American and Afghan forces killed 33 civilians and wounded 27 others in a joint operation in Boz Village in Kunduz province in November 2016, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
However, the investigation by the U.S. forces and Afghanistan determined that civilian casualties had taken place in an act of “self-defense”.
“To defend themselves and Afghan forces, the U.S. forces returned fire in self-defense at Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions,” according to the statement.
Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, said: “Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives.
“I wish to assure President [Ashraf] Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians. We will continue to assist the Afghan security forces in their efforts to defend their country,” Nicholson added.
Despite admitting the forces were responsible for killing civilians, the statement said nothing about providing any sort of compensation or support to the victims.
“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self-defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” it said.
The statement also mentioned the number of U.S. and Afghan forces personnel killed in the operation against the Taliban who had briefly overrun Kunduz City back then.
“As an indication of the ferocity of the fire faced by friendly forces from the Taliban-occupied houses, two U.S. soldiers and three Afghan army commandos were killed. In addition, four U.S. soldiers and 11 commandos were wounded.
“The investigation concluded that approximately 26 Taliban, including three leaders, were also killed, along with approximately 26 wounded,” it said. The names of the so-called Taliban leaders slain in the attack were not mentioned.
Back-to-back incidents of mass civilian casualties in Afghanistan have seriously undermined the credibility of the nascent Afghan forces as well as their international allies; particularly the U.S.
Last year in September, the U.S forces hit a residential compound in eastern Nangarhar province where according to the locals, civilians had gathered to welcome a local elder following his Hajj pilgrimage; 18 people were killed in the attack.
In October 2015, a U.S. Air Force AC-130U gunship attacked the Kunduz Trauma Centre operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Kunduz, killing at least 42 people, including medical staff, and injuring over 30. This incident received worldwide condemnation.
Also, on Sept. 4, 2009, Kunudz was the site of a similar tragedy when responding to a call by German forces, an American F-15E fighter jet struck two fuel tankers captured by Taliban insurgents, killing over 90 civilians in the attack.