NATO launches inquiry into Afghan drone strikes

ISAF investigators are focusing on a Sept. 7 drone strike in the volatile Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, along the Afghan-Pakistan border. 

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The drone strike reportedly took out a senior al Qaeda leader, as well as 10 other insurgents, as they were driving through the province. 

However, local Afghan government leaders in Kunar claim the truck struck by the airstrike was carrying women and children, along with the al Qaeda fighters. 

"Four women, four children, two drivers, a merchant and three suspected [insurgents] were killed" and a four-year-old girl was seriously wounded in the attack, Kunar governor Shuja ul-Mulk Jalala told the news agency. 

Despite the ongoing ISAF investigation, command officials claim all the individuals killed in the Kunar strike were terror suspects. 

"There were no signs of civilians in the vicinity," at the time of the strike, Crichton added.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai banned local forces from requesting U.S. or coalition airstrikes, due to a rash of civilian casualties related to those strikes. 

In April, American fighter jets bombed a home in Kunar where a senior Taliban commander was suspected of hiding. 

At the time, Afghan and coalition forces attempted to storm the home, which triggered a massive firefight with Taliban gunmen in the area. 

During the battle, Afghan forces called in U.S. airstrikes for support. After the airstrike, local residents claimed 10 children who were in the home were also killed in that attack. 

Coalition commanders claim Afghan and American ground troops were taking heavy fire from the home, forcing them to call in air support. 

The Karzai government has long opposed the use of allied airpower, especially armed drone strikes, in the country due to the high rate of civilian casualties associated with those strikes. 

Washington and its allies claim those strikes, particularly those carried out by armed drones, have been a vital piece of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.