According to a statement released by the Afghan Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the incident occurred near an Afghan army post on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Tarin Kot, overnight on Tuesday.
The statement said that a joint Afghan and US patrol initially came under fire by what it thought to be a group of Taliban militants. The fire was in fact coming from the Afghan outpost, as the troopers at the post also apparently mistook the patrol for militants.
Not knowing that at first, the patrol called in US precision airstrikes to eliminate the threat. It only later realized the source of the fire but failed to communicate in time, and the airstrikes hit the post anyway, killing and injuring the Afghan soldiers.
“It was so dark and a misunderstanding happened after which five army soldiers were killed and 10 others were wounded,” Col. Qais Mangal, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, further said in the statement, adding that the ministry had already begun an investigation into the incident.
In a separate statement, a spokesman for US-led forces in Afghanistan, Bob Purtiman, said that they were operating in a “complex environment” where Taliban militants “do not wear uniforms and use stolen military vehicles to attack government forces.”
“The strikes were conducted after Afghan and US forces came under effective small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire and requested air support in self-defense,” he added.
Afghan military officials say 17 Afghan troopers had been at the post in total, with only two managing to escape the incident unhurt.
At least 15 Afghan troops are killed in the latest US airstrike in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Large parts of Uruzgan still remain under Taliban control. In recent years, the militants have also managed to make repeated incursions into the provincial capital.
Incidents known as “friendly fire” are common in Afghanistan, and have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign troops.
In one of the deadliest, 16 Afghan security forces lost their lives in July 2017, when they were mistakenly targeted by US airstrikes in Helmand Province.
Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end in the wake of a US-led invasion in 2001, but the militant group still continues to attack government and civilian targets as well as foreign forces still present on Afghan soil.
The US forces, meanwhile, have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.