Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding - Republican Street Party

Afghanistan To Be Base For Drone Attacks Into Pakistan

The US is shifting its drones from Pakistan to Afghanistan after Islamabad asked it to shut down UAV bases on its territory, but America has vowed to continue attacking 'targets' in Pakistan's tribal areas. Pakistan has asked the CIA to remove its personnel from the Shamsi airbase, about 350 kms southwest of Baluchistan's capital Quetta, where some of the drones are based, say senior American officials quoted in numerous Asian news agencies.
"The withdrawal has not occurred but is expected soon," one official said adding that the drone attacks would then be flown out of Afghanistan where some of them are already based.
But even after shifting, the Predators and Reapers, top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, in a private meeting in Islamabad last week told Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that the CIA would not reduce the drone strikes until Pakistan launched a 'military operation' against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The systematic humiliation of Pakistan by the US militarists is accelerating. It is also disastrous and self-defeating. Nothing new there, then.



Friday, 29 April 2011

11 Years On - Going Swimmingly In Afghanistan

Latest 'Progress In Afghanistan' Bollocks from ISAF. Some MSM swallow it as follows:
At the same time, however, the report said the momentum of the insurgents has been “broadly arrested” and their morale has begun to erode. Hundreds of insurgent leaders have been killed or captured, it said, and since last July 700 former Taliban have been officially reintegrated into Afghan society and another 2,000 insurgents are in various stages of the process. Nato says three service members have been killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan, where insurgents are stepping up their targeted attacks on coalition troops and others aligned with the government.The coalition said on Friday that two died when a bomb exploded in the south and a third was killed by insurgents in the east.
The three deaths, which occurred on Thursday, raise to 48 the number of foreign troops killed so far this month, compared with 33 in April 2010.



Buying Hearts And Minds In Afghanistan

The full spectrum of the insanity is in this BBC Clip

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Want To Be A Terrorist? A Casio Watch Is A Must-Have This Season

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David Milliband On Afghanistan - No, Really

This is from a New Labour Blogger who I will not even credit from fear of contaminating my own blog. It shows that David Milliband, who is up to his bony elbows in the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles, extraordinary rendition and who Hillary Clinton stored in her handbag, has not an iota of shame or self-assessment. Just a typical New Labour spiv in other words.
'However, he is still thinking hard about foreign policy – and in particular about Afghanistan. In a recent speech, he gave one of the most considered and explicit statements I have yet seen of what needs to be done to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan. Miliband’s starting point is that the military effort is going badly and that the “deadline” of 2014 for withdrawal is unrealistic, without a huge effort to achieve a political settlement. He thinks that ultimately Afghanistan must be run on much federalised, decentralised lines.

And he is quite clear on the central issue of talking to the Taliban – we have to do it. That said, Miliband is not in favour of unconditional talks. And some of the lines he draws down strike me, on first reading, as potentially tricky. For example he wants the Taliban to make a formal statement of disassociation from al-Qaeda and to stop all roadside bombs as a precondition for negotiations. In return, Nato might offer to stop night-time raids and make some other concessions.'

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Petraeus To Be Head of CIA


This is a big promotion for Petraeus amid speculation that he will stand as Republican candidate for the presidency in 2016. He is seen by some as a national hero in the US but so is Justin Bieber. He devised the surge to nowhere in Iraq and has tried to follow it up in Afghanistan. I wonder how that's going.That military background plus the CIA job will provide him with a good platform should be opt to run for the White House.The shifts have been prompted by the long planned retirement of the defence secretary, Robert Gates, who served in the post under George W Bush and was asked by Obama to stay on. Petraeus was due to leave his post in Afghanistan at the end of the year. How about President Petraeus backed up by Vice President McChrystal and Secretary of State Palin in 2016?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Monday, 25 April 2011

US Citizens Unaware Drones Are Killing Innocent Pakistanis - Imran Khan

Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, indicated on Sunday that if Americans knew U.S. drone strikes were killing innocent women and children in Pakistan they would be marching on Washington D.C.
Khan, Paksitan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman, made these comments after leading protests against the CIA drone program that blocked a key road in Pakistan for three days, holding up over 500 lorries which prevented supplies from reaching NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Khan said Pakistan was the only country that had been using its army to kill its own people and that international law guaranteed protection of the rights of all human beings irrespective of their race, territory and financial status. From Examiner.com
If Imran substituted the phrase 'don't care' for 'don't know' on behalf of the US public, we would agree with him. Good luck to him in any event.

Taliban Prisoners Escape - Short Film Report

Short film clip for Newsy here.

Wikileaks - The Guantanamo Files

The documents reveal:
 
- US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.
-Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.
- Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide.
- A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members. One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.
- US authorities relied heavily on information obtained from a small number of detainees under torture. They continued to maintain this testimony was reliable even after admitting that the prisoners who provided it had been mistreated.
FULL DETAILS HERE

Kandahar and Guantanamo - A Tale Of Two Prisons



The Kanadahar breakout involved not only hardened militants but a large number of Taliban commanders say AFP and the BBC and everybody. The fighters and their commanders go free while the completely innocent continue to rot in Guantanamo. US foreign policy really is just about as dysfuntional as it could be (and has been for a very long time).

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Drone Protests - Pakistan Suspends Nato Supplies

Imran and other protesters spent the night on road, and the sit-in continued on Sunday morning, Geo News reports."We will continue our campaign until America stops killing our innocent people," Global General quoted Imran, as telling around 3,000 protesters on the outskirts of Peshawar, around 35 miles (57 kilometres) from the Afghan border.
"It is our start against American slavery. The people have risen up. They will neither let the corrupt leaders nor their American bosses stay in this country," he added. Imran also offered his services to act as a mediator for any possible peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. "I am ready to broker," he said, arguing that if America were ready to do that in Afghanistan, why would Pakistan not do it here. Police officer Khurshid Khan said that NATO supplies had been stopped until Monday morning because of the protest.
From Here

Friday, 22 April 2011

Afghanistan - Broken Everything



From WIRED

Misurata - US to Deploy Drones


How long before the drones start to kill 'rebels', villagers, journalists and allies just like in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Watch out for the same spin and excuses being retreaded. More here

 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tim Hetherington's Last Twitter Message





Nato heading for another failure in Libya could have been the headline here. Tim Hetherington's last Tweet, just hours before he died was.. "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gaddafi forces. No sign of Nato." They are quick enough when it comes to bombing the wrong targets in Afghanistan, though.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

MOD Under Pressure Over Rendition



'The tribunal's ruling came in response to a request, made three years ago by the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, chaired by the senior Conservative backbencher, Andrew Tyrie. It follows allegations by Ben Griffin, a former member of the SAS, that detainees captured by British special forces had been transferred to US forces under whose authority they had been tortured or unlawfully removed from Iraq.
An internal MoD review concluded in 2008 that there was no evidence of unlawful rendition. A year later, it admitted that two detainees captured by British forces in Iraq had been rendered to a notorious jail in Bagram in Afghanistan.'  
Full story here.







Monday, 18 April 2011

President Saleh's Bag of Tricks

SANA'A, April 17 (Saba)- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has affirmed his keenness to strengthen women's participation in political action and in institutions of the State.
This came during his meeting on Sunday with a number of women's leaderships, who expressed their appreciation for encouragement, care and support provided by the president to women in the country.
President Saleh said that Yemeni women have proven that they have sufficient awareness and care about the issues more than some people.
"We do not suspect our mothers, daughters or sisters. Women are the best and more honorable than to say anything about," he said.
He wondered how those, who sit-in in front of Sana'a University, permitted to themselves to leave women in the streets, while they claim to not mix.
"When we talked and said why mixing, that is because of our worry about our daughters, sisters and mothers from mob and anarchists," the president explained.

$6M US Dollars Secretly Funded Syrian Opposition

Wikileaks are the source of this information for which thanks once again.

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Yemen - Millions March In Protests

The GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) countries - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait - are extremely worried about instability in Yemen. The Saudi kingdom, in particular, has offered to host on its territory any negotiations between the Yemeni regime and the opposition. Saleh continues to live in denial and, like Moubarrak, promise change in the future.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Algerian soldiers killed in attack on outpost - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Algerian soldiers killed in attack on outpost - Africa - Al Jazeera English
This is the most serious attack in Algeria, a pro-western state despite it's terrible sufferings at the hands of the west (France), to date. More will follow. This area of 'awakening' is under-reported by the US and European media. We will keep an eye on it here and pass it on. Vive Le FLN. Vive Boumedienne. Vive Krim. Vive L'Algerie Libre.

Canadian Conservatives Blocking Torture Investigations

By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
The following are Excerpts from that story/ Link - Complete Story 
OTTAWA — An all-party push to release documents about the alleged torture of prisoners in Afghan jails ran into a procedural wall late Friday.
The Conservatives joined other federal parties in calling for disclosure of the first batch of records from a special committee, saying they would do "whatever it takes" to make it happen.
But Alberta Tory candidate Laurie Hawn later backpedalled somewhat, saying "there is no specific process" to make the documents public during an election campaign.
The alleged abuse of detainees in Afghanistan — and what the federal government may have known about it — has dogged the Conservatives for years.
The government's initial refusal to disclose the thousands of pages of Foreign Affairs and Defence Department reports prompted a parliamentary crisis in December 2009.
It was resolved with formation of the committee, which began sifting through tens of thousands of pages last July.
The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois — the other two parties represented on the committee — called Friday for disclosure of the records.
"The issue is, Canadians ought to know this stuff," said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. "This is how democracy works. There's no reason to conceal these documents."
In Quebec City, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said he was tired of waiting for the documents, adding his party was pulling out of the committee. "I'm asking that it has to be public — period."
The New Democrats refused to take part in the committee due to lack of faith in the process.
In Prince Edward Island, NDP Leader Jack Layton was not surprised by the latest drama.
"This has been the plan from Day 1," he said. "And that is what we warned the other leaders about. We said: 'You are being drawn into a process where Stephen Harper is going to drag this thing out.'

Libya - Parliament To Be Recalled?

Friday, 15, Apr 2011 05:15
A letter calling for the removal of Colonel Gaddafi has prompted demands for a recall of parliament.
The article, signed off by David Cameron, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, said it would be "unthinkable" for the dictator to play a part in Libya's future.
A Conservative MP has written to the Speaker demanding parliament be recalled to discuss the now explicit aim to remove Col Gaddafi from power.
John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay, told the BBC that the letter indicated a change in the allies' mission in Libya and argued parliament should be consulted.
"I believe parliament should be recalled," he said. "This statement is a clear alteration to the original mission and that would justify a recall.
"When we debated this the case was put this was a humanitarian mission. Clearly that is no longer the case and maybe never was."
He was backed by Labour MP David Winnick and Tory MPs Peter Bone and David Davis.
Mr Davis said although he agreed with the government's aim to remove Col Gaddafi, Mr Cameron needed to consult the Commons.
"The simple truth is that parliament did not authorise the next phase," he told the BBC's The World at One.
But Richard Ottaway, chair of the foreign affairs committee, said the letter was a "reiteration" of the original mission.
"I think basically, essentially this is a humanitarian mission and it is protection of the civilian population which is top of the order book. I don't think that has altered," he said.
"I don't see a change in policy, just a reiteration of where it was a month ago."
The article suggests that the US is willing to play a key role in the conflict once again, after it took a decidedly back-seat role following the first few weeks of fighting.
"It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government," the article, which appeared in the Times, the Washington Post and Le Figaro, read.
"The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal."
The explicit expansion of the mission's aims to include the end of the Gaddafi regime requires a particular definition of the UN resolution which authorised action. The resolution only allows for the protection of civilians, but the allies are likely to argue that their safety cannot be secured without the departure of Gaddafi.
"So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime build," the article reads.
"Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. For that transition to succeed, Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good.
"At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Gaddafi has destroyed - to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.
"Britain, France and the United States will not rest until the UN Security Council resolutions have been implemented and the Libyan people can choose their own future."
The Times reported that only Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy had been due to sign the article but that the US president offered his signature after he was sent a copy as a matter of course.
Mr Obama had faced domestic criticism for pulling back from his initially confrontational stance in recent days.
That criticism came at the same time as Nato admitted a loss of momentum following Italian, Spanish and Dutch reticence over the use of their combat plans to carry out ground attacks.

Middle East Awakenings Update Video

Military Death Tolls In Afghanistan

Some Afghan Army Statistics





Some interesting figures here. I don't vouch for the accuracy since it is from sources close to the Afghan authorities and the numbers may consequently be exaggerated. No reason to doubt the breakdown, though. 

Drodropout rates are very high. There is also a lack of leadership - especially at senior officer level.
Most Afghan soldiers are illiterate, some are drug users and others had earlier connections with the Taliban.
The ethnic balance is a problem. Pashtuns are under-represented and so are other people from the anti-government south. Dropout rates are still a major issue, as is a lack of leadership - especially at senior officer level.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pakistan Condemns Latest Murderous Drone Strike

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has issued a strongly-worded statement condemning a deadly, suspected U.S. drone strike in the country's tribal region."Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terror campaign," a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday. "We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counter productive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists." Pakistan's Foreign Secretary has lodged a strong protest with the U.S. Ambassador, according to the statement, and the government has "taken up the matter with the U.S. at all levels."

Clinton Softens Up World For More Failure In Afghanistan

BERLIN — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned NATO allies on Thursday against bringing forces home from Afghanistan too soon, even as the United States prepares to begin drawing down its forces in July. Clinton said the Taliban will be watching what the alliance does in the coming months and that speedy reductions will hurt the fragile security gains the alliance claims. The United States is worried that pressure will grow within the alliance to match U.S. withdrawals and answer rising discontent with the war in Europe.Clinton told NATO foreign ministers that an exodus of other forces would make it appear to the Taliban that withdrawals were a sign of alliance weakness and defeat. The U.S. and its NATO partners cast the planned reductions as a mark of success and the beginning of a transition to Afghan control that would allow all foreign forces to leave eventually.NATO has invested too much to risk that perception, she said. "We need to ensure that these sacrifices are not overtaken by political expediency and short-term thinking," Clinton said. "We need to worry less about how fast we can leave and more about how we can help the Afghan people build on the gains of the past 15 months. Even as we move toward Afghan lead in areas where conditions warrant transition, we must retain forces where our commanders need them and reinvest personnel with ISAF's guidance. To do this once, we have to do it right."
Clinton's statement, in more detail here, is full of howlers. I have highlighted just one or two above.

l'Otan Reclame Plus D'Avions En Libye



L'OTAN, l'alliance la plus puissante au monde, n'a pas assez d'avions et de moyens pour venir à bout ce ce clown du désert et de ses moyens lourds pour la plupart anciens. Que l'OTAN s'occupe d'optimiser ses moyens au lieu de se meler de politique. l'OTAN se décrédibilise totalement. Il est vrai qu'avec cet échec continu en Afghanistan, plus personne n'y croit encore beaucoup. Dommage, avec un peu d'intelligence et de raison c'eut pu etre un outil merveilleux!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Afghanistan Debate(New Statesman) - Julian Assange Speech

Afghanistan Debate(New Statesman) - Mehdi Hasan Speech

Debacle In Afghanistan - Scorched Earth, Anyone?

Guess who’s been listening to smart soldiers using jargon and deploying PowerPoint charts to prove they are winning and are worth the millions being spent on the debacle in Afghanistan
Yes, step forward ‘Benghazi Bill’ Hague and David Cameron and Liam ‘The Desert Fox’. Julian Glover describes it well HERE with some nice anecdotes on Nick Clegg showing the Helmland Heroes his kids’ artwork a few years ago. 
And the bungled night raids, the fantasy military analyses and sham defence of democracy keep rolling along.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Droneheads And Boneheads Part 191



If you ever wondered how it is possible for the US to kill so many innocent and (sometimes) unintended victims in Afghanistan in episodes like this, here is a link of interest to you. It doesn't explain the almost daily carnage which the US and NATO perpetrate in Afghanistan and Pakistan but it explains one particularly harrowing piece of bloody incompetence. Among the dead this time were two boys, Daoud, 3, and Murtaza, 4.
The crass squalor of this incident was compounded by the lies and spin which NATO/ISAF injected into the coverage, such as it was, at the time and since. Full story here.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Kabul Bus Bombing - Video Clip

Karzai Office - Victims Were Civilians Once Again

KABUL: A probe by Afghan officials has concluded that five people killed by NATO-led troops in a raid in northern Afghanistan this week were civilians, President Hamid Karzai’s office said on Saturday. The deaths came during a raid in the Sari Pul province in northern Afghanistan on Monday. The local provincial governor said at the time that those killed were civilians, but the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said they were terrorists. Karzai then ordered an investigation by provincial officials. A spokesman for ISAF said it could not immediately comment on the findings. “The findings of this delegation, which is based on meetings with villagers and statements by eyewitness says that five civilians were killed,” a statement from Karzai’s office said. “The president of Afghanistan... strongly condemns the killing of civilians in this operation and emphasises once again that killing civilians will not help the fight against terrorism but will hinder it,” the statement added. From AFP.

La Repression Se Pursuit En Syrie, Libye, Bahrain, Le Soudan



Courage aux revolutionnaires, qui veulent vivre libres! LIBERTE ... ce mot tellement galvaude en L'Europe ou les gens sont tellement prompts a oublier notre chance ... Bravo les courageux revolutionnaires ! Merci les journalistes de lever le pan du voile : votre metier prend la toute sa belle signification; mettre en lumiere le combat et les exactions.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Shadow War In Afghanistan - Strategy To Nowhere

The conflict in Afghanistan has devolved into a shadow war pitting what the U.S. calls “hunter-killers” from Delta Force, SEAL Team Six and the Rangers against militants from the Taliban and its affiliates, military officials told the National Journal.
The Pentagon has been generally quiet about their shift in strategy, as they insert elite commando units on the ground in anticipation of the withdrawal of conventional forces from Afghanistan set to begin mid-summer.
During his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in late March General David Petraeus did allude to upping the tempo of targeted raids, pointing out that, “In a typical 90-day period, precision operations by U.S. special-mission units and their Afghan partners alone kill or capture some 360 targeted insurgent leaders.”
Maj. Wesley Ticer, a spokesman for the military’s Special Operations Command, estimated that there are about 7,000 Special Forces operatives in Afghanistan at the moment, a 50 percent spike from a couple years ago.Petraeus wants to drive the Taliban to the negotiating table by killing enough militants, which many experts believe is a futile effort, considering the Afghan people absorbed over 1 million casualties during the jihad against the Russia in the 1980s.
Petraeus’s approach is based on the model he used in Iraq in conjunction with General Stanley McChrystal, who led Special Forces at the time— a paradigm they believe brought Iraq back from the brink of civil war by killing and capturing thousands of Shiite and Sunni extremists.
One military official reported that the ISAF has launched five times the number of targeted raids in recent months with Special Forces operatives mounting nearly more than six strikes per day against militants.
ISAF officials also indicated the ongoing strikes in the AfPak border region have made substantial progress against the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network by disrupting their ability to plan new attacks and resupply militants inside Afghanistan.Not to mention, the pressure brought on by these raids has created tension between different echelons within the insurgency, as Taliban foot soldiers grow weary of risking their lives in Afghanistan while their commanders live comfortably in Pakistan hideaways.
However, amidst claims of progress made against the insurgency in Afghanistan, the Obama administration reported on Tuesday that the Taliban movement has gained strength on the Pakistani side of the border.
The Pakistan army’s major clearing operations have repeatedly failed, according to the White House report, which concluded that “There remains no clear path toward defeating the insurgency in Pakistan.”
However, the assessment also highlighted alarming trends beyond deteriorating security conditions in Pakistan’s tribal agencies, noting how in recent weeks the Taliban successfully carried out more suicide bombing missions in Afghanistan against “soft targets”, such as army recruiting centers, government buildings and market places, which led to a spike in civilian casualties.

Black Site US Prisons - New Information

From AP on April 7:
Suspects are still being held under hazy circumstances with uncertain rights in secret, military-run jails across Afghanistan, where they can be interrogated for weeks without charge, according to U.S. officials who revealed details of the top-secret network to The Associated Press.
The Pentagon also has said that detainees only stay in temporary detention sites for 14 days, unless they are extended under extraordinary circumstances. But U.S. officials told the AP that detainees can be held at the temporary jails for up to nine weeks, depending on the value of information they produce. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified.
More than a dozen former detainees claimed they were menaced and held for weeks at the Joint Special Operations Command site last year, forced to strip naked, then kept in solitary confinement in windowless, often cold cells with lights on 24 hours a day, according to Daphne Eviatar of the group Human Rights First, which interviewed them in Afghanistan.
Eviatar said her monitoring group does not believe the JSOC facility is using the full range of Bush-era interrogation techniques, but she said there's a disturbing pattern of using fear and humiliation to soften up the suspects before interrogation.
Many of those interviewed said "they were forced to strip naked in front of other detainees, which is very humiliating for them," Eviatar said. "The forced nudity seems to be part of a pattern to make detainees feel disempowered."

MOD Conscience Money To Afghans

Ministry of Defence payouts include £542 for a girl killed in a fire and £4,700 for a shop destroyed by a flare. Afghan civilians compensated for deaths, injuries and property damage caused by British forces received £1.3m last year from the Ministry of Defence – but this was, on average, less than half of what they asked for.
The lowest payment for a death was £542 after a girl was killed in a fire started by a rocket. The highest was £5,000 for each victim paid to families of a number of Afghans killed by a strike involving Hellfire missiles.
While the MoD made £1.3m in compensation payments during 2010, in the financial year from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 it paid out £1.42m – more than treble the £452,707 for the previous financial year and almost four times the £380,569 in 2007-08.
The list of all claims that were settled or rejected in 2010 has been released after the Guardian made afreedom of information request to the MoD.
The 2010 figures serve as a catalogue of suffering among civilians caught in the battle for control of Helmand province where, according to leaked diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, the efforts of British forces have been harshly criticised by Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, and our US allies.

The MoD says the compensation amounts to "goodwill payments" which do not imply legal liability and correspond to local rates. A spokesman said: "When compensation claims are received by the Ministry of Defence they are considered on the basis of whether or not there is a legal liability to pay compensation. In some cases where there is a major threat to the stabilisation effort and it is impossible to form a view on strict legal liability, ex-gratia payments may be made for personal loss, injury or death.
"The amounts paid are in accordance with local compensation rates."
Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (Civic), welcomed the compensation policy but said it lacked transparency. "It's important that the UK has a compensation programme … certainly that's the strategic thing to do and from talking with British officers in Afghanistan, I also know they believe it's the right thing to do. My concern is that there's no real transparency about who got what and what for and when, not just from the UK but from all the nations operating there."

Civic said there were fewer incidents in which Nato forces caused civilian casualties last year because of directives limiting close air support and requiring positive identification of targets. But three incidents in the past month, including the deaths of children caused by Isaf (the international security assistance force led by Nato), underlined the risk to civilians and the need for a compensation policy for all international and Afghan forces.
Theo Farrell, professor of war studies at King's College London, said the increased bill for compensation could be because more civilians were being killed and more damage caused, but there could also have been a change in British policy, to make bigger payments.
"One of changes may be that in 2010, American troops came into Helmand in very significant numbers and they make very generous payments. This may have affected British policy," he said.
"The other context has been the huge military push in Helmand against the Taliban. In the last 18 months the number of Isaf forces has gone up in a major way and there has been a very aggressive push in the south, in Kandahar and Helmand … If Isaf has really been trying to push the Taliban out of the south, you will naturally see an increase in civilian payments."
Air strikes and mortar bombings were most frequently the cause of payouts by the MoD last year to relatives of civilians killed in error in the course of British military operations. A strike by Hellfire missiles in the Babaji region of Helmand province in December 2009 led to £40,000 being paid out in five separate claims, one of which was to a claimant who lost two brothers and two sons. Although this and other incidents happened in 2009, compensation was not paid until last year.
Fourteen reports specifically mention Hellfire missiles: 10 were settled, while three arising from an attack in October last year are still being investigated and one was declined. Five reported fatalities, one a wounding, and the remainder property damage.
Other cases include £1,240 paid out for a child killed in February last year by the shock from a controlled explosion during clearance of an improvised explosive device in Sangin and £5,600 to a man whose wife and son died when a mortar caused a wall to collapse on them.
Overall, £155,379 was paid out for incidents involving at least one fatality. Small arms fire was cited for most other deaths, but one case included £2,000 for someone's son who died from "illum casing" injuries, a reference to an illumination flare. Woundings account for £73,771 in payouts. The 53 cases included £1,549 for a girl who was shot and paralysed in November 2009 in Nad-e Ali and a girl of nine whose family were paid £1,198 after she was caught in crossfire in December.
There were 530 successful claims for property damage, accounting for £619,699. Examples included flooding of a home after 267 trees were cut down for "force protection", the destruction of a flour mill and shop, and damage to homes.
An entry relating to one person waiting to be paid £160 states: "Alleges that when a suicide bomber was close to his home the PRT [provincial reconstruction team] and Isaf troops … took his home over for 6-10 days and damaged the inside and windows – wishes to claim rent also."
More expensive cases involved a shopkeeper who received £4,700 after his shop and stock was burned down when a mini flare set the property alight; a payment of £6,100 after property was destroyed by a 500lb bomb; a £7,000 for shops destroyed in a Hellfire strike; and £3,700, when a clinic in the village of Garmsir was destroyed. Other payments included £4,148 covering six claims arising from road traffic accidents; three claims for dead livestock, £522; 306 claims for crop damage, £387,584, often in cases where farmers were prevented from growing tall crops; £8,000 was also paid out for one incident in May last year in Lashkar Gah after a Chinook dispensed flares and ignited crops.
One security guard was paid £185 after his dog was shot by a military dog handler in Lashkar Gah. The majority, 861 of more than 1,000 claims that were settled or waiting to be settled, arose in the Nad-e Ali and Nahr-e Saraj areas. Most of those settled related to incidents between June and October last year, the "fighting season".
Guidelines for US army units operating in Helmand provide for $1,500-$2,500 for the death of a child or adult.
"Nato last summer adopted its first ever compensation policy," said Holewinski. "It's a set of non-binding guidelines and is a big deal because it says there was agreement that compensation is important to Afghans, particularly as a dignifying gesture. Now the problem is that the guidelines haven't gone anywhere. How would any of the commanders out in the provinces know what they mean or how to implement them? That's for Petraeus to do [David Petraeus is the US army general commanding Nato-led Isaf]."
Link to article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/28/mod-compensation-to-afghans-increases