The United Nations has pledged to conduct an investigation into US airstrikes carried out during an operation against the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan. 32 civilians were killed in the troubled province last week as a result, and the UN said that any loss of civilian life was “unacceptable”.
The strike, which took place at dawn on Thursday sparked angry protests in Kunduz where local officials said at least 30 people, including many children, were killed. The dead bodies of these children were carried by relatives who wandered the streets with them. The United Nations mission in Afghanistan announced late on Sunday that it was investigating the airstrike.
In a statement, the mission said that “The preliminary results indicate that the air operation led to the deaths of 32 civilians and that 19 others, mostly women and children, were injured”. The Special Representative for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said that “The loss of civilian life is unacceptable and undermines efforts toward building peace and stability in Afghanistan”. He added that “When conducting aerial operations, international military forces should take all feasible measures to minimise civilian harm, including full analysis of the context for aerial strikes.”
Civilian casualties caused by NATO strikes were one of the most contentious aspects of the campaign against the rebels which lasted 15 years and triggered sharp criticism from the public and government. US forces acknowledged that the strike is likely to have led to civilian casualties and pledged a full investigation into the incident. A spokesman for the US State Department described it as a “terrible incident”.
The airstrike came days before the US elections in which the issue of Afghanistan has not been discussed much despite the fact that the situation there will be a pressing issue for the new president. Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will inherit the longest war that America has waged and whose end is not in sight. This is also the second time in over a year that an American airstrike has struck the wrong target in Kunduz.
Last year, a US strike carried out during fighting led to a hospital managed by Doctors Without Borders being hit on October the 3rd. 42 people were killed and the strike was condemned by the international community.