Story at a glance…
Following a drone bombing of 10 civilians, remaining family members demand answers.
Justification for the strike changed from the first official story.
The strike comes days after a special investigative report was released that details the folly of the most-recent drone war in Afghanistan.
KABUL, Afghanistan. September 3rd, 2021. The family that was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul in the days following the suicide bombing of the Hamid Karzai Airport which may have killed between 20 and 185 people, are demanding more information about the strike from the Pentagon and State Dept. who have released scant details.
Ramal Ahmadi, Associated Press reports, was watching cartoons with his nephew when a hellfire missile exploded into the car of his brother who had just arrived in front of his house. Ahmadi lost 10 members of his family that day, 6 of which were children.
Early statements by CENTCOM claimed the car was carrying “multiple suicide bombers”. Now Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley has changed the official story, saying that “at least one” of those killed was an Islamic State “facilitator”.
Ahmadi is not buying it, and is demanding proof that there was clear evidence of a suicide bombing threat from the car carrying his three-year old daughter among others.
“They have to give us answers. Is our blood so worthless, we don’t even get an explanation?” Ahmadi asked. “They have such high technology they can see an ant on the ground, but they couldn’t see a yard full of children?”
The incident is receiving wide news coverage because it happened in connection to the shocking bombing on the 26th, and because press had filled the city covering the evacuation. Many other such attacks have occurred without such thorough reporting, for example an incident when a drone supposedly going after IS forces killed 30 pine nut farmers.
“None of it mattered”
For those with the unhappy task of keeping status on the drone operations in Afghanistan, Ahmadi’s story is nothing out of the ordinary, nor is the senseless murder of the pine nut farmers.
In the documents leaked to The Intercept in 2014 by whistleblower Daniel Hale, who was recently sentenced with 45 months in prison, the drone war in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains, dubbed Operation Haymaker, was shown to have killed hundreds of civilians.
In one particular five-month stretch of Haymaker, 90% of those exploded were not the target of the drone’s missile, amounting to an official report of 203 dead individuals who were not members of the Taliban nor al-Qaeda.
Recent reporting from Connecting Vets’ Jack Murphy on the drone operations by Task Force South West in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province shows that a mixture of lies, nihilism, and need for diplomatic leverage drove drone pilots to target civilians essentially as a rule.
Whereas the loosening of the Rules of Engagement to target members of ISIS in Syria proved effective at killing large amounts of men with AK-47s slung over their shoulders, the same loosening in Afghanistan proved disastrous for rural Afghans particularly in the Helmand Province.
“According to three military sources involved in such operations, merely holding a radio in Helmand province was enough of a reason to warrant a drone strike in 2019,” writes Murphy. In order to push hard for an end to the war, Trump loosened the Pentagon’s Rules of Engagement to ramp up military pressure on the Taliban. One of the restrictions he removed was the need for military hardware to be visually-present on a drone camera before a strike could be authorized.
The Taliban had been dismantling cell phone towers in Helmand for years, and simply radios and walkie-talkies were the only source of coms, both for the Taliban, but also everyone else.
With lethal force being authorized in seconds by mid-level officers for things as vague as carrying a walkie-talkie, over two dozen interviews with drone pilots and those involved at South West gave Murphy a macabre transcript, with some saying they would just follow people around “waiting for them to fuck up,” or “the drone strikes were punitive. Killing for the sake of killing”.
In one instance, which darkens Hale’s 2014 number of 203 civilians killed during Haymaker, a drone pilot launched a hellfire missile at a motorcyclist in Helmand at the exact moment when he was passing through an intersection wherein another motorcycle, rode by two men and an infant, was crossing. All three died immediately while their original target passed unscathed. That strike, according to Murphy, was counted as a single civilian death, likely the infant.
“It’s nihilistic, there is no point,” a second source, one of the drone operators supporting South West, told Murphy. “It was clear that we were not making a difference”.
And indeed it made no difference, as another drone pilot told Connecting Vets, who asked the former-operator if none of it mattered. He replied in the affirmative.