Afghanistan, September 28th, 2019. 18 days after President Trump’s administration and the Taliban nearly agreed to end the longest and most misguided war in American history, 56 drone, jet fighter, bomber, rocket, and artillery strikes pounded the blood-drenched fields and hills of Afghanistan in a single 24 hour period.
Those caught in this flurry of violence, friend or foe, may have only just been recovering from the 37 drone, jet fighter, bomber, rocket, and artillery strikes that pounded the blood-drenched fields and hills of Afghanistan just the day before; or from the 30 strikes the day before that, or the 44 strikes before that.
In total, the month of September saw America’s mailed fist launch 1,113 strikes on the Taliban and Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) targets, averaging out to 37.1 strikes per day.
“U.S. forces do not purport that strikes are decisive,” reads a press release from Nato’s Resolute Support September operations summary page. It should also read that “U.S. forces do not purport that strikes are against only enemy targets”.
To provide a bit of context, 363 bombing runs were carried out by allied forces during the Battle of Berlin, while one day of modern combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March – April 2003 saw an average of 623 sorties per day, totaling almost 19,000 by the end of the operation.
The UN which has been steadily releasing civilian casualty figures since the war began reports that 2019 has been “unprecedented”, and totals of civilians killed or wounded is close to equaling the worst days of the war so far.
While civilian deaths from both Taliban operations as well as the 1,113 strikes conducted by the U.S. are counted, the UN found in June of this year that American and Afghan Security Forces had more blood on their hands than the Taliban.
CENTCOM General McKenzie said after talks broke down with the Taliban in September that “…whatever targets are available, whatever targets can be lawfully and ethically struck, I think we’re going to pursue those targets”.
Clearly CENTCOM has leapt at the opportunity to do just that, as strike numbers have gradually risen since peace talks with the Taliban have concluded.
As World at Large reported at the time, “lawfully and ethically struck” has always seemed to be in the eyes of the generals in charge, not independent observers, journalists, or human rights groups who may look at the situation objectively.
It’s no surprise that American Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesperson for the Afghan Security Forces disputed the UN estimates in June as “inaccurate”. However the Pentagon has never released civilian casualty figures, and the conflict, as revealed by Australian journalist Julian Assange has played host to instances of lowballing civilian deaths over and over again.
United Nations figures released today show record-high levels of civilian casualties in #Afghanistan and indicate an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to do more to protect civilians from harm. Read more: https://t.co/hdWH6Qjl1k#HumanRights #ZeroCivilianCasualtiesNow pic.twitter.com/MzESO4f98x
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) October 17, 2019
Victims of war
This incredible bombing campaign of September was reported on by the UN which detailed that 41% of all civilian casualties this year, over 5,000 now as the UN see it, have been women and children.
Ariel strikes were reported to be the most lethal for civilians, with more deaths coming from ariel strikes than IEDs or ground-based attacks from small arms fire by opposition forces.
Certainly the Taliban’s operations in recent weeks have quickly tilted the responsibility for civilian casualties towards their side, but the United States, a 1st world power of extreme wealth and military and technological sophistication that has long since achieved or failed any stated objectives in Afghanistan should not be sending 650* innocent people to the grave this September with absolutely nothing to show for it.
The Taliban control more of Afghanistan than at any point during the war, including since before we arrived, and the dual-purpose of attacking both the ISKP and the Taliban is a contradictory mission.
A missed opportunity
Like the known-shoddy relationship between ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq but even more hostile, the Taliban have no interest in allowing any group carrying the doctrine of the recently deceased Al-Baghdadi to challenge their hold on Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s mission has always been to remove the foreign invaders, and recapture control over their home nation for the purpose of establishing an Islamic State – not like the now-vanquished one in Syria and Iraq, but a functioning Islamic State like the Republic of Iran or the Gulf States.
The evidence of this is plain to see since after 9 months of negotiations, the United States almost concluded a peace agreement with the Taliban – one that went so far as to exclude the government in Kabul which America installed and which the Taliban see as illegitimate. No one could imagine such a scenario if those on the other side of the table were members of ISIS.
If America wants to defeat ISKP or prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, which were the Taliban’s promises under the peace agreement in principle, one would think the U.S. should have just carried through the with agreement.
In a case of poor timing however, just as Trump was heading to meet the Taliban representatives a suicide attack in Kabul killed an American sergeant.
Now it seems the deal is dead in the water, the gloves have been taken off CENTCOM and NATO by the President’s orders, and the longest war in American history will continue through the end of it’s 18th year – one of the bloodiest yet.
*According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism piece, “Almost 40 strikes every day in Afghanistan last month”.