forces. As a result, it is not unusual
for Western troops to die in clusters of three or more.
Newly arriving American troops are mainly being
deployed in the south, the scene of a major Western military campaign
that is unfolding, somewhat behind schedule, in and around the city of
The troops are part of a 30,000-strong buildup Obama ordered late last
year, which will bring the U.S. force to 100,000 by summer’s end.
The south is the most lethal battlefield for
Americans and the other national contingents serving there, primarily
Canadian and British troops. Military officials said Wednesday that
The district, Sangin, has accounted for nearly one-third of all British war deaths in
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