United Nations: U.S. airstrikes on Afghan drug facilities 'not lawful'

Representational

Representational

USA air attacks on alleged Taliban drug labs in Afghanistan killed or wounded dozens of civilians in May, says a United Nations report, which has been rejected by the U.S. military.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan published the report on Wednesday about the impact on civilians of the U.S. airstrikes in the western province of Farah and a neighboring province.

The number included 14 children and five women killed or wounded in the air raids, which the United Nations said violated global humanitarian law as the victims were non-combatants.

The casualties include at least 30 deaths, the United Nations said.

USA 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.

"UNAMA has assessed that the personnel working inside the drug production facilities were not performing combat functions".

UNAMA verified four additional civilian casualties but is still seeking to determine their current status as injured or killed, according to the document jointly produced by the UN mission and the UN Human Rights Office.

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"In addition to imagery collection during the precision strikes, USFOR-A conducted exhaustive assessments of the facilities and surrounding areas after the strikes", the spokesman said.

USFOR-A insisted the meth labs were run and owned by the Taliban, who they claimed used the revenue to "fund ongoing indiscriminate violence against innocent Afghans".

Assessments conducted by USA forces and Afghans conducted after the strikes on the labs determined there were no deaths or injuries to civilians, the US military said. At least 3,812 civilians have been killed or wounded in the first half of 2019, the report said, noting a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and NATO-led troops.

"While some of the sites may have been associated with illicit activity, they did not meet the definition of legitimate military objectives under global law", the report concluded.

"USFOR-A took extraordinary measures to avoid the deaths or injuries of non-combatants".

Afghanistan's security forces and US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces have been heavily criticised for inflicting civilian casualties during their raids and air attacks.

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