The province of Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan, is bearing the brunt of ongoing U.S. airstrikes against the Taliban and fighters who have declared allegiance to the Islamic State. Half of July’s U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan — at least 358 strikes — took place in eastern Nangarhar, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. And according to United Nations data released last month, U.S. strikes in Nangarhar are more likely to result in civilian casualties than strikes anywhere else the country. On July 23, one of these strikes reportedly killed at least eight civilians, including children, who were attending a funeral, allegations of which the U.S. military is investigating.
Just last week, Afghan officials said that a U.S. attack in Nangarhar killed 16 civilians, including women and children. A spokesman for the U.S. military denied those claims, saying that the strike was “against militants [who] were observed loading weapons into a vehicle.”
But in the remote and dangerous areas where most of these strikes take place, it is often impossible to know the true identities of the victims, and many strikes go unreported. And among local villagers, distrust of both the United States and President Ashraf Ghani’s U.S.-backed government runs high.
In interviews with The Intercept this past May, villagers in Khogyani, a Taliban-controlled district of Nangarhar, described living with the threat of U.S. Special Operations ground raids and regular drone strikes. Few foreigners visit Khogyani, and even Afghans from the provincial capital, Jalalabad, prefer to avoid its villages, where insurgents rule the ground and U.S. warplanes haunt the skies.
“A few days ago, another drone strike took place. The victims were innocent farmers and their women and children,” said Shafiqullah, a driver from Basakhel.