WASHINGTON (Sept. 5, 2009) – The commander of the International Security Assistance Force promised Afghans a full accounting of the air strike in Kunduz province Sept. 3.
Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in a radio address to Afghans today that “nothing is more important than the safety and protection of the Afghan people.”
The general spoke soon after visiting the site. The incident occurred after Taliban insurgents hijacked two fuel trucks. They drove the trucks to the banks of the Kunduz River where they became stuck in the mud. NATO soldiers spotted the trucks, ascertained there were no civilians present and called for the air strike. American F-15E Strike Eagles dropped ordnance on the site.
Now there are charges that, in addition to the Taliban, civilians were present. News reports indicate that civilians from neighboring villages may have been siphoning gas from the trucks. Estimates of the number of dead vary, with German officials – who patrol the area – saying there were 50.
“While the air strike was clearly directed at the insurgents, ISAF will do whatever is necessary to help the community, including medical assistance and evacuation as requested,” said Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, and ISAF spokesman.
Previous bombings have enflamed Afghan passions against the NATO-led security force. McChrystal moved quickly to defuse the situation, sending an investigation team to the area and stressing that the team will work closely with Afghan officials.
“I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously,” he said in the address," he said. “I have ordered a complete investigation into the reasons and results of this attack, which I will share with the Afghan people,” he said.
ISAF is offering emergency medical aid and other emergency assistance to those affected.
Previous instances of unintended civilian deaths have angered Afghan leaders. As soon as McChrystal took command in June, he instituted strict standards for close-air support missions.