At least 18 civilians were killed last week in airstrikes by international forces in Afghanistan's Helmand province, an initial United Nations inquiry has concluded. American military officials say their aircraft have conducted around 30 airstrikes in Helmand in the past week. A spokesman said they were looking into the inquiry.
"We are investigating the allegations and working diligently to determine whether civilians were killed or injured as a result of U.S. airstrikes," said Brigadier General Charles Cleveland.
The NATO-led military mission has deployed hundreds of troops to Helmand in a bid to help Afghan security forces in their war against Taliban insurgents.
American aircraft and Special Forces have also provided combat support, with at least one U.S. soldier wounded in recent fighting.
The U.N. said the strikes had been conducted by "international military forces," but only U.S. aircraft have been involved in recent coalition strikes, according to military officials. The U.N. said a Taliban suicide bomber also killed at least seven civilians in an attack in Lashkar Gah on Saturday.
The report comes after the Red Cross temporarily halted operations in Afghanistan due of their members being gunned down. Last week General John Nicholson told Congress: "I believe we're in a stalemate." referring to America's war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, which has now entered its 16th year. Testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Nicholson said he has a "shortfall of a few thousand" troops needed to train, advise and assist Afghan government forces.
President Trump has not yet made official statements on any future Afghanistan policy even though, during a phone call with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, he said he would consider sending more soldiers to defeat the Taliban. Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the president would seek the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis, a highly decorated 4-Star Marine General. "I think the president will heed the advice of the generals and Secretary Mattis. That conversation has yet to happen," he said.
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