WASHINGTON — U.S. forces struck close to an Afghan air base in the southern part of the nation Wednesday, resulting in the deaths of Afghan troops, Pentagon officials said.
The “friendly-fire” attack occurred during an ongoing engagement between Taliban and Afghan forces, officials told TMN on Wednesday.
However, officials said the air base was not destroyed or damaged.
“The U.S. conducted precision self-defense air strikes on people firing on Afghan and American forces conducting a ground movement near an ANA checkpoint in Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province on Wednesday March 13,” Lt. Ubon Mendie, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement to TMN.
“The strikes were conducted after Afghan and U.S. forces came under effective small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire and requested air support in self-defense. Afghan and U.S. forces attempted to de-escalate the situation but they continued to be fired upon,” he said. “We are operating in a complex environment where enemy fighters do not wear uniforms and use stolen military vehicles to attack government forces.”
According to multiple news reports, at least five Afghans were killed and 10 Afghans were wounded. In a phone interview, Mendie said no U.S. forces were killed or wounded.
Mohammed Karim Karimi, the deputy head of the Uruzgan provincial council, told reporters that U.S. troops reportedly said they heard gunfire coming from the base and reacted, triggering the firefight.
“It is still not confirmed who fired first, but then they both engaged in a firefight,” Karimi said, according to the New York Times. “There was a misunderstanding between both sides.”
Earlier this week, Taliban fighters launched attacks on several Afghan military bases in western Afghanistan. In one attack on Monday, more than 50 Afghan soldiers at an air base in Badghis province were killed or captured, according to multiple news reports.
The Taliban attacked that base again on Wednesday, according to reports.