KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Local Afghan officials accuse the US military of two air strikes that killed 29 people this week, most of them women and children, in heavy fighting in southern Helmand province, even though American diplomats may have peace terms negotiated Taliban.
The reaction followed a familiar pattern in the long history of controversial air strikes in Afghanistan, with the American military denying that the second air raid ever took place and confirming that the first subject of the investigation was. The United Nations described the reports of civilian casualties as "credible".
"Killing innocent people with their wives and children is very important to us," said an elderly member of the Taliban who was contacted by phone in Pakistan. "We raised the issue with Khalilzad."
The official said deadly tactics would not work. "The more they kill, the more our blood gets hot," he said. The official, who was informed about the talks but was not present, spoke on condition of anonymity as part of a longstanding policy of not being named by the news media.
In the first episode, Afghan and American forces conducted an early Thursday operation in the Sangin district in Helmand province, which has long been held by the Taliban. These units on the ground were shot at by a house bombarded by American planes.
"The house belonged to Noor Mohammad, a civilian," said Mohammad Dawood, chief of the Sangin District Council. who lives in exile, but stays in touch with the residents there. The bomb attack killed four women and ten children in the house and two men.
The provincial authorities in Helmand confirmed that the episode had taken place, but said they could not provide any information on those affected.
Mohammad Hashim Alokozai, a Member of Parliament from Helmand, also said 16 civilians had been killed.
The next day, Friday, male victims' relatives gathered for a mass burial, and when they buried the dead, they were caught in another American air strike, Mr. Alokozai said, killing 13 men.
"We do not know what's going on," he said. "We do not know what happened to NATO, that they attack innocent civilians."
Sgt. First Class Debra Richardson, a US military spokeswoman, said that on Friday the Sangin coalition had not air-raided. "The Taliban claim today that an American air strike killed ten civilians while killing graves and Taliban propaganda," said Sergeant Richardson.
As for Thursday's bombing, which apparently killed 16 civilians, she said it was under investigation. 19659002] "A large, Afghan-led, multi-day operation in Sangin, Helmand, has been supported by US coalition advisers and air strikes," said Sergeant Richardson. "The partner operation clarified 23 I.E.S and was involved in fierce fighting. Due to the ongoing operation and the number of units involved, we are still investigating the claim that there are no victims of the non-combat. "
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan also issued a statement on the deaths of civilians in Sangin on Thursday. "The UNAMA is tracking credible reports of civilian casualties, including children, from an aerial bombing operation in the Sangin district," the agency said in a Twitter post of 19459007.
The number of civilian casualties has risen over the past year as the fighting fights between the Taliban and the Afghan government units, which are often supported by American special forces and the Air Force.
Nearly 2,800 civilians were killed and 5,252 civilians were injured in the first nine months of 2018, according to United Nations officials, who expressed concern over increasing deaths from air strikes.
Members of the Afghan security forces die in record numbers. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday at a panel on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that 45,000 members of the security forces had died since taking office in September 2014 – a figure far greater than any other previously recognized in his administration.
Last November, Mr. Ghani said 28,000 members of the security forces had died since his presidency. The Afghan military claims it kills so many or more insurgents.