In Afghanistan, another drone attack carried out by the US forces early in January to apparently hit a splinter Taliban group also led to the deaths of 10 civilians, including three women and three children, an Afghan rights official and a council member said on Wednesday. As per the Afghan official, the US-led airstrike took place in the Western Herat province of the country. Apart from the casualties, five other civilians including two children were wounded.
There was no immediate response from the Afghan military or US forces, the AP reported. However, Wakil Ahmad Karokhi, a provincial council member in Herat, said the January 8 strike also killed the commander of a Taliban splinter group, known as Mullah Nangyalia, along with 15 other militants. The funeral of the Taliban commander was held the next day and was attended by dozens of militants from the armed group.
An airstrike by US-led forces in a Taliban-controlled district in central Ghazni province killed at least five civilians late in September last year, local villagers said. Angry villagers carried the bodies to the provincial capital shouting, “Death to Ashraf Ghani,” referring to the Afghan president, and “Death to America.” Later in the same month last year, airstrikes led by the Afghan government and backed by the US killed at least 40 civilians at a wedding party. The operation against the Taliban in Musa Qala district targetted a house near a wedding party, which was apparently used by the militant group to train suicide bombers, an Afghan defence official had stated.
The Afghan government said that in that particular raid, 22 Taliban members were killed and 14 were arrested. Among those arrested, 5 were Pakistani and one was Bangladeshi. The Taliban today control nearly half of Afghanistan, and continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces, even as they hold peace talks with Washington and have given a US peace envoy a document outlining their offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan. Scores of Afghan civilians have also been killed in the crossfire and by roadside bombs planted by militants or in anti-Taliban operations undertaken by government forces assisted by American troops.
A UN report stated that the civilian deaths caused by the US and Afghan Forces are rising and surpassing for the first time those caused by the Taliban and other insurgents. It found that US and Afghan forces killed 717 civilians and injured 680 in the first six months of 2019, up 31% from the same period in 2018. The Taliban and IS killed 531 and wounded 1,437, down 43%.
According to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the US conducted more bombings and drone strikes in Afghanistan in August than in any previous month in 2019 — 783, compared to 613 in July and 441 in June. As per the report, from January to June in 2019, aerial operations have caused 519 civilian casualties (363 deaths and 156 injured), 150 of which were child casualties (89 deaths and 61 injured).
A month ago, the US resumed its talks with the Taliban in Qatar, three months after the US President Donald Trump abruptly halted the diplomatic efforts and called it "dead." The US President Donald Trump had confirmed the resumption of talks, however, had refused to give a timeline for the drawdown of US troops. "Yes," Trump told a small group of reporters at the Bagram Air Field on November 29.
(With AP inputs)