At least 30 civilians died in May US strikes in Afghanistan: UN probe

The US military in 2017 and early 2018 carried out multiple strikes against Taliban opium processing plants. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 October 2019

At least 30 civilians died in May US strikes in Afghanistan: UN probe

  • US military bombed dozens of sites it identified as Taliban methamphetamine labs
  • US Forces-Afghanistan questioned the UN agency’s methodology and findings

KABUL: At least 30 civilians were killed when the US bombed several drug-making facilities in western Afghanistan in May, a UN agency said in a report Wednesday, though the US military immediately disputed the findings.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) conducted an investigation over four months looking into what happened May 5 when the US military bombed dozens of sites it had identified as Taliban methamphetamine labs.
Soon after the strikes in Bakwa district of Farah province, and parts of the bordering Delaram district in Nimroz province, UNAMA said it began to receive reports of “significant civilian harm.”
After a fact-finding mission to some of the impact sites and face-to-face interviews with 21 people impacted by the strikes, UNAMA said it had “verified 39 civilian casualties (30 deaths, five injured and four undetermined), including 14 children and one woman, due to the 5 May air strikes.”
The agency went on to say that it had also received “credible information” about an additional 30 deaths — mostly women and children — and was working to further verify these claims.
US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) blasted the UNAMA findings, questioned the agency’s methodology and insisted its “precision” strikes had accurately targeted meth labs.
“In addition to imagery collection during the precision strikes, USFOR-A conducted exhaustive assessments of the facilities and surrounding areas after the strikes,” the command said in a statement.
“Combined assessments determined the strikes did not cause deaths or injuries to non-combatants.”
Central to the disagreement between the US and the UN is the legal definition of what constitutes a legitimate military target.
UNAMA in its report contended the drug facilities were owned and operated by criminal groups, so “did not meet the definition of legitimate military objectives under international law.”
The US, however, insisted the labs were run and owned by the Taliban, who used revenue to “fund ongoing indiscriminate violence against innocent Afghans.”
The US military in 2017 and early 2018 carried out multiple strikes against Taliban opium processing plants, but the expensive efforts had little impact on the insurgents’ revenue stream and risked alienating rural populations and Afghan farmers, many of whom rely on the poppy crop.
The military then switched its focus to the more lucrative meth industry.
A US defense official told AFP the military had not conducted any additional strikes on meth labs since the May 5 incident.


EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

Updated 13 December 2019

EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

  • EU is concerned about the rapid speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe
  • Johnson has until July 1 to request for a trade talks extension

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned of the tight timing for securing a trade deal with Britain, hours after Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a crushing election victory.
“The time frame ahead of us is very challenging,” von der Leyen said, following a discussion by EU leaders on the way forward after Brexit, now expected on January 31.
On the “first of February, we go to work,” she said.
EU Council President Charles Michel warned that the 27 member states would not accept a deal blindly, stressing that the bloc would insist that Britain respect European norms to win the deal.
“There is no question of concluding a deal at any price, said Michel, who coordinates EU summits, after the talks.
“Negotiations are over when the results are balanced and guarantee respect for the different concerns,” the former Belgian premier said.
“We have a way of doing things based on experience, transparency and maintaining unity” in the EU, he added.
EU is worried about the breakneck speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe and any British effort to undermine the unity among the remaining 27 members.
In a text released after the talks, the 27 EU leaders called for “as close as possible a future relationship with the UK” while warning that it “will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will direct trade negotiations, which the leaders will follow closely “and provide further guidance as necessary, fully consistent with the EU’s best interest,” conclusions added.
Johnson has until July 1 to ask for a trade talks extension.
If he refuses to extend the negotiation period, a no-deal Brexit will loom at the end of 2020, with Britain in danger of an abrupt cut in trade ties with Europe, endangering its economy.