U.S. General John R. Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, on Friday apologized for a coalition airstrike earlier this week which resulted in the deaths of at least eighteen civilians.
Allen visited Logar province on Friday to personally deliver his condolences to the provincial governor, parliament leaders, provincial council leadership, and village elders. "I am here not only as the Commander of the Coalition forces, but also as a father to apologize for the tragedy that occurred two days ago," he said. "Additionally, I am committed to ensuring we do the right thing for the families of those we inadvertently harmed, as well as for the community in which they lived."
The incident happened on early Wednesday morning in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province during a coalition operation to detain a local Taliban leader. ISAF acknowledged on Friday that it was responsible for the "unintended, but nonetheless tragic, death of Afghan civilians."
But despite having said it completed its initial assessment of the circumstances surrounding the incident, the multinational force refused to release its own details about the number of civilian casualties. "ISAF is still investigating the situation, and the numbers of individuals who were killed and wounded," ISAF spokeswoman Lori Hodge said on Saturday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has strongly condemned the coalition airstrike and cut short his trip to China to deal with the aftermath, said on Saturday that Allen agreed with his demands and 'promised' him the coalition will no longer carry out airstrikes in residential areas.
Afghan officials previously confirmed at least eighteen civilians were killed in the airstrike, including seven children, five women and six men. In addition to an unknown number of civilian casualties and several insurgents, ISAF has only confirmed two civilian women were injured in the incident. They were both taken to a medical facility with non-life-threatening injuries.
The multinational force on Wednesday said it carried out the airstrike after insurgents attacked Afghan and coalition troops with small-arms fire and a grenade during an operation to capture a local Taliban leader. "The security force returned fire and requested a precision airstrike," ISAF said at the time. Afghan officials have said the insurgents may have been hiding in the houses of Afghan civilians while they attacked coalition forces.
Following the deadly airstrike, residents in the affected area went to Pul-i-Alam where they protested in front of the governor's office. The protesters were carrying the bodies of the victims and chanted slogans such as "death to America", "death to the Afghan government", "death to Hamid Karzai" and "death to [U.S. President] Barack Obama."
Last month, at least 20 civilians were killed when coalition forces carried out two separate airstrikes in the southern and northwestern regions of Afghanistan. In one of the incidents, an ISAF helicopter targeted a militant hideout in Helmand province but accidentally struck a residential house, killing a family.