Less than 24 hours after an errant United States drone strike killed 30 civilian farm laborers in Afghanistan, wounding 40 more, according to a Reuters report, the Donald Trump administration announced that it would slash more than $160 million in cash assistance to the country.
The announcement of the cut in aid comes just nine days before national elections in Afghanistan, which see President Ashraf Ghani standing for reelection in a campaign already marred by extensive bloodshed. But the aid cut announcement also comes 12 days after Trump announced that he had invited Ghani as well as leaders of the insurgent Islamic extremist group the Taliban to the presidential retreat at Camp David for peace talks, as The Inquisitr reported.
Ghani was sharply critical of Trump for extending the invite to Taliban leaders. A Taliban-sponsored suicide bomber killed 24, including several children, at a rally of Ghani’s supporters on Tuesday. But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking during a visit to Abu Dhabi — capital of the United Arab Emirates — cited “corruption” within the Afghan government as the reason for the financial assistance to the country, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
“We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people and to maintain their trust,” Pompeo said as quoted by AFP.
On Wednesday night, according to the Reuters report, a U.S. drone allegedly attempting to strike a secret ISIS hideout in Afghanistan instead fired at a group of farm workers who had gathered around a bonfire to rest following a full day of collecting pine nuts, in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The Nangarhar province saw 681 civilian casualties in 2018 alone, the highest total of any province in the country.
From January through July of this year, Afghanistan has suffered 1,336 civilian fatalities in the ongoing conflict there, according to Reuters. This appears on track for the highest total of any year since 2009 — a time period in which the United Nations has recorded about 16,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
While the policy of using drone strikes to target adversaries abroad was often the subject of criticism directed at President Barack Obama, under the Trump administration, drone strikes have surged, albeit with little public recognition, according to a BBC report.
While Obama authorized 1,878 drone attacks in various countries, such and Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, over the course of his eight years in office, Trump green-lighted 2,243 strikes during only his first two years in the White House. In addition, Trump revoked an Obama executive order that required the government to publish the number of civilian casualties inflicted by U.S. drone strikes.
Reuters cited “three Afghan officials” for its report on Wednesday’s deadly drone strike.