While the world’s attention is fixated on the fallout of the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, yet another year of senseless bloodshed in Afghanistan continues with little fanfare or notice. Local officials in the Shindand district of Herat province say that an American airstrike against a Taliban splinter group commander has killed or wounded over 60 civilians, along with the target, Mullah Nangyalay.
Al Jazeera reports that “‘According to the people, over 60 civilians were killed and wounded in the operation,’ Toryalai Tahiri, deputy head of Herat provincial council, told Afghan local media TOLO News.”
The grimly tragic irony is that Mullah Nangialai Khan and his fighters had been part of a breakaway Taliban faction that had been provided with financial and military support by the U.S. and the Afghan government in hopes of “sowing rifts” and “nudging the insurgency towards peace talks.”
Nangialai’s group had been given cash, weapons, and ammo back in 2016 to aid them in their efforts to take control of the opium-rich Zerkoh valley from a rival Taliban faction, but like every time the United States tries to play puppetmaster with extremist groups, it didn’t work out.
The United States paid and armed a terror group to rule this valley with an iron fist, then made innocent civilians pay with their lives when he was no longer useful.
The quietly released “Afghanistan Papers” alleges that the Pentagon had no idea what they were doing in Afghanistan or why they were doing it throughout the nineteen years of endless slaughter, and it is cases like that of Mullah Nangialai that make it clear that they still haven’t figured it out.
The 60 civilian casualties from Wednesday come on the heels of a gruesome September airstrike in which the U.S mistook a camp of pine nut farmers for an IS hideout, killing 30 people and wounded 40 more. The civilian casualty rate has skyrocketed in the last year, with over 8,000 innocent Afghans dead or wounded in the first ten months of 2019 alone.
But once again, the mass killing of innocent people will pass without the briefest of mention in the American media or by any politicians, yet another repulsive reminder about how normalized and desensitized we have become to the mass murder of innocent people of color by the American imperial machine.
The refusal of the mainstream media and political leadership of either party to challenge or even acknowledge the slaughter being carried out in our name is an affront to human rights and to the values that the United States is supposed to stand for. The American failure to recognize and mourn the lives of the Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Afghans killed by our bombs contributes to their dehumanization and feeds into right-wing Islamophobic tropes that paint all Muslims as terrorists who deserve their deaths.
While we rightfully fret over the prospect of yet another endless war with Iran, we must not forget about the other wars we are currently waging, or the horrifying atrocities being carried out in the name of “freedom” — and demand that our next president hold our military accountable for their crimes and their lies.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.