UN: Unlawful US Strikes Against Afghan Drug Labs Cause Civilian Casualties
A special UN report has denounced US airstrikes earlier this year against alleged drug facilities in Afghanistan, saying the attacks were unlawful and caused significant civilian casualties.
The report was released on Wednesday in both Kabul and Geneva, the Associated Press reported.
The UN verified 39 civilian casualties, among them 14 children and a woman, from multiple airstrikes on more than 60 sites the US and Afghan forces identified as drug-production facilities in Bakwa district in western Farah province and in neighboring Delaram district in Nimroz province, according to the report.
UN reported visiting the site with Afghanistan's Human Rights Commission, noting that it is also looking at another possible 37 civilian casualties.
However, US military disputes the findings, criticizing the report's verification methods and denying there were dead civilians.
"UNAMA has assessed that the personnel working inside the drug production facilities were not performing combat functions. They were therefore entitled to protection from attack, and could only have lost this protection if, and for such time, as they had been directly participating in hostilities," the report said.
Facilities that help fund parties who are involved in war are considered civilian objectives under international humanitarian law, and thus drug labs and their workers are unlawful targets, the report concluded.
According to Reuters, since late 2017, US forces have attacked sites believed to be used for processing drugs as part of efforts to cut off funds to the Taliban militant group.