No plans to punish CIA or military for Afghanistan airstrike that killed civilians, US official says

The United States has no plans to punish the CIA or the United States military for an airstrike in Afghanistan that killed innocent civilians, U.S. officials told Fox News.

Related Image Expand / Contract A U.S. drone strikes a motorcycle in Dashte Archi District of Paktika province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 21, 2016. The strike, the third operation directed by the CIA in the same area in just four days, hit the vehicle after a suspected insurgent attacked troops with a rocket-propelled grenade, according to Afghan and U.S. officials. (Mullah Naushad Nasrat via AP)

The airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed six children and three women in a village in Dashte Archi District. It came after a suspected Taliban attack in which security forces opened fire on locals who had set up a protest against the deaths of four men killed in a U.S. drone strike earlier in the day. The strike was conducted in a remote area believed to be held by the Taliban.

The human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the airstrike to be investigated “and for those responsible to be held to account, including the CIA and U.S. military.”

Related Image Expand / Contract Afghan villagers hold pictures of their loved ones during a protest against the deaths of four men at the hands of security forces in the Sayed Abad district of Paktika province on July 24, 2016. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

“We call on those responsible for this appalling atrocity to be held to account and for those responsible to be prosecuted,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

On Friday, CIA Director John Brennan refuted the human rights group’s stance, saying the drone strike had been targeted at Islamic State fighters. “The Agency does not target civilians,” Brennan told CNN. “We have a rigorous process that we employ both before and after using these highly precise weapons systems, which are publicly declared and — as we have seen here — certainly proven to be perfectly effective.”

Despite what the CIA director said, it is clear that civilian deaths happen. Last year, the U.S. military announced that the Taliban were responsible for killing four American soldiers with their roadside bombs in eastern Afghanistan.

While the deaths are tragic, killing and injuring innocent civilians has become a fact of life in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has been waging a decade-long counterinsurgency campaign. More than 3,500 civilians have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

The strike is also not uncommon. When militants frequently target the Americans, U.S. forces respond with airstrikes.

A 2009 drone strike in Paktika Province, where the July 21 attack took place, killed 14 children. There are claims the girls were gathering firewood. The identities of those killed were not made public, but according to defense officials in Kabul, they were Taliban members. There have been other reports of civilian deaths. In January, a U.S. airstrike killed 18 children in the Kunduz Province. This year, U.S. forces accidentally killed 10 civilians in southwestern Afghanistan.

On Monday, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), said his staff members were reaching out to the White House and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to ask them about the strike. He also urged the media to be more aggressive in exposing civilian casualties, because it is clear that it is happening more than ever before.

“It is no secret that American forces are conducting targeted strikes on targets aligned with the enemy,” Royce said. “We have a very precise strategy to prevent terrorists from using civilian population centers as bases for operations. We are diligently pursuing targets that threaten our troops and American civilians.”

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