This report, issued jointly by United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA)1 and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),2 examines the scope of civilian harm resulting from the United States Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) 3 airstrikes on alleged drug facilities located in Bakwa district, Farah province, and parts of the bordering Delaram district, Nimroz province on 5 May 2019. The report sets out that drug facilities and associated workers may not be lawfully made the target of attack based on their possible economic or financial contribution to the war effort of a party to a conflict.
On 5 May 2019, USFOR-A carried out a series of airstrikes targeting more than 60 sites that they had identified as drug production facilities, often referred to as “drug labs”,4 across multiple areas in Bakwa district, Farah province, and parts of the bordering Delaram district, Nimroz province. Credible allegations soon emerged of significant civilian harm caused. Although airstrikes on reported drug labs had taken place before, this was the first time that UNAMA had received reports of a high number of civilian casualties resulting from such an operation.
UNAMA conducted extensive fact-finding into the 5 May incident in Bakwa district over a period of four months. After weeks of careful preparation, on 26 June, UNAMA undertook a fact-finding mission, together with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), to Bakwa district, which is under Taliban control. Given the remoteness of the location and the lack of a permanent United Nations, governmental or military presence in the area, UNAMA considered the mission to be of significant value to the fact-finding process. The delegation conducted face-to-face interviews with individuals who were impacted by the airstrikes and saw some of the impact sites. The Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and NATO Resolute Support Mission all provided various means of support to the mission.