KABUL — U.S. airstrikes in May on suspected Taliban drug facilities killed nearly 40 Afghan noncombatants, 14 of them children, the United Nations said Wednesday in a report probing civilian deaths.
The large number of civilians killed during operations against militants has been one of the main sources of popular anger in the country and has widened the gap between ordinary Afghans and the U.S.-backed central government.”
U.S. and Afghan forces have stepped up ground and air offensives against narcotics labs since late 2017 and destroyed scores of them in an effort to deprive the Taliban of income from the lucrative drug trade, which is said to be funding the insurgency.
After a joint investigation with Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, the U.N. Assistance Mission concluded that the operations have caused “large number of civilian casualties.”
It specifically pointed to operations in Bakwa in western Farah province, and neighboring Nimruz province as places where civilians had died in such operations.
“The U.N. verified 39 civilian casualties, among them 14 children and one woman, from multiple airstrikes on more than 60 sites that the United States Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) identified as drug-production facilities,” the report stated.
It added that it was working to verify an additional 37 civilian deaths, mostly women and children.
The U.S. military rejected the report and called into question the U.N. mission’s methods and findings.
“Sources with limited information, conflicted motives and violence agendas are not credible,” said Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the force.