In the past 10 years, an estimated 16,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.
The United States killed 30 more Wednesday when a drone strike intended for an Islamic State stronghold instead struck a group of farmers resting after a day picking pine nuts.
In addition to the 30 who were killed, 40 were injured. “The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters, which first reported the news. Others said 150-200 laborers were present, many of them in tents, when the attack occurred in Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province. Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that the strike took place and that the U.S. is “working with local officials to determine the facts.”
According to the U.N., nearly 1,400 civilians died in Afghanistan from January to July of this year as the Islamic State’s presence in the region has intensified.
The errant drone strike on Wednesday is only one example of the many horrific consequences of America’s longest war, which has resulted in thousands and thousands of dead civilians and an fear among the living that they could be next at any moment, even while lying down in a tent after a day of picking pine nuts.
“Such mistakes cannot be justified,” Jalalabad resident Javed Mansur told Reuters after the attack. “American forces must realize [they] will never win the war by killing innocent civilians.”
President Trump has claimed on multiple occasions that ISIS has been defeated, most notably last December when he did so in announcing he would pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, before later agree to a partial withdrawal. “We have beaten them and we have beaten them badly,” Trump said of ISIS at the time.
The following month, then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress that ISIS in fact “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.” He added that ISIS “has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.”
Trump responded by lashing out at Coats and the intelligence officials testifying beside him, tweeting that they should “go back to school” while arguing that the situation was under control. “When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant,” he wrote. “Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting. Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful?”
Talks have not been successful. Though the caliphate has been tamped down in Iraq and Syria, ISIS forces in Afghanistan have gained strength. Trump had been scheduled to talk with Afghan and Taliban officials at Camp David earlier this month to discuss how to bring an end to the now-18-year war, reportedly through a deal that would involve the gradual withdrawal of the 14,000 American troops still in Afghanistan. The deal ultimately fell apart and the meeting never happened.