But what the gossip and comments didn’t mention was that the real surprise wasn’t Haqqani’s public appearances – but that he appeared at all: several times over the past two decades, the U.S. military thought they’d killed him in drone strikes.
Obviously, Haqqani is alive and well. But that begs a blatant question: if Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani wasn’t killed in those US drone strikes, who was it?
The usual boring answer is “terrorists,” an answer that is now being institutionalized by the highest levels of the US security state. But the last few days of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan have shown that this is not necessarily true. One day after an attack on troops at the busy airport in Kabul, the US responded with a “targeted” drone attack in the capital. It was later found that 10 members of a family, all of whom were civilians, were killed in the attack. One of the victims had served as an interpreter for the United States in Afghanistan and had a special immigrant visa ready. Seven victims were children. This did not match the generic success story the Biden administration originally told.
However, something else happened on this strike. For years, most of the US air strikes have occurred in remote, rural locations, where few facts have been verified and not many people have been able to go to the scene.
But this strike took place in the middle of the country’s capital.
Journalists and investigators were able to visit the page, which meant they could easily check anything the United States claimed – and it soon became clear what had actually happened. First, local Afghan TV channels such as Tolo News showed the victims’ family members. With so much attention paid to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, international media also came in. A detailed report in the New York Times forced Washington to withdraw its earlier claims. “It was a tragic mistake,” the Pentagon said at a press conference when it was forced to admit that innocent civilians with no ties to ISIS were killed in the attack.
In fact, America’s last drone strike in Afghanistan – its last act of public violence – eerily resembled its very first.
On October 7, 2001, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime. On this day, the first drone deployment in history took place. An armed Predator drone flew over the southern Kandahar province, known as the capital of the Taliban and the home of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the group’s top leader. Operators pressed the button to kill Omar and fired two Hellfire missiles at a group of bearded Afghans in loose robes and turbans. But after that he was no longer found among them. In fact, he dodged the supposedly precise drones for more than a decade and eventually died of natural causes in hiding just a few miles from a sprawling U.S. base. Instead, America left a long trail of Afghan blood in its attempts to kill him and his associates.