No end in sight to U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan

Aftermath of U.S. drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 people, including 7 children, on Aug. 30.

On Aug. 26, a suicide bomb was detonated at the airport in Kabul amid the chaos of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Two hundred people were killed, including 13 U.S. soldiers. Reporters paid tribute to the U.S. troops that died, but barely mentioned the deaths of up to 170 Afghan people in the same attack. 

Then, ostensibly in response to the attack that ISIS-K took credit for, the Biden White House ordered two successive drone strikes. The second U.S. drone strike killed 10 people, most of them children. None of them were terrorists. 

The dismissal of Afghan deaths typifies and speaks volumes about the character and the true goals of the 20-year war.

The deaths of innocents shouldn’t come as a surprise. The war was justified by lies about elevating the lives of the Afghan people, or promoting the rights and safety of women and girls. 

Inching closer to the truth, speaking at the Virginia Military Institute in 2002, President George W. Bush reversed his campaign assertions that he was against “nation-building,” an imperialist euphemism for installing a government that would be compliant to the needs of U.S. imperialism. “After 9/11, I changed my mind,” he said.

But “nation-building” or protecting the rights of Afghan women and girls could never have been achieved and could not have been the goal of the warmakers as they bombed and shot and shredded any hope of peace or progress for the Afghan people. 

The remainder of the war — even after the 2011 capture and execution of Osama Bin Laden — was just continuous widespread destruction and mass murder being meted out by the U.S. military and all its paid mercenaries.

U.S. troops open fire at airport

On Sept. 1, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, called for a full investigation of U.S. war crimes during the 20-year war and occupation. He referred to the accounts of survivors of the Aug. 26 bombing at the Kabul airport who said that U.S. troops opened fire on the crowd after the blast. 

An article in Xinhua quotes a military officer who said only 20 of the 100 bodies examined were killed by the suicide bomb blast. The others were killed by gunfire. The article gives more detail and raises serious doubts about how the horrible event was reported by the Pentagon and U.S. media. 

Wang also referred to other massacres by the U.S. and NATO forces.

The history of the war is checkered with reports of U.S. massacres. There was a wedding banquet bombed in 2002, killing dozens and injuring at least 100. In 2008, a U.S. aircraft bombed a village in Herat, killing 100 — including 50 children and 19 women. 

In March 2012, a U.S. Army staff sergeant was arrested for going house to house murdering 16 people. Members of Afghanistan’s pro-U.S. National Assembly alleged that up to 20 U.S. soldiers had been involved. Exercising U.S. extraterritoriality, the Pentagon was in charge of the trial, and it was handled as the act of one individual.

Afghanistan is the most “droned” country in the world. Since 2015, there have been 13,072 confirmed U.S. drone strikes that have killed up to 10,076 people and injured up to 1,769, according to the British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Another whistleblower jailed

In March of this year, former Air Force intelligence officer Daniel Hales was sentenced to 4 years in prison for leaking U.S. military documents which revealed that during a 4-year stretch, 90% of deaths from drone strikes in Afghanistan were of people who were not the intended targets. 

The papers were leaked in 2013, meaning that Pentagon and White House officials have known that drone strikes are mass murder and continued using them in Afghanistan for at least eight more years.

The war had transitioned into mainly drone strikes in later years. But combined with bombs from piloted aircraft and thousands of special forces raids aided by friendly forces on the ground or nearby, more than 70,000 Afghan civilians and an equal number of armed combatants perished. 

A center for the detention and torture of Afghan “terror suspects” — similar to Abu Ghraib in Iraq — functioned throughout the war at Bagram Air Force Base. As the U.S. withdrawal commenced, that center was burned and destroyed by its functionaries.

Although the “boots on the ground” phase of the imperialist effort has been defeated, every indication is that the imperialist drive to destroy any resistance in Afghanistan will continue. 

Given the possibility of China, Russia and/or Iran helping to rebuild Afghanistan, the U.S. has frozen $9.5 billion of Afghanistan’s money, held by the U.S. Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund. 

Another $1.3 billion is held in international accounts in euros and British pounds and subject to the “long reach of American sanctions and influence,” according to the Aug. 18 New York Times. Access to another $12 billion in aid that had been agreed on by 60 countries is also now blocked.

On Aug. 31, in Biden’s speech about the withdrawal, he asserted — as his administration has in the recent past — the right of the U.S. to continue using drones to wage war in Afghanistan. He said, “We have what’s called Over The Horizon [OTH] capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground, or very few if needed.”

The people of Afghanistan will find a way to regroup and rebuild. Abolishing the Pentagon, the CIA and all the U.S. agencies of death and destruction has to be the mission of the anti-imperialist movement.