A day after a battle in this village on the outskirts of Kunduz, residents readily pointed out the smears of what they said was American blood on a packed-dirt street. But they were less forthcoming about whether there had been any Taliban in their neighborhood when the Americans were killed on Thursday.
The dead-end street is so narrow, 10 feet across and hemmed in by the high mud walls around homes on either side, that the answer was obvious: The gunfire that killed two American Special Forces soldiers could have come only from their street.
“There are no Taliban here,” said Mohammad Ayub, an elder in Boz Qandahari, about four miles from the center of the city of Kunduz. A journalist visiting the village on Friday, just a day after the battle, however, saw two dozen armed Taliban militants lounging idly on the street and inside the walls around its houses.
The narrative by now is a familiar one. American ground forces get into trouble, and they respond by calling for airstrikes, which often kill civilians. According to the latest figures for Thursday’s clash, 36 civilians were killed, along with 14 Taliban fighters and at least five coalition soldiers.