US Afghanistan strike: ‘It’s US responsibility to prevent civilian casualties during its airstrikes’

Under international law, the responsibility to protect civilians from the use of US military force belongs to the US, says Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy. It’s shameful that America tries to deflect its duty to another party, he added.

NATO has admitted the latest airstrike in Afghanistan conducted by US forces resulted in civilian casualties. The NATO officials said US troops were assisting an Afghan special police unit but suffered “missile malfunction.”

The strike was called to suppress an attack on Kabul airport earlier on Wednesday, right after the arrival of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

RT:  This is an embarrassing incident for the US on a day when its defense secretary and the NATO chief visit the country. What does the attack on the Pentagon chief say about the state of security in Afghanistan in general?

Robert Naiman: The first key thing here is that under international law the responsibility to protect civilians from the use of US military force belongs to the US military, and US government and no one else. It is not the responsibility of the Taliban to protect civilians from the use of US military force – it is the responsibility of the US. It is shameful that the US military is trying to deflect responsibility to some other party for the US military’s own actions. Sadly this is a pattern for the US and its allies. It is the same thing we’re seeing with Saudi Arabia in Yemen – Saudi Arabia blames everybody else for civilian casualties caused by Saudi Arabia.

RT:  What about the people on the ground? How do you think the Taliban strike looks to the locals in Afghanistan? Do they see it as a justified attack against the US?

RN: … Of course different Afghans – different opinions, like everybody else in the world. But the history is that when the US kills civilians in Afghanistan, the reaction is strong – even among people who do not support the Taliban – they blame the US military…

RT:  Trump has said US companies may soon start to assist Afghanistan in developing its resources, using some of the profits to pay for its 16-year campaign. Does the US run the risk of looking like a colonial power?

RN: The question that Trump never answers is: after 16 years [of war], two different presidents, and both political parties, what is Trump doing that is different from either George W. Bush, or Barack Obama that should give the American people, or people in Afghanistan any confidence that there is anything but an endless indefinite continuation of the status quo and more killing? I think what’s missing from US policy – is a diplomatic and political plan for the war. Until we see that, we have no reason to expect anything [but] indefinite continuation of the status quo – more killing the innocent for no reason.

Kabul airport attack during Mattis visit: ‘Embarrassing for US’

Jim Dean, Managing Editor at Veterans Today, agrees the attack on Kabul airport is an incident embarrassing on two levels.

Jim Dean: Number one – it was an unannounced mission. So either the Taliban has a very good intelligence bureau – someone is cluing them in, or they may have had a spy at the airport, who spotted the plane. Of course, the Taliban will always have teams in the Kabul area, who have mortars and weapons like that; who would have quickly seen that this was a public relations coup for them – to be able to fire some rockets at the airport. And you can see the tremendous response that it’s gotten today.

RT:  What does it say about security generally then, if something like this can happen in that particular area, which is meant to be very secure?

JD: It shows you that very secure is never very secure. When you have a big city like that insurgents can always hide cells that are inactive, to use at particular times like these. There is no such thing of not being able to have a rocket attack or mortar attack that’s done at very short notice, where you don’t have intercepts or radio communications that you can intercept in time to stop.