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NATO airstrike that kills Afghan soldiers deals fresh blow to ties

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Afgan soldiers hit by drone strikeA NATO airstrike on Thursday morning killed at least five Afghan soldiers and injured at least eight others in a tragic incident of friendly fire that is likely to further inflame the battered Washington-Kabul relations.

The strike, which hit an Afghan National Army outpost in the country’s volatile Logar Province, located about 50 miles from Kabul, came from a drone, according to The New York Times. It was most likely “the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone,” the Logar provincial spokesman told the newspaper. A Logar provincial spokesman described the outpost as the “the front line against Taliban,” the Washington Post reported.

The development is a fresh blow to the fragile and increasingly fractious relationship between Washington and Kabul. The US has struggled to reach a security deal with outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai for continued US presence in the country after the international troops are pulled out in late 2014. NATO airstrikes – and Afghan ability to prosecute them for civilian deaths – are the key sticking point, and today’s events stand certain to widen the rift further.   

The US-led Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that it has launched an investigation “to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident…. We value the strong relationship with our Afghan partners, and we will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again.”

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