Drone Strike in Afghanistan Results in Deaths of 30 Civilian Pine Nut Farmers

The war on terror leaves more dead civilians in its wake.


A Wednesday night U.S. drone strike intended for Islamic State forces killed 30 pine nut farmers in Afghanistan and wounded an additional 40 civilians. Reports indicate more are missing.

The victims of this strike were reportedly sitting around a fire after a long day of work when the drone strike hit Nangarhar Province.

Although Wednesday's strike was particularly large, these farmers are only a small proportion of an estimated 1,366 civilian deaths that have occurred in Afghanistan as part of ongoing warfare in the nation from January to July of 2019.

Andrea Prasow, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, calls the situation in Afghanistan "excruciating," largely due to the remote nature of the conflict. Prasow notes that warfare was significantly altered when actual U.S. presence in Afghanistan was abandoned in favor of drone warfare.

"We've been seeing [and] documenting [these] kinds of drone strikes for years," Prasow tells Reason. She notes that civilians have been bearing the costs of drone strikes due to an array of issues that arise from their use, including "faulty information, poor targeting, poor warning systems, and [the] inability to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants."

Prasow also says the increasingly remote nature of warfare has lowered the risk for a key aspect of warfare: retaliation.

"It used to be the case that if you bombed the wrong village, you would have a whole bunch of angry villagers outside your base, [providing] an additional motivation" to conduct warfare in a less aggressive manner, Prasow says. So while reducing our physical military presence in Afghanistan is welcome, it may not be easing tensions if we're just replacing on-the-ground soldiers with drone strikes.

The U.S. government makes it hard for its citizens to know how frequently these drone strikes go awry. As Reason's Scott Shackford reported earlier this year, Daniel Hale, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, was arrested on May 9 and charged with espionage for leaking information in 2013 and 2014 to journalists that revealed that the government has been classifying anybody the U.S. killed via drone strike as enemy combatants. This suggests that the actual number of civilian deaths could be even higher than what has been acknowledged by the government.

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  1. This is another reason I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She was literally the most qualified candidate ever, with an unblemished record of foreign policy success. As Commander in Chief she would have used lethal force with the utmost restraint — in contrast to Orange Hitler and his reckless policy of bombing brown people.


    1. So…drone strikes good now? Or good when done with the orange hand of justice, as opposed to the brown hand of cowardice?

      1. His attempt at parody makes no sense anymore. What’s the joke here?

        1. It never made sense. Obviously, libertarianism does not advocate for restriction of the free movement of people and goods. That’s not to say that there can’t be libertarians who disagree on that position, but the ideology itself is obviously “open borders,” for better or for worse.

          1. Sᴛᴀʀᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋɪɴɢ ғʀᴏᴍ ʜᴏᴍᴇ! Gʀᴇᴀᴛ ᴊᴏʙ ғᴏʀ sᴛᴜᴅᴇɴᴛs, sᴛᴀʏ-ᴀᴛ-ʜᴏᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴍs ᴏʀ ᴀɴʏᴏɴᴇ ɴᴇᴇᴅɪɴɢ ᴀɴ ᴇxᴛʀᴀ ɪɴᴄᴏᴍᴇ… …….. Read More

        2. That it’s NOT a joke?

        3. Only your ignorance, and the inability to see the past

      2. Trump’s drone strikes are the best drone strikes. No one does better drone strikes. They’re like the taco bowls in Trump Tower. The best. Magnificent drone streaks. Really amazing.

        1. You should try the ISIS guacamole.

    2. Hillary would have killed at least twenty times as many people in Afghanistan alone by now. Not counting all the new wars she would have started so Sydney Blumenthal could make a few extra bucks.

  2. This is so fucked up. It does not even come up under World for Google News. But let’s freak out about Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden.

    And a fuck you to all libertarians that supported Trump because he claimed he would reduce military interventionism. It was obvious it wasn’t gonna happen, and if you believed him, you are a fool.

    1. How many wars has he started? Id call that a reduction in intervention.

      1. How many wars has He ENDED?

        If it is ONLY about avoiding STARTING un-needed wars… And starting only supposedly-vitally-essential wars… Paying no heed to ENDING wars… Then what we have going on, is a one-way ratchet here!

        War is the health of the State!

        1. While trying to have a positive outlook on this situation and pretty much coming up empty I can at least say that this may be beneficial to US pine nut farmers that may have been hurt by tariffs.

          1. I lol’ed…and acknowledge my path to hell when I die.

    2. This is why I have TSDS – Trump Supporter Derangement Syndrome. If Trump had dropped dead of a heart attack 5 seconds after he was inaugurated, he still would be arguably the best president in living memory simply by virtue of having kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House. By winning the election, Trump did more good for this country than the whole of the Republican Party has done for the last 30 years. (And, no, I don’t believe for one second that Hillary was such an awful candidate that any Republican candidate would have beaten her – if you couldn’t beat Trump in the primaries, what makes you think you could beat Hillary in the general? If you’re going to beat the pig, you’d better be prepared to get down in the mud and wrestle and Trump was the only one with a pig-wrestling pedigree. If it had been any candidate other than Trump, Hillary would be President right now. Or at least until she succumbed to Sudden Onset Catastrophic Lead Poisoning.)

      But beyond that, the 2016 election was a choice between leprosy and cancer and we got lucky that the electorate chose leprosy. Leprosy is fairly easily treated, cancer will kill you. But just because leprosy is better than cancer is no reason to act like leprosy is the greatest thing since sliced bread, it’s still pretty damn awful. And, man, Trump is awful.

      1. Trump is the most Libertarian-ish President in over 80 years.

    3. But Trump is totally opposed to this crazy idea of USA war-fighting everywhere for everyone! He is for a humble foreign policy, and non-interventionism! It is His hawkish underlings that are FORCING Him to keep the troops in Afghanistan!


      1. Name a president since Carter who would have called of an air strike because it would have killed too many of the “enemy” personnel. And I thought he showed remarkable strength in refusing the drum beat to war with Syria. Sure, Trump is awful, but if you wait for a perfect person to do what needs to be done, or not done, or just undone, you’ll be waiting a long time.

        1. We were totally involved in Syria. You really think it was the Kurds who defeated ISIS? It was US air power.

          1. I didn’t say that we weren’t involved; we were, much more than I liked. But there wasn’t a huge hype to get the American people to accept an invasion, there wasn’t any talk in Congress, etc. No boots on the ground at all.

            1. Trump defeated ISIS but did not call for Assad’s head.
              Clinton would have. And we would be in much deeper in that conflict. Remember the cheering Trump got when he bombed Syria? From everyone on left and right?

              Trump is not perfect on foreign policy. But I think he is genuinely trying his hardest for peace (meeting with Korean leader, Taliban leaders in Camp David etc ). I doubt someone without his media skills would fare any better against the vested interests in favor of war.

              1. +100

        2. Trump isn’t awful. Saying that appears to be some kind of virtue signaling. He can be crass at times, but no he isn’t awful. He’s even really good on a number of things. Not good on others.

          Which is how it works with most elected officials.

          1. Plus, if you actually look at what Trump says it’s not what the MSM said it was.

            Trump is not the typical statesman with “proper etiquette” but he has articled his plan to put American first and how other nations can work with us. Trump cannot help it if much of European elites and the Socialists hate America and want to destroy us.

      2. US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the Taliban earlier this month for a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

        1. He called off talks after they suicide bombed our troops, demonstrating they weren’t serious or honest in their negotiations. But hey peace at any price, right?
          I am for pulling out of Afghanistan (and cumming on her back, sorry bad joke), but if the other side doesn’t prove honest in negotiations then we shouldn’t negotiate with them.

          1. Yep. Same reason Bibi won’t negotiate with Hamas. You can’t cut a deal with someone existentially committed to your eradication.

            Yet progressives don’t see a problem with that.

    4. This story is front page news at Reason and at Nothing at LRC, interestingly enough.

    5. I saw it in Google news first for what its worth. And I didn’t vote for Trump but he hasn’t been bad on foreign wars. He’s admin has been trying to enter talks with the Taliban. I do worry about Iran and how he responds but can’t say anything on it yet since no real plan has been discussed.

      1. “but can’t say anything on it yet since no real plan has been discussed.”

        The plan was to withdraw from the Obama deal, institute more economic sanctions and wait until the mullahs come crawling to the negotiating table. If they haven’t been overthrown by a disgruntled pro-American populace in the meantime. I doubt Clinton’s plan would have been all that different.

    6. “It was obvious it wasn’t gonna happen, and if you believed him, you are a fool.”

      My tepid support for Trump was based on the belief that Clinton would have been worse in the interventions arena. It was probably correct for what its worth. The sad truth of the matter is that his audiences whoop and holler when the Mexicans are targeted, and silence follows denunciations of foreign intervention.

  3. This suggests that the actual number of civilian deaths could be even higher than what has been acknowledged by the government.

    It’s kind of a tragedy of the commons situation. These strikes spread across administrations on military bureaucratic inertia to the point no one seems to own them. Which, of course, isn’t really true. Whatever administration is in charge when whichever wedding gets blown to fuck owns it.

    1. Except, in theory, no president should own them, because in theory, war is declared by Congress. Of course, Congress has no desire to own it either, which explains the craven laws that Congress has enacted in delegating that authority to POTUS, and the refusal, since at least Reagan, of Congress to impeach presidents who unilaterally start wars without Congresional approval.

  4. “But we must kill them. We must… incinerate them. Pig after pig, cow after cow, village after village, army after army… and they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie… They lie, and we have to be merciful for those who lie… Those nabobs, I hate them. I do hate them“

    Col. Kurtz – Apocalypse Now

    1. We had to destroy the whole village of pine-nut farmers in order to save them!

      Also, we need to protect the GOOD heroin-poppy growers from the BAD heroin-poppy growers! And the GOOD village elders who molest little boys, from the BAD village elders who molest little boys! There’s a LOT of the latter 2 things going on over there… They support the USA and the USA-backed government? All their sins are forgiven! The opposite? Drone-strike time for them!

  5. …the government has been classifying anybody the U.S. killed via drone strike as enemy combatants…

    Sigh. Of course they have. The surprising thing is that anybody is surprised.

  6. Yeah this sucks. Under Bush jr, there were a bunch of civilian deaths due to Drone strikes, but 9/11 seemed fresh and the program was just getting set up. Under Obama, even more deaths to civilians by flying death robots. And I am sure the trend is continuing and even getting worse under Trump, because the drone tech is getting better and better, One of the good things about crazy orange man is that he might have bucked the system and pulled us out of Afghanistan, but it never happened. I don’t blame the Trump administration more than any other, as this kind of madness was started before them, and no doubt the next Presidential administration will do nothing to cut this kind of crazy crap back. And none of this is in the standard US news, whether is MSNBC, Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS.

  7. So what’s the score of drone strike dead Obama vs. Trump? I know Obama was in office longer, so a yearly average seems appropriate.

    1. Who cares who the fuck ordered it? Dead is dead.

    2. So what’s the score of drone strike dead Obama vs. Trump?
      Pretty much same-same.

  8. I have read that drone pilot is one of the worst jobs in the military. Not enough resources devoted to training, long hours spent staring into screens and operating equipment, high stress, low morale. Things like this can only result in more psychological burnout and emotional trauma.

    It is not only the foot soldiers who suffer.

    1. Good point, thanks! Then when they get a few ribbons to put on their chests, the manly-men REAL pilots snark and sneer about the joy-stick pilot-wannabe video-game-players getting any kudos at all.

      Yet another reason to GTFO of there… As if we needed any more reasons to get out…

      1. “Yet another reason to GTFO of there”

        Then GO!
        Don’t let the door hitcha ….

  9. And, other than Ms. Gabbard, who cannot even win the support of 2% of her party’s members, which Demo candidates are advocating the U.S. get out of Afghanistan? I recall seeing a Demo operative on tv last week excoriating the view that Trump pull U.S. troops out and abandon the women of Afghanistan to the evil designs of the Taliban.

  10. In WWII allied bombing killed over 1,000,000, civilians, displaced even more and reduced entire cities to rubble. Japanese cities were so thoroughly destroyed that we deliberately avoided bombing Hiroshima, so they’d still be a city left to nuke.

    Three times as many civilians died in a single firebombing raid on Tokyo on March 9-10, 1945 than have died from bombs and drone strikes during the entire war in Afghanistan.

    The deaths from this drone strike were accidental. The deaths in WWII were intentional. The military tries to avoid civilian deaths, but in war mistakes happen. We’ve made enormous progress in the past century, on all fronts, but people prefer to focus on where we fall short rather than how far we’ve come.

    1. Total War was a neccessary evil. Especially during a truely existential war against the most industrialized and militarized country on the planet. Fire bombing tortured the conscious of all involved, and the moral angst about using the atomic bomb is well documented.
      Today, we are facing shepherds with AKs. Meanwhile, our munitions have evolved to where we can target enemy forces while sparing civilians. Killing innocents does not help our war against extremism.

      1. “our war against extremism.”

        Watch FOX much?

    2. “The military tries to avoid civilian deaths”

      Ideally, yes. But democracies would rather sacrifice foreign civilians than sustain their own military casualties. It typically means democracies use heavier weapons than tactically called for. Example Place: Normandy. Time: 1945. Conflict: Allies v Nazis. Author: A. Beevor.

      Israel v Hezbollah gives much the same disparity in civilian v military deaths, but the current Afghan conflict probably takes the cake. How many American service persons have been kia this year? Perhaps a handful. How many Afghan civilians? Maybe thousands, certainly hundreds, not including deliberately targeted civilians in terror attacks.

      1. “Place: Normandy. Time: 1945. Conflict: Allies v Nazis. Author: A. Beevor.”

        Huh? I don’t have to read another WWII history to know that the front lines had moved past Normandy months before the beginning of 1945.

        1. Those who died in 1944 were still dead in the following year.

    3. Another thing to remember is that America is not just starting wars out of the blue.

      While the USA has created huge quagmires, like in Iraq, these countries are attacking/have attacked Americans and/or our trade interests.

      Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Russia, Israel, Germany, Imperial Japan….

      You know why the USA does not drones strike Switzerland? Switzerland has never attacked the USA.

      1. “Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Russia, Israel, Germany, Imperial Japan….”

        Libya. Hillary.

  11. What is the reason for being in Afghanistan?

    Oh right, the Taliban, who are so primitive (even by Islamist standards) they can barely walk upright, sheltered Bin Laden for a while, close to 20 years ago. So it’s important to maintain a military presence among these donkey cart drivers and use drones to “win hearts and minds.” RIGHT.

    Fuck you, foreign policy. Fuck you. You could pick a better foreign policy by having monkeys fling poop on a bulletin board.

    1. Agreed! Overwhelming arrogance, self-righteousness, and preening prideful stupidity is at the root! And Trump is gasoline on the fire!

    2. We stay in Afghanistan to develop an infrastructure designed to help contain Iran, since they’re an emerging belligerent nuclear power (Thanks Obama!).

  12. The comments here were different when Obama was President, I wonder why?

    I bet Matt Welch is proud of his racist work, or is he still complaining about minority children in his kid’s school?

  13. Winning hearts and minds with bombs..

    1. Yeah man, how long will it take for us to figure out that this tactic ain’t workin’?

      1. We’ll never learn. We might get tired or bored and leave, but we’ll never learn. True about most everything.

      2. Drum circles work even less dumbass.

  14. Pine nut “farmers”? Well, that convinces me.

    This comment not approved by Silicon Valley brain slugs.

    1. Well shit then, educate us on the fine points… I grow pecans on pecan trees, am I a pecan farmer? Apple farmer? Peach farmer? Orange farmer? Arborealist? Realist? Surrealist? Arborist? Horticulturist? Apple-tree-grover-grower-groover? Rancher, ranger, granger, stranger? Do I personally have to plant the trees to be called a farmer? Oranges but not apples? If the trees are WILD, then I am merely a “gatherer”? If the trees are planted by humans, I am a farmer, but if the trees are planted by squirrels, I am pretty SQRLSY? (I resemble that remark!)

      Well anyway, don’t leave us hanging like that, please… Don’t just leave on the bus, Gus… Make a new plan, Stan, and tell us what they should be called, and why?

      1. A grove of pine trees is a ‘pinetum.’ One who tends a pinetum is a pinetumist.

        1. Wow, awesome, thanks! Ya learn something new every day, sometimes!

  15. I’m not buying the headline.

    Just like I didn’t buy the “baby milk factory” headline by CNN back in Saddam’s era.

  16. IG they’ve killed more civilians rather than terrorists
    تجهیزات شبکه

  17. This is an awesome driving article. I am fundamentally content with your amazing work. You put a truly amazingly consistent article.

  18. The target with high civilian deaths are generally what’s known as a signature strike. It’s what led to Obama killing a wedding party.

    The target is identified and engaged by meeting a profile (signature). A large convoy of SUV (wedding party), or concentration of military aged men near a campfire (pine nut farmers) are example of meeting the signature. So bombs away. We often don’t know what we really hit. The optics just fit a profile. We should not be using such iffy assessments to engage targets.

  19. Destruction of civilian commercial infrastructure has been an American tradition since William Tecumseh Sherman initiated ‘total war’ on the civilians of Georgia.
    If they didn’t want to get bombed, they shouldn’t have been growing food for people we don’t like.

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