A US drone strike, intended for a supposed IS hide-out, has instead hit and killed at least 30 innocent civilians in the eastern province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan on Thursday. In addition to the deaths at least 40 more were injured, all coming from the pine-nut fields where they had been working for the day in the mountainous Wazir Tangi area.
The workers were apparently resting after the day’s work, and had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when the US drone hit them. 200 more laborers were resting in tents around the area, with many claiming that there was no reason why a US drone should have mistaken their open fields for an IS hide-out.
Angered by the relentless killing of innocent civilians by both the US-led coalition in Afghanistan as well as by the recent increase in attacks by the Taliban and IS, many local Afghans staged a protest on Thursday as they carried the dead to be buried in Jalalabad city. Many in Nangarhar province have called for a formal apology and compensation from the US government. Javed Mansur, of Jalalabad city, told Reuters news:
Such mistakes cannot be justified. American forces must realize (they) will never win the war by killing innocent civilians.”
IS fighters first began publicly recruiting and attacking inside Afghanistan in early 2014, with innocent Afghan civilians caught up in the middle of IS, US, Taliban, and Afghan governmental forces fighting almost indiscriminately. The US estimates that there are currently around 2,000 IS members operating inside Afghanistan.
To combat this, the US has roughly 14,000 troops currently stationed inside the country, whose agenda is to help train Afghan forces against both the Taliban and IS insurgencies. Earlier this month, peace-talks were underway between the US and the Taliban with regards to ending the almost 18-year long war. US President Trump pulled out of the talks, angering both human rights groups as well as the Taliban, who warned the US that attacks will increase in revenge.
Hundreds of innocent Afghan civilians have been killed in attacks since the abrupt ending of the peace-talks between the US and the Taliban. The UN states that more than 4,000 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the year, and with an increase in the number of attacks across the country, many are fearing this number will rise. With the Afghan elections coming up on the 28th of September, the Taliban are also projected to continue this increase in attacks, with many innocent civilians fearful for their lives as they continue to be the victims of a proxy war between numerous forces bent on control and power-grabs.
The US has of today now admitted to the drone attack that killed 30 farmers while aiming for an IS hide-out, but has stated that “we are working with local officials to determine whether there was collateral damage”. Since 2009, the UN has estimated that more than 16,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, with more than 30,000 injured in attacks. As the US, the Taliban, and IS continue to view the deaths of innocent civilians as simply collateral damage, those killed and affected by the relentless fighting continue to suffer while governments and insurgencies act with impunity.