We could not leave peacefully. Our departure, and the chaos surrounding it, was clearly not enough. It was as if we demanded the final word.
On Aug. 29, a drone strike launched by the United States struck Afghanistan. It killed ten people in all, seven of which were children. While it intended to wipe out an ISIS-K member, this event instead marks yet another American misstep in a long and devastating relationship in the Middle East.
The American military response to the drone strike has been quite contradictory. Since the attack, top officials have insisted that it was a legitimate operation resulting in the death of an ISIS-K member. However, their attitudes shifted when more information was revealed, and a tragic story came to light. The targeted ISIS-K member who was driving a suspicious van filled with presumed bombs was, in fact, a man who worked for an American humanitarian organization bringing water for his clients. Zemari Ahmadi was mistakenly targeted and then murdered. The U.S. military reaffirmed that it was a “tragic mistake” and that the strike was conducted following “reasonable certainty.”
But how long would the American government have kept this tragedy a secret had there not been a media stir? Would they have just simply swept this attack under the rug?
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced an investigation into the drone strike and the circumstances surrounding it, its final report set to be completed by Nov. 5. In the coming weeks and months, the public will gradually learn more about this story and garner a more solid understanding of how such a common military occurrence could have gone so horribly wrong.
Drone strikes are indeed a common occurrence and are often used as a military tactic by the United States to conduct violent foreign affairs. Since 2015 there have been an estimated 300 to 909 civilians killed in Afghanistan alone by American drone strikes, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. More than 13,000 drone strikes were conducted, and between 66 to 184 children were murdered as a result.
The disastrous drone strike in August was not the first to put innocents in harm’s way. U.S. President Joe Biden’s pursuit of an “over-the-horizon” approach allows the U.S. to conduct operations without a military presence in a foreign country to combat ISIS-K. This does not show signs of drone attacks stopping. Drone strikes are already a problematic method of combat to manage as they are only ever as effective as the intelligence provided; therefore, when a military presence disappears from a region and is unable to provide intelligence, there will be little success without innocent casualties.
So what might we gain from conducting the investigation? We may find a particular decision responsible for such a disastrous fallout, and we may be able to identify a military official whom we can hold accountable. It is a necessary action to take, but it is ultimately rudimentary and fails to acknowledge the larger problem. This botched operation can not be taken on its own but rather as part of an image that demonstrates the extreme nationalist attitudes of the United States. Moreover, when a country officially declares an end to war, they may continue to bomb neighborhoods and kill innocents in the name of preserving western ideals. The civilians caught in the crossfire will simply be tragedies, but ones that will hardly impede America’s efforts.
There will be no end to the United States’ involvement in the Middle East, especially Afghanistan, despite the efforts made to flee it. It will not be enough to condemn the military’s hasty actions for launching a strike with weak evidence and a potentially catastrophic fallout. The soldiers may be out of the country, but the United States is still very much a looming presence. What are citizens meant to make of this never-ending hovering? What can innocent people possibly do about the drones that fly over their heads, ready to end their lives before they can even look up?