International

NATO kills five Afghan army troops

0619-Afghanistan-NATO-troops_full_600KABUL— The Afghan government said that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed five Afghan army troops on Thursday morning. This incident is likely to inflame the already battered relations between the two countries ahead of crucial presidential elections.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition confirmed that the Afghan soldiers were “accidentally killed” during “an operation in eastern Afghanistan.” He expressed condolences and said that the coalition “will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again.”
In the past, U.S. airstrikes that killed Afghan civilians sparked furious condemnations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He cited such casualties as one of the main reasons why he refused to sign the crucial bilateral security agreement with Washington that is necessary to maintain some American troops in Afghanistan once the coalition’s current mandate ends in December.
The Afghan ministry of defence said the airstrike occurred at 3:30 a.m. in the Charkh district of Logar province, injuring eight soldiers in addition to the five fatalities. The ministry said it sent investigators to the area. The coalition said it is investigating the “unfortunate incident.”
Afghanistan is preparing for presidential elections on April 5, a vote that the Taliban have pledged to disrupt. Mr. Karzai isn’t allowed to run under the constitution. Most of the leading contenders have voiced their support for the security deal with the U.S.
This, however, could change if Thursday’s killings spark widespread public outrage amid the election campaign.

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