At least six Afghan civilians have been killed and 14 more wounded as US helicopters attacked them overnight in the Kandahar Province. The strikes came after a US patrol came under fire, though it remains unclear if any militants were actually killed in the strike.
US spokesman Col. Greg Julian admitted that the US was aware of reports of the civilian deaths, but said they could not yet confirm any of them. An investigation is said to be ongoing by both the military and local officials in the province.
The number of air strikes by the Air Force has risen dramatically in recent months in Afghanistan, leading to a large number of civilian deaths. With violence in the nation still showing no signs of slowing down, this trend seems likely to continue.
At the same time, Gen. Stanley McChrystal put into place “tough new rules” aimed at avoiding such killings, including an order to avoid fights near civilian homes. Optimally, the troops involved in this incident were supposed to withdraw instead of calling in an air strike, though it remains unclear if they felt this was not an option or simply chose, as others have, to ignore the rules of engagement.