Afghan Officials Say NATO Airstrike Kills Women, ChildrenEltaf Najafizada
Afghan officials said 10 civilians, including four women and five children, were killed in a NATO airstrike that targeted a Taliban hideout in eastern Kunar province, bordering Pakistan.
Four insurgents, including a commander, also died in the attack in Kunar’s Shigal district, local governor Abdul Zahir Safi said in a phone interview. The civilians killed were from two families, Safi said. The top official of Kunar, Governor Fazlullah Wahidi, said civilians died in the raid.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed an airstrike in the area, declining to provide details. “We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and we are currently assessing the incident to determine more facts,” Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the U.S.-led force, said in a phone interview.
Reports of the Kunar strike came hours after President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address the withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next year, cutting the American force there by half.
The U.S. and its allies plan to hand over security to Afghanistan’s army and police by the end of 2014. The exiting commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, Marine General John Allen, said on Feb. 10 that Afghan soldiers are almost completely leading operations.
The spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry today welcomed Obama’s troop withdrawal announcement. “Afghan security forces are ready to fill the vacuum,” General Zahir Azimi, said by phone. “Afghan troops are ready to take the lead and more security responsibility from foreign forces.”
U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford is replacing Allen as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan. Allen is Obama’s nominee to serve as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and U.S. Forces in Europe.