Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Afghanistan Death Squads - Inside Account

Covert Assassins Charged With Hunting, Killing Afghans

By Pratap Chatterjee, Alternet

Capture/kill teams leave a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in their wake, undermining any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects. 

"Find, fix, finish, and follow-up" is the way the Pentagon describes the mission of secret military teams in Afghanistan which have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda wherever they may be found. Some call these “manhunting” operations and the units assigned to them “capture/kill” teams.
Whatever terminology you choose, the details of dozens of their specific operations -- and how they regularly went badly wrong -- have been revealed for the first time in the mass of secret U.S. military and intelligence documents published by the website Wikileaks in July to a storm of news coverage and official protest. Representing a form of U.S. covert warfare now on the rise, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.

When Danny Hall and Gordon Phillips, the civilian and military directors of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, arrived for a meeting with Gul Agha Sherzai, the local governor, in mid-June 2007, they knew that they had a lot of apologizing to do. Philips had to explain why a covert U.S. military “capture/kill” team named Task Force 373, hunting for Qari Ur-Rahman, an alleged Taliban commander given the code-name “Carbon,” had called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship and inadvertently killed seven Afghan police officers in the middle of the night.
The incident vividly demonstrated the inherent clash between two doctrines in the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- counterinsurgency (“protecting the people”) and counterterrorism (killing terrorists). Although the Obama administration has given lip service to the former, the latter has been, and continues to be, the driving force in its war in Afghanistan.
For Hall, a Foreign Service officer who was less than two months away from a plush assignment in London, working with the military had already proven more difficult than he expected. In an article forForeign Service Journal published a couple of months before the meeting, he wrote, “I felt like I never really knew what was going on, where I was supposed to be, what my role was, or if I even had one. In particular, I didn't speak either language that I needed: Pashtu or military.”
It had been no less awkward for Phillips. Just a month earlier, he had personally handed over “solatia” payments -- condolence payments for civilian deaths wrongfully caused by U.S. forces -- in Governor Sherzai's presence, while condemning the act of a Taliban suicide bomber who had killed 19 civilians, setting off the incident in question. “We come here as your guests,” he told the relatives of those killed, “invited to aid in the reconstruction and improved security and governance of Nangarhar, to bring you a better life and a brighter future for you and your children. Today, as I look upon the victims and their families, I join you in mourning for your loved ones.”

Monday, 30 August 2010

Afghanistan Intelligence Flawed - Robert Baer
The Australian government should use the intelligence exposed on the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks to confront the US over its war plans in Afghanistan, before even more Australians soldiers are killed, a visiting former CIA officer has warned. Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer in the Middle East turned author and intelligence commentator, said Australia needs to question the US about the poor intelligence it appears to be relying on to run its military campaign in Afghanistan.
"The Australians should take the WikiLeaks information to the US [administration] and say: please tell us you have better information than this," Mr Baer said.
Speaking in Sydney yesterday, he said WikiLeaks was playing a crucial role in the world because it was laying out for everyone to see "the pretensions and the lies" that are being told about the war in Afghanistan. "There is nothing like seeing the documents to see how much trouble we are in in Afghanistan," he said.
"And there are going to be a lot more dead Australians the longer we stay in Afghanistan."
The body of the 21st Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan since 2001 was flown home to Australia yesterday. Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was the 10th Australian soldier to die this year.
Mr Baer is in Sydney to address an Australian Security Industry Association conference which opens tomorrow. The former CIA officer , who is also the author of books such as See No Evil, The Devil We Know andBlow The House Down, has said the release of the secret reports has uncovered major flaws in the US military campaign, including that the information being used to justify deadly raids is fragmented, and largely coming from secondary sources. He has said much of the information appears to be from intelligence peddlers who are looking for a reward for passing on gossip.
"You cannot conduct special operations like that. You can't win a war that way,'' he said.
He believes the US and its allies should pull out of Afghanistan as fast as possible.

From Sydney Morning Herald

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Obama's 'Shift Of Focus' Falling Apart

Obama has recently been facing thinly veiled calls from the defence establishment to delay the Afghanistan exit date. The   paraphrasing of 'Mission Accomplished' has already started. But the war is increasingly unpopular with the US public, particularly the base of his own Democratic Party. He first mentioned the deadline in a December 2009 speech outlining an intensification of the war. Obama has tripled the US troop presence to 100,000 since taking office but says forces will start to leave in July 2011 while "taking into account conditions on the ground." Ever since, officials, and President Karzai have offered different interpretations.
Addressing Afghans, the White House has highlighted the deadline to coax President Hamid Karzai to take more responsibility. But to neighboring Pakistan, officials have stressed a long-term US commitment, fearing Islamabad may otherwise hedge their bets with the Taliban.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank, said that Obama was almost pursuing a "policy of deliberate confusion" as to the timescale alleging that he deliberately wants some flexibility about what to do next summer.
The top US Marine, General James Conway, said Tuesday it would take "a few years" to hand over southern provinces to Afghan forces and asserted bluntly that the deadline was "probably giving our enemy sustenance."
A week earlier, General David Petraeus, the top Afghan war commander, left open the possibility of recommending to Obama that he delay a mid-2011 withdrawal. Such interventions, which come two months after General Stanley McChrystal was removed as Afghan war commander for disrespect to civilian leaders, have outraged American critics of the Afghan war.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

10 Reasons Why the US Can't Win In Afghanistan

1.) The Taliban and the other resistance groups have deep roots in the population – family community, linguistic and cultural ties which the US does not possess nor can ever buy or have. They can't spin it either.
2.) The Resistance has fluid borders and broad international support especially with Pakistan but also with other anti-imperialist, Islamic groups who provide arms and volunteers and who engage in actively attacking the logistical transport supply lines of US-NATO military in Pakistan. They also pressure overseas US client regimes like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia opening multiple fronts.

3.) Widespread infiltration, voluntary, active and passive support of the Resistance among the US recruited and trained Afghan military and police results in crucial intelligence on troop movements. Desertions and absenteeism undermines "military competence".

4.) The scope and breadth of Taliban activity over extends NATO/ISAF at its current strength and causes it to rely on unreliable Afghan security, who have no stomach for the fight, especially when directed against communities with relatives or ethnic kin.

5.) Resistance allies are more loyal, less corrupt and reliable because of deeply shared beliefs. US allies are loyal only because of ephemeral monetary gratification and the temporary presence of US military force.

6.) The Taliban resistance appeals to the people in the name of a return to law and order in everyday life, which preceded the disruptive invasion. The US promise of positive outcomes following a successful war, have no popular resonance after a decade long destructive occupation.

7.) The US has no belief system that can compete with the religious-nationalist-traditionalist appeal of the Resistance to the vast majority of village, small town and displaced rural population.

8.) The Resistance's support of Iraqi, Palestinian and other anti-US forces has a positive appeal among the Afghan people who have seen the destructive results of US wars in Iraq and proxy wars in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The US backed Israeli assault of Lebanon and the humanitarian ship destined for Palestine and the highly visible presence of Zionist militants in the US government, repels the more politically aware opinion leaders in Afghanistan.

9.) Afghans have, by force of circumstances, longer staying power in resisting the US military occupation, than the US people who have other, far more pressing needs and the US military with growing commitments in the Gulf.

10.) Whilst the Taliban kills civilians in combat missions, the US/Nato/Isaf troops are frequently blamed for this due to their unwelcome presence. The Afghans who are part of the villages in occupied communities are also subject to assassinations by "Special Forces" and drone bombings (see previous posts going back to 2005). In these circumstances ordinary people suffer the same military assaults as the Taliban and resistance fighters.

Massacre In Kunduz - NATO Colonel Walks Away

German Colonel Georg Klein (archive photo) was not reprimanded for having ordered the Sept. 4, 2009 bombing in Kunduz.
German Colonel Georg Klein (archive photo) was not reprimanded for having ordered the Sept. 4, 2009 bombing in Kunduz.
Up to 142 people, including many civilians, died in a German-ordered airstrike in Kunduz last September. Now the German armed forces have declined to reprimand the officer responsible. The decision to let Georg Klein off the hook is misguided.
It was the most disastrous bombardment that a German officer has ordered since the end of World War II. In the early hours of Sept, 4, 2009, an American F-15 jet dropped two 500-pound bombs onto a sandbank near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan at the request of the German Colonel Georg Klein. The bombs hit two tanker trucks that had been hijacked by the Taliban. Up to 142 people died in the attack.

Among them were many villagers who only wanted to siphon off fuel from the tankers. The victims' families 
recently received $5,000 each
 from the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces. The money is an "ex gratia" payment -- a voluntary payment that does not recognize any legal liability on the part of the Bundeswehr or Colonel Klein.

Almost a year has passed since the disaster, during which time a debate has been raging over who was responsible for the tragedy and if Klein had erred in ordering the air strike. Then, on Thursday afternoon, the Bundeswehr sent out a 14-line statement by email. The brief text announced that the army had discontinued its disciplinary proceedings against Klein. "No misconduct" had been found, the army wrote.
The statement took pains to mention that the German federal prosecutor's office had also closed its investigation against Klein back in April, "because his actions were lawful under the relevant criteria of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts." The email said that the army had come to the same conclusion in its preliminary disciplinary proceedings.
To put it simply: The German armed forces are not even going to admonish their most controversial officer for his actions on Sept. 4, 2009.
Shocking Decision
Klein has since been sidelined and given a post as chief of staff at a tank unit in Leipzig. At his own request, he is being shielded from the media. Sources in the Bundeswehr say that Klein will never again occupy an important position. Nevertheless, he has now been officially absolved of blame. As such, he has become a symbolic example for all the other soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Even though the army's decision may be correct under international law, it is still upsetting. NATO investigated Klein's decisions on that fateful night and produced a report on the incident that is hundreds of pages long. The military alliance clearly rebuked the German colonel for relying on a single source in his decision-making on the night of Sept. 4. That one informant claimed that the two hijacked tanker trucks posed an immediate danger to soldiers. That information was wrong. And that was where Klein went wrong.
The NATO investigators also accused the colonel of violating NATO rules by not thoroughly investigating who had been killed and how many people had died immediately after the airstrike. Instead, Klein, a practicing Christian, visited the chapel in his camp and then went to bed.
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has also spoken of mistakes made by Klein. Although Guttenberg only took office after the airstrike, he later spoke of "procedural errors" in reference to Klein's behavior. He ordered that soldiers be made more familiar with NATO procedures -- rules that were created in order to reduce the possibility of tragedies like Kunduz.
Fatal Consequences
Admittedly, Klein was not adequately trained in the complex NATO procedures. Germany thought its soldiers were taking part in a reconstruction operation -- Klein and his comrades were not adequately prepared for the war that they encountered in Kunduz. During Klein's stint in Afghanistan, the fighting came closer to the German base than ever before. The officer was increasingly expected to make difficult battlefield decisions.
Klein is not a war criminal. And yet he made mistakes. As the military head of the camp in Kunduz, he was under intense pressure on the night of Sept. 4. Acting alone, he made the wrong decision, and then, whether consciously or as a result of shock, failed to adequately investigate the consequences of that decision.
It is likely that Klein, as a Christian, has punished himself enough. As he has mentioned several times in front of the parliamentary investigative committee, he still reproaches himself for the fact that his orders resulted in the deaths of women and children. The sight of him rushing into the side entrance of the parliament building in Berlin, shielded by two bodyguards and his lawyer, made it clear that Klein is a different man than he was in Afghanistan.
Misguided Esprit de Corps
Had he not ordered the air strike on that day early last September, he would probably be a general today. The bombs of Kunduz fell just three weeks before he was scheduled to return to Germany. It also isn't fair that, just one day after the bombing, a series of unhappy accidents resulted in Klein's picture being printed on the front pages of newspapers around the world -- a first for a NATO officer in Afghanistan.

Still, it also isn't fair that Klein has been spared any kind of reprimand over the incident.

Even if military lawyers insist that the decision not to punish Klein focused solely on the question as to whether or not he violated international humanitarian law, it gives the impression that Klein did nothing wrong. That is wrong, and it also sends the wrong signal to both the victims of the bombing and to German soldiers -- particularly to those officers currently serving in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the NATO rules of engagement cannot prevent deadly mistakes from being made. But officers must follow those rules. And when those rules are broken, it has to be clearly stated.
Misguided esprit de corps, on the other hand, should have no place in the German military.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Six Afghan Children Killed By NATO

Sri Lanka Daily News -
AFGHANISTAN: An Afghan police commander said Friday that NATO warplanes killed six children in a mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan.
The alliance said it was investigating claims that civilians had died following the air strike on Thursday against militants who were attacking a military outpost in the restive province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan.
Provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee told AFP that children were collecting scrap metal on the mountain when NATO aircraft dropped bombs to disperse Taliban fighters attacking a nearby base.
"In the bombardment six children, aged six to 12, were killed. Another child was injured," the police commander said.
Asadabad, Friday, AFP

Countdown To Obama's 'We Have Brought Peace' Address

As Obama's stormtroopers are wound down while there is still some electoral capital to be made, Obama will address America in 4 days with talk of a 'Shift of Focus'. For 'shift of focus' read 'scramble for the exits'. The banner  won't say 'Mission Accomplished' emblazoned behind an airforce-jacketed Obama.

No,if it were a 'Liar, Liar' day when the truth had to be told it would read 'Towards the Peace of Obama's Speechwriters'. Under this story about how everything was looking good for a satisfied exit, the newsfeed I found it on had these headlines (same day 27th August) underneath it:
- Bombs Kill 3 US Troops 
- 6 children killed in Nato Air Raid 
- Colonel Kicked Out of Afghanistan for Anti-Powerpoint Rant 
- School gassing shows Afghanistan chaos
- UK Prime Minister Nearly Assassinated in Afghanistan
- Soldier Who Lost Leg Denied Disabled Parking Permit 
- Funeral set for Cumbrian soldier
- Taliban Expanding in North and West 
- Marine General Rejects Obama's Deadlines
- 5 US Soldiers Charged With Murdering Afghans
- Funerals of Spanish Police Trainers Next Week
- Swedes want to withdraw Troops From Afghanistan
- Karzai Trashes Obama's Withdrawal Plan.

That's not even the whole page of links but it's not bad for one day's news. How much good news like this can the drone-firing Peace Laureate take?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Australian Election - What Happened To Afghanistan?

According to the head of the Australian armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the Australian forces, along with the pro-occupation Afghan Army units they are responsible for training, have intensified their activities and are “going into areas” where they have not been before, resulting in bloody engagements with local resistance fighters.
At least four of the other recent deaths occurred in the nearby province of Kandahar, the main stronghold of the Taliban. These deaths were the direct result of a decision taken by the Australian government to make Australian special forces’ units available to the US military for use in the current Kandahar offensive.
Neither the Labour nor Liberal parties raised or explained the escalation of Australian combat operations in Afghanistan during the election campaign. It was not mentioned in any of the so-called debates between 
 Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Nor was it made a point of political opposition by the Greens, which claim to oppose the war but are seeking to enter a post-election de-facto coalition government with either of the major parties. The bipartisan support within the Australian political establishment for the war in Afghanistan and the indefinite commitment of Australian troops was on display again yesterday, as news broke of the death of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. MacKinney died during a three-hour “intense firefight” in an area to the west of Tarin Kowt, the main occupation base in Uruzgan.
Gillard declared the death was “dreadful”, then went on to insist that while the Afghan war was “dangerous and difficult” it was “also vital work.” She again refused to put a timetable on withdrawing Australian troops, stating only that they had a “defined mission” to train Afghan government forces, which would most likely be completed within two to four years.
Abbott likewise stated that the war was “vital for the security of our country and the wider world and now is not the time to waver in our commitment”. Repeating the standard propaganda employed to justify the criminal operation, Abbott declared: “I’m not going to put limits on Australia’s commitment to do its bit to rid the world of terrorism.”
The utter fraud of the claims that Australian troops are killing and being killed in Afghanistan to fight terrorism gained a rare airing in the media yesterday, after Andrew Wilkie, an independent candidate in Saturday’s election, attacked the justification as a lie.
While counting has not yet been finalised, Wilkie, who stood against both the Labour and Liberal parties, will likely win the seat of Denison, in Tasmania. In 2003, as the US and its allies, including the Howard government in Australia, were ramping up their “war on terror” rhetoric to justify the invasion of Iraq, Wilkie, a former Army officer, resigned in protest from his position as an intelligence analyst for the Office of National Assessments, attacking the claims that the Iraqi regime possessed large quantities of “weapons of mass destruction”. Good on yer, mate.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

5 US Soldiers Charged With Killing Civilians

Prosecutors say some of his fellow soldiers said Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont., organized a "kill team" of men willing to kill civilians while on patrol. Another soldier, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, reportedly gave detailed statements to investigators implicating himself and others.
Gibbs had done one tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq before being redeployed. Some soldiers have said he boasted in Afghanistan about actions he had taken in Iraq.

Tip of the iceberg of course. Watch them walk away scot-free one by one as they always do.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

8 Civilians Killed In Baghlan NATO Raid

At least 8 civilians were killed and 12 were wounded in NATO operations in the northern Baghlan province on Monday, officials say
The incident occurred Monday afternoon in the province's Tala and Barfak districts when foreign forces entered a residential house and shot dead 8 civilians, wounded 12 and arrested 9 others, local officials say.
NATO forces denied having any connection with the incident. In NATO operations conducted without coordination with Afghan forces, civilians are the main victims.
In a similar incident last week, NATO soldiers had shot dead 2 civilians and arrested 3 others in Surkhroad district of the eastern Nangarhar province. The spokesman for the province's Police Chief had said that the operation was conducted without coordination with Afghan forces.
According to a recent report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian casualties have increased 31 percent in the first six months of 2010. Civilian casualties have provoked tense arguments between Afghan authorities and NATO military officials.
TONY Writes:

The chief of Baghlan's Tala Wabarfak district, Mohammad Ismail, said the deathssix men, one woman, and one childreportedly came in the early hours of Sunday morning in the village of Tergaran. Villagers told him troops flown in aboard five or six helicopters also destroyed several houses during the five-hour operation, Ismail said. Two people were reportedly arrested and taken away he said, adding that Taliban have on occasion been active in the area, a 10-hour walk from the nearest town over which the government exercises little influence.
NATO said U.S. troops fired warning shots on Monday to disperse a protest in eastern Afghanistan over the arrest of a religious leader suspected of a rocket attack. The alliance said no civilian injuries were reported from the demonstration, but Gen. Faqir Ahmad, the deputy police chief of Parwan province, said one civilian was killed by gunfire from an unknown source. NATO said about 300 people surrounded a patrol and attacked vehicles with rocks and iron bars outside the main coalition air base at Bagram in Parwan province.
"After several attempts to stop the attack and disperse the crowd, coalition troops received small-arms fire directed at them," NATO said in a news release. Coalition forces then fired the warning shots.
Gen. Ahmad said the coalition firing enraged the crowd with some then using rocks and sticks to attack police and the head of the district government, Kabir Ahmad, who had tried to calm the situation. The deputy police chief said Ahmad and a police officer had serious but not life-threatening injuries. (Source - various newsfeeds).

Monday, 23 August 2010

Smearing Wikileaks And Julian Assange

I was going to post on the inevitable smears on Assange. Fortunately Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque has done it quicker and better:

We have the President of the United States -- who has already openly proclaimed his "right" to assassinate anyone on earth, including American citizens, without the slightest due process of law, simply at his arbitrary command -- now feverishly expanding the use of death squads, whose stealthy night raids on sleeping villages have already killed a vast number of innocent civilians in Afghanistan (as the Wikileaks documents show). This same administration is now running "black ops," secret armies, proxy wars and other covert activities in more than 75 countries around the world. That is to say, the Obama Administration is now murdering people in their beds, fomenting bloody ethnic conflict, supporting and/or carrying out acts of terrorism, spreading corruption, assisting dictators, arming warlords, spreading hate and suffering all over the world -- and doing it knowingly, proudly. ("Evil in broad daylight" indeed, as Arthur Silber details here.)

 these are the moral paragons who have now turned their machinery of lies and smears against Wikileaks. For make no mistake; although the rape charges were manufactured in Sweden -- which, incidentally, is where some of Wikileaks' servers are located -- they emanate from the proud deathlords in Washington. Indeed, didn't we hear just a few weeks ago that the Peace Laureate's people had launched a campaign of pressuring foreign governments to put fetters on Assange and his organization? Now Sweden's center-right government -- no, Rush, Sweden is no longer the super-socialist fairyland of your nightmares -- has obviously hearkened to the master's voice.

But although this first foray has been rebuffed, it is certain that what we are seeing is the beginning of a concerted effort to destroy Assange as a public figure and thereby discredit the work of Wikileaks -- and by extension, the truth of its revelations.

And smearing, of course, is just the first step. If that doesn't work ... well, the avowed and openly proclaimed proponents of assassination certainly have other, more "
prejudicial" methods at their disposal, nicht war?

No Withdrawal From Afghanistan in 2011?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Daily NATO Massacre Report

Another 'Precision Raid' Fiasco By NATO today. Less than 24 hours after the last one. This is the new Petraeus broom sweeping clean the well-established incompetence. Policemen are the latest victims.

Murderous ISAF Raid - Relatives Speak

Mohammed Aman and Mohammed Anwar

Ismail Aman set out from Kabul last week to join his family in nearby Wardak province for the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Next day Aman lay bleeding in his family guest room, alongside two of his brothers, all shot dead by U.S. special forces who were on the hunt for 'a Taliban leader'. Their deaths sparked a vitriolic anti-American protest and generated a backlash against the dramatic spike in special forces raids, which have become a crucial element of President Barack Obama's strategy in Afghanistan. NATO officials admitted this week that special forces are taking part in 1,000 operations in Afghanistan each month, a threefold increase over last year.  Omid Ali, 21, said his school friend Aman had nothing to do with the Taliban . "I want to say to President Obama: Afghanistan doesn't have hostility towards foreign forces, but, these mistakes, that is how they will be defeated in Afghanistan."
'Standard Raid'
American military officials said that Aman's shooting was no mistake. The 25-year-old student was shot as he was 'reaching for an AK-47' when the U.S. special forces team burst into the tiny guest room where he was sleeping with his brothers at the family compound, according to an account of the raid provided by the American military. As far as the  U.S. military perspective is concerned, the raid followed the standard procedures:
But the military force produced no weapons from the compound. In its initial news release on the operation, the U.S.-led military coalition said the assault forces had apprehended a key Taliban commander at a nearby compound.
"This capture will severely degrade Taliban operations in the Tangi and Shehkabad district," U.S.Army Col. Rafael Torres, a spokesman for the military coalition, said the day after the raid. "Now one less criminal is on the streets endangering Afghan civilians with his indiscriminate IED attacks," a reference to improvised explosive devices, as the military calls homemade bombs. Now, however, NATO military officials say they aren't even certain they have the right man.
"Although initially we believed we captured an insurgent commander at one of the compounds, we have not been able to definitively determine that person's identity," said oneNATO official who discussed the operation only on the condition that he not be identified, because of the sensitivity of the secret operations.
The Aman family's account differs on the most significant points.
Relatives said that Ismail Aman and 23-year-old Buranullah, an earth studies major at Kabul University, had returned from Kabul that morning to celebrate Ramadan with their family. After dinner, relatives said, Ismail and Buranullah studied for exams in the guest room. Around 1:30 a.m., U.S. soldiers burst through the door and started firing, said Wahidullah, 13, who said he was sleeping in the room with his three older brothers. Wahidullah said he heard no call to come outside before the shooting started. U.S. military officials said this week that Wahidullah wasn't in the room and couldn't have known what happened during the shooting.
Photographs of the compound, which the family provided and the U.S. military verified, show three distinct bloodstains on the floor where the brothers were killed. The U.S. military said all three brothers "showed hostile intent towards the assault force." After killing the first brother, the military said, the assault force attempted to get the other two to come out peacefully before it shot them in succession as they tried to grab the weapon. It was only after confronting the brothers in the guest room, said family members who were in the compound that night, that the assault force called in Pashto for people to come out.
One of those interrogated during the raid was Mohammed Aman, a 29-year-old brother who was sleeping in another part of the house. While Mohammed Aman's hands were cuffed and a hood was over his face, he said, his Afghan interrogator slapped him while asking him about Taliban leaders in the village. "They asked me, 'Who are the Taliban sleeping in your room?'" Mohammad Aman said during an interview in Kabul before a memorial service for his brothers.
When the soldiers said that they'd found a weapon in the compound, Aman told his interrogator to show it to him. The soldiers never produced the gun, he said. The brothers' shootings unleashed a protest in the area. Hundreds of Afghans blocked the main road as they shouted anti-American slogans.
Sourced from various newsfeeds in the UK and Middle East

Friday, 20 August 2010

Another Bungled Raid - Another Dead Civilian

From AP this morning:
In a separate incident, alliance soldiers killed an Afghan woman during a raid on a house in the troubled eastern province of Khost, which had aimed to capture a 'Taliban commander', ISAF said.
Chasing the suspect through walled compounds, the troops opened fire after seeing a gun pointing towards them from a room. The troops later found they had killed a woman, an ISAF statement said.
"Inside the room, they found one woman dead and another with a minor wound as a result of the gunfire. An AK-47 was next to the killed female," it said.
According to Afghan tradition women rarely take part in war, but most Afghan households keep firearms in their homes for security.
Civilian casualties are an extremely sensitive issue in Afghanistan, especially when caused by the US-led NATO force, deployed in Afghanistan to help Kabul battle an insurgency being waged by the Taliban.
According to a recent UN report, more than 1200 Afghan civilians lost their lives in violence in the first half of the year, about 31 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

New General - Old Graveyard

Petraeus has trashed Obama and his staffers' blandishments about the exit date from the mess they have exacerbated over 10 years in Afghanistan. Among the other things it demonstrates is the weakness of Obama and his 'strategies' which are now, in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, transparent and tawdry PR exercises. He didn't start any of the debacles but is rapidly leaving an inept and bloodstained set of fingerprints all over them. The latest protest by Afghan civilians against the continued murderous and bungled night raids which Obama favours so much took place yesterday. Details here. Karzai is out of the country or his perfunctory weekly condemnation of Nato's incompetence would already have been issued.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Israeli Abuse Pictures

Abu Ghraib ring a bell? These disgusting pics speak for themselves. No comment necessary.

A former Israeli soldier has sparked controversy after posting pictures of herself on Facebook posing with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.

The photographs show Eden Abergil positioned provocatively with the men, prompting lurid comments from other users of the popular social networking site.
The pictures, which were uploaded into a folder entitled "Army - the best time of my life," and associated comments were discovered by bloggers, who circulated them on the internet on Monday.
Palestinians have long claimed that they are subject to humiliating and degrading treatment while held in Israeli custody, but Israeli authorities have always rejected such allegations.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Invasion of Afghanistan and the Scrapheap Of History

The neocolonialist venture in Afhanistan is now fated to be perceived as a confused folly. This is why the WikiLeaks exposé has proved so devastating, as the revelations strike at the very foundation of both the “moral” basis of the war and the ambiguous motives that are now used to justify it.
In attacking “terrorism” and simultaneously engaging in “counter-insurgency,” the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan have become a perpetrator of what they are fighting. Worse yet, a feeling of imperial revival has also become part of the picture, and not only among Afghans. This sense of imperial occupation has transformed the supposed solution to the problem of terror in Afghanistan into the problem itself.
And if the muddle of motives in Afghanistan is not bad enough, there is Pakistan to add to the confusion. Without Pakistan as a strategic partner to provide land, resources, and military support, operations in Afghanistan would be confounded further. But Pakistani support clearly comes at a high price. The US “buys” an ally in Pakistan that dictates the terms of its collaboration, and simultaneously guards its flanks by keeping open its channels of communication to the Taliban. This, however, is an entirely understandable precaution by Pakistan, whose government, like every other government in the region, must be prepared for the day when the US and NATO withdraw from Afghanistan with their tails between their legs.

Fighting The Taliban To The Death?

H/t to The Trench blog and James Gundun.

Here Petraeus is running into a wall. Back in Iraq his strategy board became famous for its complexity. The “Anaconda Strategy,” designed to squeeze an enemy to death, identified six points of attack on al-Qaida in Iraq: “1) Kinetics (combat); 2) Politics; 3) Intelligence; 4) Detainee Ops; 5) Non-Kinetics (education, jobs programs); and 6) Interagency.” A COIN matrix, Petraeus is believed to be customizing his Anaconda Strategy for the Taliban, except it lacks a key kinetic and political element.

More here

Friday, 13 August 2010

Task Force 373 - Death Squad

Another vignette from the Wikileaks logs: The top secret unit of U.S. Special Forces called Task Force 373 set out on June 17, 2007, in the Patika province of Aghanistan to purposely commit a war crime. Task force 373 is a death squad organized by the NATO coalition in Afghanistan to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2,000 alleged leaders of the Taliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or capture” list, known as Jpel for Joint Prioritized Effects List.
On that occasion, the target was a man named Abu Laith al-Libi. Task Force 373 believed he was hiding in a remote village in Patika province. The unit was armed with a new weapon known as HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — a pod of six missiles on the back of a small truck.
According to Pentagon war logs recently released by WikiLeaks, TF 373’s plan was to launch five rockets at targets in the village of Nangar Khel where Libi was supposedly hiding and then send in ground troops. The rockets failed to find Libi but killed six men TF 373 claimed were Taliban fighters.
Then, when troops approached the rubble that was once a school, they recorded “initial assessment of 7 x NC KIA,” which translates as “seven non-combatants killed in action.” All of them were children. One of them was still alive: “The Med TM immediately cleared debris from the mouth and performed CPR.” After 20 minutes, the child died. (WikiLeaks War Logs quoted in The Guardian, July 25)
The U.S.-led coalition issued a press release claiming that troops “had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications that there were children inside the building.” The release also claimed that Taliban fighters, who supposedly were in the compound, had used the children as human shields.
The bodies of the six “Taliban” were in a completely different building than the school where the children were found. The release suggested that coalition forces had attacked the compound because of “nefarious activity” there, when the reality was they had gone there to kill or capture Libi.
The press release made no mention at all of Libi, nor of the failure of the mission (although that was revealed later by NBC News). Crucially, it failed to record that TF 373 had fired five rockets, destroying the school and other buildings and killing seven children, before anybody fired on them. This was a mission to murder.
The internal report was marked not only “secret” but also “Noforn,” that is, not to be shared with non-U.S. members of the coalition. The wording of the report was very specific: “The knowledge that TF 373 conducted a HIMARS strike must be protected.” And it was. That is, until the recent release of 91,000 secret Pentagon cables by a whistleblower inside the U.S. intelligence establishment courtesy of Wikileaks. Bless them.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Latest Nato Killings, Latest Nato Spin

'The gulf between the two accounts is a reminder of how sensitive every NATO operation in Afghanistan has become. In Taliban-heavy areas it is hard to distinguish villagers from insurgents and sometimes public opinion turns against coalition forces even when they say they are certain they targeted the correct people.'
These words are reported verbatim in other US MSM newsfeeds. It looks very much like they are carrying Nato statements word for word and presenting it as news. Fox has 'reported' in the same terms this morning, needless to say. I don't know about you, but I believe the account of the local villagers.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Row Over Aegis Defence Services Move

In a controversial move, Aegis Defence Services, a security contractor with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, is moving its headquarters to Basel from London. Basler Zeitung, the Basel daily newspaper, reported this week that Aegis is now a wholly owned by a shell company based in the Swiss city. In a statement, a PR Company for Aegis confirmed the move, citing tax reasons, as well as, incredibly, the proximity of international organjzations in Switzerland, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC has worked tirelessly to regulate the private security and mercenary industry.

The statement said that “no business activities will be conducted in or from Switzerland.” Reports of the move have been criticized in the Swiss media generally, with commentators calling Aegis “mercenaries” who should not be allowed in Switzerland, which remains an officially neutral country. Coincidentally, a spokesman for President Karzai said on Tuesday that he would be fixing a date after which security contractors would be asked to leave Afghanistan. We will be watching and waiting.

Five Episodes From The Wikileaks Logs

These are not the most significant ones but are a good sample of the whole clusterfuck. H/T to Mathaba.

#1. The Great Escape

Prisons and prisoners are running motifs in the memos. They are full of reports of AAF's (Anti-Afghan Forces) and ACM's (Anti-Coalition Militias) being overcome, disarmed, flex-cuffed and sent off to the nearest base or holding facility. Some describe interrogations, releases and the occasional jailbreak. This entry relays one such escape with a touch of the cinematic despite itself:

On the night of 28 May between 1500Z and 2400Z Mohammed Wali Jan, a detained suspected ACM (Anti-Coalition Militia) was able to use his blanket as a tool and pull in the roof of his cell. From there he climbed the detention facility wall and escaped. The front gate to the PUC (Prison Under Control) facility was secure and we have been able to retrace his movement over the wall and concertina wire and have identified a recent blood trail heading east. Due to this probable escape route we do not at this time suspect any collaboration from HN (Host Nation) workers or terps (interpreters). Searches are being conducted in the local area.

#2. Zawahiri's Gift of Grammar

There are not many Al Qaeda cameos in the WikiLeaks cache, but among them include this arrest made in January of 2004:

Afghan male found drawing map of kabul military training center (kmtc): an afghan male, jaweed ali, was seen drawing a map of kmtc. Jaweed was apprehended at 1000hrs on 12 jan 04 and taken before the 15th kandak commander who asked that the incident be investigated. A search of jaweeds personal effects resulted in the discovery of an english grammar book dedicated to jaweed by zawahiri in arabic. As the name ubl was also found in the same dedication, it was assumed that the zawahiri was the same one known to be an aq member.

#3. The Curse of UX

Numerous documents detail the deaths of young LN's (Local Nationals). There are reports of kids running into streets and being grinded to death by coalition convoys; of young Afghans getting caught in crossfire; and of children being used as mules and spies. Then there are those who make the mistake of playing with UX (Unexploded Ordinance), scattered throughout the country by all sides. This happened in November of 2009:

Col Shamsul [reports] from Barge Matal, that LN children picked up a UXO and were carrying it through town. It detonated and killed 4 and wounded 3. The WIA injuries are burn and schrapnel wounds to the upper body and arms. Col Shamsul requests MEDEVAC of children to CF hospital to receive treatment. 1302z JCC rpts update for incident in Barge Matal. Of the four KIA rpted 2 were women and 2 were children, and one of the WIA has died of wounds. SUM 2xKIA (Women) 3xKIA (Children) 2xWIA (Children)

#4. "Green on Green"

Dozens of documents report violence between factions within the Afghan national forces. These are listed under "Friendly Fire" in a subsection called "Green-Green" conflict. Usually these reports involve firefights between the ANA (Afghan National Army) and the ANP (Afghan National Police). Others describe explosive scuffles and drawn-out battles between tribal militias, who are often allied with ANA or ANP units. In this case , the green on green "Event" involved a rooftop firefight that cut across a moonlit opium haze:

B Coy 1 RIFLES reported that some ABP (Afghan Border Police) high on drugs were arguing and woke up the TERPS (Interpreters). The ABP were later on the roof talking when 3 x shots were fired in the direction of the terps. 1 x ABP fell from the roof apparently from a GSW (Gunshot Wound). QRF (B Coy 1 RIFLES) was alerted and arrived on the scene to deal with the incident and treat the casualty.

The casualty later died from his GSW. OCCD (Operational Command Center - District) will investigate at first light A significant proportion of the ABP in PB (Patrol Base) JUGROOM were high on opium and having a party. An argument between an interpreter and a number of policemen ensued; this developed into a fight between the interpreter and the ABP.

The Guard Commander was called, and the PB Commander and Plt Sjt attempted to negotiate with the ABP Commander. The majority of the ABP were on the roof of the interpreters accommodation, and a number of shots were fired. The sentry in Sanger 2 fired one shot in response believing the lives of his PB Commander and Platoon Sjt were in danger. One ABP was wounded with a single GSW to his abdomen. It is not known whether the round lead to the ABP casualty was fired by the UK sentry or was fired from another weapon. After the medical attention the GSW proved fatal and the MIRT was stood down.

#5. The Cave

There aren't many documents dealing with the Coalition's war on drugs. Most that do are organized on a WikiLeaks page titled " Smuggling ." Here are found interdiction reports of everything from massive hashish screens to garbage bags of softball-sized orbs of wet opium. Then there is this evocative memo , describing the Afghanistan equivalent of a dime-bag bust:

ANA (Afghan National Army) were conducting a joint patrol vic WB 546 800. CCA (Carrier Controlled Approach) had seen personnel down loading jingle trucks in caves vic that grid. We set up an RP approximately 300 meters from the suspected jingle truck sight and put a dismounted patrol along the road.

We established overwatch over the wadi surrounding the area. While attempting to find another cave to the west, we saw a cave to our south with personnel in it. After coming up short looking for jingle trucks, we decided to look into the cave to the South.

A man approached us from the cave and began telling a story about his truck breaking down. ANA and CF (Coalition Forces) were searching the area around the man while we were questioning him. They found an AK-47, two pistols, marijuana, several sticks of explosives, det cord, a large number of D cell batteries, blasting caps, a notebook, a book of pictures and other personal items.

I then had the ANA place the men in flex cuffs and sit them down. We brought them to Salerno. Of the four men, one is young, and one is older. The fat man with the lazy eye was very quiet the whole time.