Five U.S. Soldiers Killed In ‘Friendly Fire’ Incident In Afghanistan

The U.S. suffered one of its worst days in the Afghanistan War in recent memory, and it wasn’t due to an enemy attack:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five American Special Operations service members and at least one Afghan soldier were killed when a coalition aircraft accidentally unleashed an airstrike on their position in southern Afghanistan, one of the deadliest instances of friendly fire in more than a decade of war, Afghan and American officials said Tuesday.

The incident occurred Monday night in Zabul Province as coalition and Afghan troops were conducting security operations prior to the presidential runoff election scheduled for Saturday, said Ghulam Sakhi Roghliwanai, the province’s police chief. As the mission drew to a close, Taliban militants ambushed the fighters, prompting them to call for close air support, Mr. Roghliwanai said.

The aircraft accidentally struck the position of the American soldiers, killing five of them along with at least one Afghan soldier. The incident took place in the province’s restive Arghandab district.

Airstrikes have long been a point of contention between the government of Afghanistan and the coalition forces, most often due to civilian casualties in villages or areas with a high concentration of insurgents. President Hamid Karzai has grown increasingly frustrated over such deaths, and has refused to sign a security agreement with the United States until it ceases air attacks of any kind.

Airstrikes that kill coalition soldiers have been less common, but not unheard of. Since the war began, there have been more than a dozen episodes in which airstrikes mistakenly claimed the lives of allies or gunfights erupted between coalition troops unaware they were firing on one another. Among the most highly publicized was the fatal shooting of the former National Football League player Pat Tillman, who was killed by coalition fire in April 2004.

More details of this tragedy will emerge, I’m sure. For the time being, though, it strikes me that this is yet another reason why its a good thing we’re getting the heck out of there. Well, at least for the most part.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, National Security, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We can’t get out of there soon enough.

  2. CB says:

    “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

    End this stupid war.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    Two thoughts: first that it is better that friendly fire casualties are acknowledged. Some of us might recall the movie “Friendly Fire” (it drew some 64million views on a made-for-TV viewing in ’79 — altho the events had occurred in ’70) which “exposed” the Army had covered up the deaths of two soldiers killed when artillery rounds fell short. The scandal came close to Norman Swarzkopf before he got his first star.

    Second: It would be interesting to know the kind of aircraft involved since the A-10s are scheduled for mothballs. When it comes to accuracy, fast-movers are not recommended.