Throughout the day, US officials have issued denials of reports that they were responsible for the latest in a long line of “friendly fire” incidents in Afghanistan, when an airstrike killed a number of Afghan narcotics police in the Helmand Province.
The reports ultimately appear to have been accurate, however, as Afghan officials confirmed the recovery of at least 13 bodies from the site, saying they were all killed in an airstrike along the border between Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.
The US had denied conducting airstrikes against Helmand, but did admit to airstrikes right next door in Kandahar. They have since declined all comment on the matter, but their last statements claimed the Kandahar strikes had eliminated “threats.”
Helmand Province is the center of Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade, and the loss of many of the key districts there means that the Taliban will be reaping the benefits. This is likely fueling more aggressive anti-drug operations in the area than would normally be the case. The Taliban gains have also got the US and other NATO nations increasing airstrikes in the area.