By Josh Smith
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
KABUL — The Afghan government insisted Monday that American forces killed at least a dozen civilians during a military operation in eastern Afghanistan, despite a news report that cast doubt on some of the evidence.
American officials have admitted that during a joint operation by U.S. and Afghan special forces on Jan. 15, at least two civilians died when ground troops called in airstrikes on buildings being used as firing positions by militants. One American soldier, one Afghan soldier and at least 14 militants were also killed during the fighting, according to the International Security Assistance Force.
But investigators with the Afghan government released a report last week accusing the United States of unilaterally carrying out the attack and of covering up additional civilian casualties caused by both an airstrike and alleged house-to-house shooting by U.S. troops.
Civilian casualties caused by international forces remain one of the most contentious issues in Afghanistan, with President Hamid Karzai often criticizing NATO and citing such incidents as a reason why future foreign military operations should be curtailed.
James Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, acknowledged in a press briefing Monday that relations between Washington and Kabul have been strained by the dispute over the Jan. 15 operation in Parwan province, as well as by a planned release by Afghan authorities of prisoners the U.S. regards as security threats.