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Op-Ed: US claims some farm workers killed in Afghanistan were IS members

Contrasting narratives

Afghan provincial officials remained deeply critical of the US attack with its multiple casualties. Everyone in the region knew that those targeted were hired hands for a pine nut harvest. There appears to be no evidence for the US contention that the hired hands were actually ISIS fighters pretending to work as harvesters. Nevertheless the US continues to support its version of events.

Afghan’s were concerned that laborers would be victims

A recent article reports: “Twelve days ahead of the pine-nut harvest season, the governor of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province received a letter from village elders in the Wazir Tangi area about their plans to recruit 200 laborers and children to pluck the dry fruit. The letter, seen by Reuters and dated Sept. 7, was sent in an effort to help protect laborers from getting caught in clashes between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Islamic State fighters in the mountainous terrain largely controlled by the jihadists.”

The letter obviously did nothing to stop the US from attacking the group. Perhaps the fact that much of the mountainous area is controlled by jihadists influenced the US decision. However, US authorities appear to have ignored the letter or perhaps it was not shown to them by the Afghan authorities, although that seems doubtful.

The US narrative

Here is the US version of events as told to Reuters: “U.S. officials said the drone strike was conducted solely to target IS fighters in a densely forested area that is not inhabited by locals but offers a high yield of pine nuts to villagers residing on the edge of the forest. “There were IS (fighters) there, but it appears during harvest season the locals cut deals with the IS fighters to act as harvesters,” said a senior U.S. official who is privy to the counter-terrorism operations conducted by American forces in Afghanistan.”We were not privy to this ‘agreement’ that puts them (IS fighters) among other harvesters. We are working through it now with the officials. ”

Notice there is no reference to the letter from local elders to the provincial government. Why would they not know about that? What evidence has the US that the locals cut deals with ISIS fighters to serve as harvesters? Perhaps this is an imaginary deal meant to justify the US attack.

Given the US position, it appears unlikely that the US will take any action to compensate victims of the attack in spite of several protests by locals in the area. Afghan officials are promising an investigation. Senior officials also said that a probe was being carried out to assess the failure of intelligence to properly ascertain the situation before the drone strikes were carried out. This incident added to many others may increase political pressure to have US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

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