Rueters, 15th November
By Feikniuz Rashiabot in Kandahar and Lee Bar el Hip-Okrait in Washington
The Afghan government claimed today that a provincial cricket match was hit by missiles fired from an MQ-9 Reaper drone, killing all the members of one team and two of the other, as well as an umpire.
|A USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone, of the kind alleged to have carried out the attack.
Cricket is a game popular in Afghanistan, which recently acquired Test match status from the International Cricket Council. The match, between the Kandahar Mujahideen and the Herat Poppy Farmers, was for the local championship, and was underway at the new Hekmuddin Gulbedyar stadium, built with US assistance. The drone, Afghan officials say, fired two Hellfire missiles at the playing field just as one of the batsmen had struck a six, incinerating five of the players – the two batsmen, the bowler, the wicket keeper, and a fielder – and one of the umpires. As the remaining players rushed to help the dead and injured, the drone fired its two remaining Hellfire missiles at them in a so-called “double tap” strike, killing all of them with the sole exception of the surviving umpire, who was badly injured. He was taken to hospital, but it was discovered that the hospital did not exist, though it had been under construction for fifteen years.
|An earlier cricket match in progress at the new Hekmuddin Gulbedyar stadium
“This is a war crime of the highest order,” former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said in a message to the media. “While I was in office, this might have been justified, but now that I am not, it certainly cannot be allowed.”
The current Afghan government was forced reluctantly to agree. “This unfortunate incident might possibly be a breach of regulations on the part of our masters...I mean our allies in the ISAF,” a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani mumbled at a press briefing in Kabul. ISAF is the acronym for the US led International Security Assistance Force which protects Afghanistan from the Taliban. “We will conduct an investigation, and if the reports are confirmed, we will demand a payment of $1 million to each of the deceased. Since they are deceased, the money will be of no use to them, but I’m sure we’ll find alternative uses for it,” he added, licking his lips hungrily.
The drone operator responsible, identified as Captain George W McCain, contacted at his station at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, denied any wrongdoing. “Ah saw these here military aged brown males with what looked clearly like rifles in mah scope,” he said. “Ah also saw them throw a grenade up at mah drone, so ah knew for sure that they were terrorists.” He further justified the double tap strike. “Evah since the invasion of Iraq, we’ve been killin’ evildoers where we find them,” he said. “If that means blowin’ ‘em up before they can do the same to us, that’s fine an’ dandy. After all, in mah book the only good Afghan is a dead Afghan, after what they did to 9/11 and makin’ WMDs for Saddam Hussein.”
Officers who had served in Britain and had a nodding acquaintance with the laws of cricket, were quick to rush to Captain McCain’s defence. “Captain McCain has never been outside the United States,” his immediate superior, Colonel Hillary Obama, said. “He quite understandably mistook the cricket bats carried by two of the players for rifles, and the ball that one had struck into the air, really, looked exactly like a grenade.” She further suggested changes to the laws of cricket to prevent the repeat of such episodes in future. “Whoever makes the rules for this sport,” she told Rueters, “should immediately change the shape of the bats to make them look less like rifles to our drone operators. I’d suggest making them look like golf clubs. None of our drone operators would mistake a golf club for anything else. And, yes, the ball too should be made to look less like a grenade. Perhaps it should be like a basketball.”
Other voices suggested a darker side to the drone strike. “It must be (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who is to blame,” a joint bipartisan statement from members of the US Congress declared. “He must have hacked the drone’s sensor systems to make it look to the operator as though the men were carrying guns.”
The New York Times echoed the sentiment in an emergency editorial on its website. “If President Trump does not impose more sanctions on Russia immediately in retaliation, it will be further proof that he is controlled by Putin,” it stated. “That the Russian hacking campaign has extended to our drone sensors is a deeply worrying phenomenon. What will happen if Russia next hacks our police forces’ guns and prevents them from shooting suspects?”
President Trump responded to the crisis on Twitter. “Our magnificent drone warriors blew up terrorists before they could sneak into the US and blow us up,” he tweeted. “And yet people are attacking me about it with #fakenews. Sad! Covfefe!”
Meanwhile, interviewed at an undisclosed location, a Taliban commander named Rahimatullah gave thanks to the US Air Force. “The more the Americans commit crimes like this against the people,” he said, laughing maniacally, “the more recruits we get. Inshallah, we shall soon be at the gates of Ghani’s palace in Kabul. See you soon.”
|Taliban commander Rahimatullah (right) with his men
An attempt was made to contact the Afghans attacked for their comments, but they were all too dead to respond.