17 killed in Afghan air strike

KABUL: An air strike in southern Helmand province has left at least 17 policemen dead, according to the provincial council chief for Helmand Mohammad Karim Atal.
Another 14 were wounded in the fatal incident which took place on the Helmand-Kandahar highway, Atal added.
A spokesman for the provincial governor of Helmand, Omar Zwak, however, said an investigation was under way to find out who conducted the operation.
Earlier Zwak had said that eight police officers were killed and another 10 were injured in the air strike, which he blamed on Nato’s Resolute Support.
Nato’s Resolute Support mission provides training, advice and assistance to the Afghan defence and security forces. It is not engaged in combat operations.
Afghan forces based in Helmand have denied conducting any operation on Thursday night, while US and Nato forces neither confirmed nor denied conducting an aerial operation, according to councillor Atal.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Qais Mangal, said the operation was conducted by Nato forces in the area, without giving further information.
Uncoordinated aerial operations and false intelligence often lead to civilian and military casualties in Afghanistan.
Afghan and international forces regularly conduct ground and aerial operations against the Taliban, while talks continue for a political solution.
The militants also stage small and large-scale attacks on Afghan and international personnel and facilities on an almost daily basis.
Meanwhile, election officials in Afghanistan should do more to ensure delayed presidential polls can take place in September, the US Embassy in Kabul said on Thursday.
The election was initially slated for April 20, but as the date drew close it grew obvious that overwhelmed poll officials were unprepared — owing to them still tallying results from a nationwide parliamentary ballot in October.
Amid the push to finalise those results, officials first delayed the presidential election until July 20, and then again to September 28. Final results were only announced this week.
In a statement, the US Embassy urged the Independent Election Commission and Afghan authorities “do their part to take the decisions and actions necessary to give the Afghan people their voice at the ballot box this year.”
Among its recommendations, the embassy said the election commission should present a clear plan and budget request, as well as hire and train sufficient staff to complete voter registration and preparations.
“The Afghan people deserve the opportunity to choose their next leadership through transparent elections in September,” the statement read.
“We are prepared to continue supporting this process.”
The embassy statement comes after Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, met with Afghan leaders in Kabul this week, when she stressed the importance of holding the September election.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s term technically expires on May 22, and his opponents have said his administration should make way for a caretaker government until presidential elections can be held.
— Agencies