Officials Express Regret After Friendly Fire Incident
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 5, 2006 Military officials in Southwest Asia are expressing regret and offering condolences in the wake of a “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan yesterday that claimed one coalition soldier’s life and wounded several others.
A statement issued by the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command Air Forces said a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II responded to a call for close-air support from officials of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force at about 5:30 a.m. yesterday. Coalition troops were engaged in close combat against Taliban insurgents, west of the city of Kandahar in the Panjwayi district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. ISAF forces engaged in the battle received close-air support from the A-10s during the extended battle, officials said.
“Regrettably,” the Central Command Air Forces statement said, “one of the several A-10s supporting the mission engaged friendly forces during a strafing run. One soldier was killed and a number of others were wounded.” ISAF medical assets responded immediately and evacuated the casualties to ISAF military medical facilities for treatment, officials said.
“I extend our deepest sympathies to all the soldiers and airmen and their loved ones affected by this combat accident,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Gary North, Central Command Air Forces commander, quoted in the command statement. “The death or injury of each and every coalition member is a tragedy that saddens us, our families and the military and civilian members of the coalition.”
The statement also included an expression of sympathy from the commander of NATO’s force in Afghanistan, along with his determination to continue the mission.
“I wish to send my deepest sympathies to all of the soldiers and their loved ones who’ve been affected by this very sad incident,” British Army Lt. Gen. David J. Richards, commander of ISAF, said in the Central Command Air Forces statement. “It is particularly distressing to us all when, despite the care and precautions that are always applied, a tragedy like this happens.”
Richards emphasized the importance of the mission and the operation in which the incident occurred. “Helping the people of Afghanistan and at the same time preventing this country once more from becoming a safe haven for terrorism is in all our interests,” he said. “The particular battle ISAF is spearheading in Kandahar at the moment is both tough and vital, and being conducted with bravery and skill -- I am humbled to lead such people.”
The NATO leader stressed the importance of air power. “At this time we must also remember that, in the heat of the battle, the factor that makes the difference for ISAF is airpower,” he said. “Time and time again, through hundreds and hundreds of missions, it is the skill of our aircrew that has saved our troops on the ground and paved the way to success.”
He vowed that NATO forces would continue in their mission, “deeply saddened by this loss but totally unaffected in their determination to build on the existing progress of Operation Medusa and finish the job. Our comrades would expect no less.”