Written By Rod Nordland
For the second time in a few days, an Afghan army base was destroyed on Wednesday — but this time by US airstrikes that followed a firefight between the Afghans and Americans, Afghan officials said.
A local Afghan official said six soldiers were killed and nine others badly wounded, or nearly all of the 17 soldiers at the base. Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, confirmed that the airstrikes had taken place, but said he did not have details.
The US military did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesman said officials were looking into the matter. There were no reports of American casualties, although the US military rarely releases details on wounded soldiers.
In western Afghanistan on Monday, a Taliban attack wiped out a company of Afghan soldiers in their base in Badghis province, killing or capturing more than 50 soldiers. Analysts have said that the Afghan forces’ tendency to stay penned up in fortified bases rather than going on offensives has hurt their effectiveness and led to a devastatingly high rate of casualties.
The airstrikes on Wednesday reportedly happened while American soldiers were patrolling on the outskirts of Tirin Kot, the capital of southern Uruzgan province, near an Afghan National Army base, according to Mohammed Karim Karimi, the deputy head of the Uruzgan provincial council.
Karimi said the US forces believed that they heard gunfire coming from the base, and a firefight broke out between the Americans and the Afghan forces at the base. The long-established outpost, known as Satarman Base, guards the approaches to Tirin Kot, which has been repeatedly attacked by Taliban insurgents who dominate much of the surrounding province.
“It is still not confirmed who fired first, but then they both engaged in a firefight,” Karimi said. The fight went on until 3 a.m., when U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes that destroyed the base, he said.
“There was a misunderstanding between both sides,” Karimi said, adding that in the darkness of the area both forces thought they were engaging the Taliban.
Two Afghan soldiers who fled during the fight were apparently unhurt, Karimi said, and the nine soldiers who were wounded were in critical condition.
Mangal confirmed that a U.S. airstrike had hit the Afghan base, but said he did not have details on casualties.
In a separate attack on Wednesday, the Taliban again attacked Afghan National Army bases in Bala Murghab district of Badghis province, where the 50 soldiers were killed or captured on Monday. This time, seven soldiers went missing, either captured or killed, officials said.