Abdul Matin was resting under a tree with seven fellow Afghan soldiers this week when three U.S. helicopters opened fire. Matin was shot in the abdomen, one arm and both legs. He is lucky to be alive. Four other soldiers were also wounded.
Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in air strikes by international troops in Afghanistan this year, Afghan officials say, feeding a perception that NATO-led and U.S. coalition forces do not take enough care when using air strikes.
Though it is rare for foreign troops to hit their Afghan army allies, the latest incident is the second reported case of friendly fire in less than two weeks. Foreign troops killed nine Afghan soldiers in an air strike in the southeast last month…
In a twist of fate, Matin was evacuated by a U.S. helicopter to a state-of-the-art trauma hospital in Bagram, the main U.S. base in the country, where he is recovering after surgery. Matin speaks slowly and grimaces as he retells his story. “I’m in severe pain,” he says. He does not understand why he was attacked, but insists he is not angry at those who shot him.
“I wanted to fight the Taliban, but in fact, I was shot by my helpers. I don’t know who is my enemy, the Taliban or those who shot at me,” he says.
The usual excuses for friendly fire incidents should not prevail. The helicopters did not come under fire and, so far, no one has claimed they were receiving fire.
There could be and should be adequate means in place to determine whether or not those folks sitting under a tree on the ground are a target of opportunity. How about it?