By Alex Rodriguez and Aimal Yaqubi, Los Angeles Times –
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities on Sunday said a NATO airstrike killed a family of eight at their house in eastern Afghanistan.
If confirmed, the attack would be the latest in a string of such incidents that have angered Afghan leaders at a time when Washington needs Kabul’s cooperation in carrying out a blueprint for engagement after the U.S. and its allies wrap up their troop withdrawal in 2014.
Elsewhere in the country, a NATO spokesman said four coalition troops died Saturday in three separate roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan. The nationalities of the troops who died were not given, and the alliance provided no other details.
The airstrike occurred about 8 p.m. Saturday in the Gerda Serai district of Paktia province, a volatile region along the Pakistan border. Rohullah Samoon, spokesman for the Paktia governor’s office, said a NATO attack had killed eight civilians — Mohammed Shafi, his wife and his six children — all of whom were inside their house.
Samoon said there is no evidence that Shafi was a Taliban insurgent or linked with al-Qaida.
“Afghan security forces were not informed about the operation,” Samoon said. “Our concern is why (Western coalition) troops don’t share these issues with Afghan security forces. If they had shared this with us, this wouldn’t have happened.”
A NATO spokesman said the incident appeared to be precipitated by an insurgent attack on Western troops. Coalition troops returned fire and called for air support. “We’re actively gathering information to assess what did occur,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a coalition spokesman.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered his government to conduct its own investigation into the airstrike in Paktia, according to a statement issued by his office.
According to the United Nations, more than 3,000 civilians were killed in wartime violence last year, and three-fourths of those deaths were attributed to insurgent attacks. The actions of Western coalition and Afghan troops were responsible for 14 percent of civilian deaths last year.
Nonetheless, the issue of civilian deaths attributed to coalition forces resonates more intensely with an Afghan population that disapproves of the presence of U.S. and Western troops in their country.
Earlier this month, 14 Afghan civilians were killed in North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes in the northwest province of Badghis and in Helmand province in the south. In the airstrike in Helmand, a woman and five children were killed, Afghan authorities said.
On May 2, President Barack Obama and Karzai signed a strategic partnership pact that pledges military training, development assistance and equipment to Afghanistan for the next decade. Karzai welcomed the pact, but has warned that “if the lives of Afghan people are not safe, the signing of the strategic partnership has no meaning.”