Miya Jan was filling potholes on the rutted trail that leads to his village in rugged eastern Afghanistan when he heard the whine of a drone aircraft overhead.
The sunburned 28-year-old farmer looked up and saw a gray, narrow-winged drone circling the village. A few minutes later, he said, it fired a missile that landed with a tremendous thud across a stony ridge line.
Jan ran to the explosion site and recognized the burning frame of his cousin’s blue pickup truck. Inside, he said, he saw blackened shapes — people whose torsos had been sheared off. He recognized the smoking remains of his brother, his brother’s wife and their 18-month-old son. Jan and other villagers say 14 people were killed in the attack; U.S. and Afghan officials place the toll at 11.
“There were pieces of my family all over the road,” said Jan, recalling the deadly Sept. 7 late afternoon incident in an interview last week. “I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.
“Do the American people want to spend their money this way, on drones that kill our women and children?” he asked.
The most ridiculous actor in the fictitious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not President Hamid Karzai, the hustler the U.S. installed as its puppet after the American invasion in 2001. The real clowns in this charade are those Americans that pretend to believe President Obama when he says the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end on the last day of next year. Obama is, of course, lying through his teeth. The United States and its NATO allies plan to keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in the country, occupying nine bases, some of them set aside for exclusive American use – and would remain there at least ten years, through 2024. Shamelessly, Obama claims these troops – including thousands from the Special Operations killer elite – will have no “combat” role. It’s the same lie President Kennedy told in 1963, when he called the 16,000 U.S. troops then stationed in Vietnam “advisors,” and the same bald-faced deception that Obama, himself, tried to pull off, unsuccessfully, in Iraq – until the Iraqis kicked the Americans out.
Barack Obama has arrogated to himself the right to redefine the very meaning of war, having two years ago declared that the 7-month U.S. bombing campaign against Libya was not really a war because no Americans were killed. In Afghanistan, Obama waves his semantic magic wand to transform the past 12 years of war into 10 more years of not-war, simply by changing the nomenclature. This is hucksterism from Hell.
If there was a Devil, he would be laughing his butt off at Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor and raving Banshee of War, whose assignment is to pretend that the U.S. might choose the so-called “Zero Option” if President Karzai doesn’t immediately sign away his country to the Americans for the next ten years. By “Zero Option,” Washington means it might just pick up its killer soldiers and weapons and leave Afghanistan. But that’s an empty bluff. Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied? There is zero chance of a zero option. But, I am reminded of the events in 1963 Vietnam, when the Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were overthrown and executed in a U.S.-backed coup. Sending the homicidal Susan Rice to get in President Karzai’s face is definitely some kind of threat.
Far from ending U.S. imperial wars, Barack Obama has expanded the theaters of armed conflict. He tried to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, but the Iraqis insisted on the withdrawal terms and timetable they had negotiated with President George Bush. Iraq is now paying a heavy price, as the U.S. and its allies arm Iraqi Al Qaida and other jihadist elements fighting to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria. These U.S.-backed jihadists – the same ones the Americans fought against in Iraq for eight years – now wage war against Shiites on both sides of the border.
If there is any hope for an eventual peace in the region, it is that Washington might finally begin to understand that it can no longer control events through brute force, or by using jihadists as surrogates in the Middle East and South Asia. Maybe that’s why the Americans have tried to strike a deal with Iran. Maybe President Karzai thinks the winds of change will be sweeping through his neighborhood, soon, and he doesn’t want to go out like the puppet he came in. [++]
[…] By having the approval for the [Bilateral Security Agreement] in hand while refusing to sign it, Karzai has built a huge point of leverage over the final issue that threatened to derail the agreement. Unilateral counterterrorism raids by the US, especially in the form of night raids that enter the homes of Afghan citizens, were the final sticking point for Karzai. The US reluctantly agreed at the final minute to provide an assurance in the form of a letter from President Barack Obama that such raids would occur only under exceptional circumstances when the lives of US troops were at stake. Most likely because he remembers just how readily the US lies when developing agreements with Afghanistan on issues where there is disagreement, Karzai has warned the US that the very next night raid will mean that he never signs the agreement. From ToloNews:
“If there is one more raid on Afghan homes by U.S. forces, there is no BSA. The U.S. can’t go into our homes from this moment onward,” President Karzai said in his closing remarks at the Jirga on Sunday.
Karzai’s brinksmanship has set up a very high stakes game of “chicken” played by two junkies. The US has stated that it must know by the end of this year whether the BSA will be signed now that it has been approved. Karzai has stated that he will wait until at least April for signing. Just who will blink first is anyone’s guess. The US is strongly addicted to night raids. Will they be able to hold off on them, even for a month? Karzai is equally addicted to the billions of dollars the US pumps into Afghanistan’s economy. Will he hold off his signature past the date at which the US has warned it will drop pursuit of the agreement and proceed with a full withdrawal–of both troops and funds? Will the US allow the decision point on the zero option to be delayed until after the April elections?
With Afghan President Hamid Karzai still refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to keep US troops in Afghanistan through 2024 and beyond, National Security Advisor Susan Rice has been dispatched to reiterate US threats to end the occupation outright.
Though Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga surprised many by signing off on the BSA over the weekend, the deal isn’t final without Karzai’s signature, and he’s insisting that should wait until the April election to choose his successor. Rice is said to have told him that waiting until April is “not viable,” and the US already set an ultimatum for the end of the year, threatening to withdraw all troops by the end of 2014 if the deal wasn’t in place by the end of 2013.
Karzai aides say they don’t take the threat seriously, and it’s not surprise. Despite President Obama repeatedly raising the “zero option” during talks with Karzai to try to get better terms out of him, the Pentagon has confirmed time and again that leaving isn’t even being considered.
The White House reports that Karzai is laying out new conditions for his signature, seeking some unspecified changes to the deal, and while they’re insisting on the deal as currently written, there’s no reason to think Karzai will capitulate now, having made his position on one of the last major issues of his presidency so publicly clear.
…That November day, a roadside bomb had hit the American Special Forces team as it patrolled nearby, lightly injuring an American soldier and a translator. Soon afterward, a convoy of Americans mounted on ATVs, followed by Afghan soldiers, came rumbling down the road. Fearful, Omar and Gul Rahim put down their tools and went inside. As they sat in the back room, surrounded by Omar’s young children, a burly, bearded American burst through the front door, accompanied by two Afghan translators who started searching the rooms. They found the two men and yelled at them to get up; when Omar protested, one of the translators, Hamza, started kicking him, and his blows sent Omar crashing through his window into the garden.
As Omar lay stunned on the ground, his wife and kids rushed over, hysterical, and clutched at him to protect him, but Hamza fired several shots over their heads, killing a cow and scattering the woman and children. He then dragged Omar into a small, walled apple orchard, where the other translator – a tall, sunken-eyed man who had taken the nom de guerre Zikria Kandahari, after his southern birthplace – was beating Gul Rahim in front of several Americans. In the neighbor’s orchard, Americans had found the trigger wire for the bomb that had exploded earlier in the day. As the two pleaded their innocence, one of the Americans came over and shoved Omar up against the wall, punching him. Omar says he watched as Kandahari marched Gul Rahim about a dozen yards away, and as the Americans looked on, the translator raised his pistol to the back of Gul Rahim’s head and fired three shots. When Kandahari turned and strode toward Omar, pointing his pistol at him, Omar fainted. When he came to minutes later, he was being dragged into a Humvee.
Omar was the only civilian eyewitness to Gul Rahim’s killing, but in Wardak I spoke to three of his neighbors who said they had seen the American Special Forces arrive on their ATVs at Omar’s house, had heard gunshots and, after the soldiers had left, had seen Gul Rahim’s bullet-riddled body lying among the apple trees, his skull shattered. The Americans later returned and demolished the orchard’s walls with explosives; when Kandahari saw the 12-year-old son of the orchard’s gardener, he taunted the boy: “Did you pick up his brains?”
Fearing that Omar too had been killed, his family searched for his body to no avail. But Omar’s ordeal was just beginning. He trembles as he recalls to me what happened next. He was taken to the U.S. base in Nerkh and put in a plywood cell, where he was left until the next morning. Then the interrogations began. He says his hands were bound above his head and he was suspended and then beaten by Kandahari and the bearded American. There were two Americans and their translators interrogating him, and they asked him about Gul Rahim, and about well-known insurgent commanders in the area; Omar professed to know nothing. He says the beatings intensified, and he fainted several times – they twisted his testicles, he admits shamefacedly. The interrogation sessions continued for two days. Bound to a chair and beaten, Omar was certain he would die. At night, shackled in his plywood cell, he would recite verses from the Koran and think of his children. At one point, Kandahari held a pistol to Omar’s head and told him that he would kill him as easily as he had killed his friend.
“Of course they knew what was happening,” the accused translator, Kandahari, says. “Everyone knows what’s going on inside the team.” [++]
An even bigger problem is U.S. complicity in the abusive methods used by its Afghan allies. As one military intelligence soldier told me in Kandahar in 2011, they would often take a “smoke break” when interrogating recalcitrant detainees, stepping outside and leaving the prisoner alone with Afghan police or soldiers. And despite over a decade and billions of dollars spent training the Afghan security forces, torture and abuse remain endemic in Afghan prisons. As I reported in the investigation, ISAF has halted transferring detainees to some of the worst locations, but the CIA has not…
US Soldiers Participate in Torture of Afghan Detainees
Secretary of State Kerry was in Afghanistan to convince the Afghan President Karzai to sign a Status of Force Agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond 2014. While the long meeting was depicted as a success the main issue is still not agreed upon.
… The U.S. wants Afghan immunity for its soldiers and that any prosecution of their crimes should be handle in a U.S. court. Karzai can not agree with that. He will call a Loya Jirga to decide and will also ask the parliament for a vote on the issue. The United States will therefore have to pay a lot of bribes to get the vote it wants. But even if it should get a yes, which I doubt, it would not solve the problem of continued hostilities.
The US has set the end of this month as its artificial deadline for signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, also Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA) with Afghanistan to govern the presence of US troops inside Afghanistan after the scheduled end of NATO operations at the end of 2014. The driving force behind this push to have the SOFA in place so far ahead of the end of next year was to prevent a repeat of the embarrassment that the US suffered when it was unable to get the terms it wanted–specifically, full criminal immunity for US troops–in Iraq and wound up withdrawing all troops instead of leaving a force behind after the stated end of military operations.
The news today out of Afghanistan does not bode well for the US to meet its deadline. Although the issue of criminal immunity still seems likely to me to be just as big a barrier in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has raised a different concern that the US seems quite unlikely to address in the way he wants. From Reuters:
But two issues have emerged as potential “deal breakers”, President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told reporters late on Tuesday.
One is a U.S. desire to run independent counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan after 2014, Faizi said. The other was a U.S. refusal to agree to a wide-reaching promise to protect Afghanistan from foreign aggression.
Karzai has long opposed operations in Afghanistan by U.S. special operations forces and the CIA, particularly when they run the risk of causing civilian casualties.
“These things are strongly related to our sovereignty,” Faizi said. “We find it to be something that will definitely undermine our sovereignty, if we allow the U.S. forces to have the right to conduct unilateral military operations.”
Recall that back in February of this year, Karzai grew frustrated with the death squad activities in Wardak province and called for the expulsion of US special forces there. As usual, the reference to “special operations forces and the CIA” means the death squads that the US organizes in Afghanistan (sometimes under the guise of Afghan Local Police) that carry out brutal night raids described as “counter-terrorism” operations.
Faizi is quoted on this issue further in an AFP piece picked up by Dawn:
“The US wants the freedom to conduct military operations, night raids and house searches,” Faizi told reporters late Tuesday.
“According to them, there are 75 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, which is very strange as this agreement will be for 10 years to have the right to conduct military operations anywhere in the country.
“Unilaterally having the right to conduct military operations is in no way acceptable for Afghans.”
It appears that negotiations on this issue are now being carried out in direct phone conversations between Karzai and Obama. It’s hard to imagine that either will give up any portion of their position, so look for an announcement near the end of this month that the “deadline” has been extended. There already is discussion that the new Afghan president taking office after the April elections will be tasked with finalizing the agreement since Karzai and Obama seem unable to come to agreement.
John Brennan will hang on to his “latitude” to continue signature strikes. It seems likely that he also will keep his death squads active in Afghanistan, but they will be operating out of fewer bases. International laws and treaties are just immaterial if you have enough moral rectitude. … It appears that Brennan and the Obama administration just don’t care any more about maintaining secrecy on their war crimes. After all, who is going to stop them?
Jim White, CIA Death Squads in Afghanistan to Have Fewer Bases
Afghan officials confirmed Sunday that they had arrested and were questioning Zakaria Kandahari, whom they have described as an Afghan-American interpreter responsible for torturing and killing civilians while working for an American Special Forces unit.
The arrest of Mr. Kandahari, who had been sought on charges of murder, torture and abuse of prisoners, was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Manan Farahi, the head of intelligence for the Afghan Defense Ministry. He said Mr. Kandahari, who escaped from an American base in January after President Hamid Karzai demanded his arrest, had been captured in Kandahar by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service. There had been speculation for the last three weeks that Mr. Kandahari was in custody.
Afghan officials had accused the American military of deliberately allowing Mr. Kandahari to escape, a claim that American officials rejected. American officials said Mr. Kandahari had no longer been working for them at the time and was not an American citizen.
Since his arrest, Mr. Kandahari has not been in contact with the United States Embassy, an American official said.
Some human rights advocates believe Mr. Kandahari is being held in the National Directorate of Security’s Unit 124, which they have denounced as a prison where torture is routine. Unit 124, across the street from the American and NATO military headquarters in Kabul, is one of the Afghan detention sites on a proscribed list by the American military, which is not allowed to transfer prisoners to facilities where torture is believed to be used. However, that ban does not apply to the Central Intelligence Agency, which often has personnel in Unit 124, activists say.
Mr. Kandahari is wanted in connection with the disappearances and deaths of many of 17 Afghan civilians who were detained by an American Special Forces A Team for which he worked. Afghan investigators said they uncovered a videotape showing Mr. Kandahari torturing one civilian, Sayid Mohammad, who was later found dead, and said there was substantial evidence to prove that American personnel had been involved in the detentions of the missing civilians.
The bodies of 10 victims were found near the Special Forces base beginning in April, after the Americans left; the last was discovered on June 4, according to Afghan forensic investigators and relatives of the victims. They had disappeared between November and February.
The American military did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, but in May, an American official insisted that the A Team was not to blame for the disappearances and deaths. “We have done three investigations down there, and all absolve I.S.A.F. forces and Special Forces of all wrongdoing,” the official said, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “It is simply not true.”
An important point to keep in mind while reading the accounts of Kandahari and the US personnel he worked with is that a strong case can be made that Kandahari most likely was affiliated with the CIA, either directly as an agent or as a contractor. US denials of Kandahari working for Special Forces then become a ruse, since even if Special Forces were present with him, they likely would have been tasked to CIA for those particular missions, providing deniability for the entire group with respect to the missions being carried out by US Special Forces, ISAF or NATO.
Long time peace activist, Kathy Kelly, is co-coordinator of the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kelly just returned from her twelfth trip to Afghanistan, and is now trekking 195 miles across Iowa, with other members of her group and other peace groups, to call attention to the extreme violence and suffering she says is, in large part, a direct result of U.S. military occupation there. And a real killer at the core of the policy, asserts Kelly, is the expanding and “deadly” U.S. drone program there.
I caught up with Kelly, via telephone, last Thursday, as she continued to walk the 18 miles she was planning to cover by that day’s end. The peace activist described in detail some of the things she saw and heard on her most recent trip to poverty-stricken and war-torn Afghanistan. She emphasized, time and again, that the situation on the ground there, for everyday people, is both tragic and deadly. And the fear of being droned to death by the U.S. military or murdered by the Taliban as collaborators has now driven millions of people out of the exquisitely beautiful Afghan countryside into the capital, Kabul, which has little to offer in the way of work, housing or food for the 5 million people who now try desperately in any way they can to make ends meet.
Kelly recounted one horrific story after another, regarding the impact of U.S. Drone policy. “There were two young men who were studying to be doctors,” said Kelly on June 20th. “One doctor was a pediatrics specialist, and the other was in his third year of medical school. They were in a car driving along the road that happened to be going near an airport, and there had been a suicide bomb attack at the airport,” said Kelly, “so immediately the skies were covered with surveillance [drones], and out of fear for their lives these two guys and their driver, Hekmatullah, dove out of the car, because they thought they’d be safer if they weren’t in a vehicle, just huddled along the roadside, but to no avail. A missile hit them directly, and the driver was instantly killed. The young student doctors survived the initial attack,” said Kelly “and they could be alive and with us today,” but instead of seeking immediate medical care for the budding doctors, the U.S. military, upon arrival, hand cuffed them and then sought orders about next steps.
“After the U.S. military arrived,” said Kelly, “they handcuffed them, as they were bleeding profusely, and on the roadside. One of the young men, Siraj, pleaded for his life. ‘Please, please, I am doctor,” he said, “let me live, please save my life.’ And they didn’t try to save his life. He died on the roadside; he bled to death. They took the other one to an airport and there seemed that there was a possibility that he might be transported or medically evacuated. But they must have taken some time before the orders could be given, and he bled to death in the airport…They’re bleeding profusely on the roadside, they’re begging for help, they are handcuffed, and they are allowed to die.”
Kelly said “another man told us about how there was a day when children, little children had gone out to collect fuel on a mountain side, and I’ve heard this story repeatedly told. They were mistaken in the early morning hours for being possible fighters and all of them were killed. There were nine children, in all…”
Kelly says there is no end to the tragic stories of deadly violence that result from U.S. military policy. “Another man talked about how two farmers had gone out with the daughter of one of the farmers, to work in their fields. And a tank fired missiles and killed them,” Kelly continued “We also talked to some people who’ve been attacked by night raids,” she said, “and one man talked about how suddenly his house was targeted for a raid, and U.S. forces came into his home, killed his two nieces right before his eyes. They were preparing themselves to go to bed, they had long beautiful hair. ‘How could anybody think that they were insurgents?’ he asked me. So he closed up his house, and his family left and came to Kabul.” [++]
Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, has suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in his country after Nato leaves in 2014, accusing Washington of duplicity in its efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban.
The announcement came the day after the Taliban opened a “political office” in Qatar, saying they wanted to seek a peaceful solution to the war in Afghanistan, and the US announced plans for talks with the insurgent group.
News that American diplomats would sit down with Taliban leaders for the first time since the US helped oust the group from power in 2001 prompted speculation that real progress towards a negotiated end to the war might be in sight.
US officials underlined that they aimed mostly to facilitate talks between Afghans, although they do have issues to tackle directly with the Taliban, including a possible prisoner exchange.
But while the Taliban hinted at meeting US demands of a break with al-Qaida – saying Afghan soil should not be used to harm other countries – there was only the barest of nods to the Afghan government’s request that they talk to the current administration and respect the constitution.
Diplomats say Karzai was kept in the loop about plans for the formal opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, but had expected it to be couched differently. After hours of ominous silence, his office issued a terse statement in effect condemning the move.
“In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently under way in Kabul between Afghan and US delegations on the bilateral security agreement,” the palace said.
The final straw for Karzai was their display of a white Taliban flag and repeated use of the name “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, both in their statement and on a printed backdrop used for a televised press conference, according a senior Afghan official.
It was the name the group used when they ruled from Kabul, and together with their official flag gave the group’s representatives the air of a government-in-exile as they addressed the media.
The US had pledged the Taliban would only be able to use the office as base for talks, not as a political platform, and Karzai felt the press conference was a clear violation of that promise, an official Afghan source told the Guardian.
The president was also unhappy about the lack of any reference to the country’s constitution, which both he and the US say the Taliban must respect.
Instead the statement made more than one reference to the “establishment of an independent Islamic government”; as the group have often denounced Karzai as a puppet, that could be read as a call for a change of leader or change of system.
The decision to suspend talks was made after a meeting on Wednesday morning with his national security team and close aides, a source said.
Repeated phone calls by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, appeared not to have mollified Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity. Irritated by a press conference in Qatar at which the Taliban effectively portrayed itself as a government in exile, Karzai suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after Nato leaves in 2014.
News on Tuesday that American diplomats would sit down with Taliban leaders – the first direct talks since the US helped oust the group from power in 2001 – prompted speculation that real progress towards a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan might be in sight.
But while the Taliban hinted at meeting US demands of a break with al-Qaida – saying Afghan soil should not be used to harm other countries – there was only the barest of nods to the Afghan government’s request that they talk to the current administration and respect the constitution. They infuriated Karzai by displaying a white Taliban flag and repeatedly referring to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, the name the group used when they ruled from Kabul.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Bagram air base that killed four Americans on the same day that the tentative deal about talks was announced.
On Wednesday the US suspended plans to attend the talks, which were due to begin in Doha, the capital of Qatar, this week. Ambassador James Dobbins, its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, will now remaining in Washington until further notice.
A state department spokeswoman said the US had also asked the Qatari government to remove a sign from outside a new Taliban office in Doha that proclaimed it as representing the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
However, wider tensions remain, particularly over the US role in the newly announced peace talks. “We are still in discussion with the Afghan government about the appropriate next steps,” said state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who confirmed Dobbins would remain in the US for now.
An Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday after arguing with one of the Americans, killing two service members and a civilian, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
The confrontation marked the deadliest insider attack in the country this year and added to the death toll from an intense fighting season, which U.S. and Afghan officials are watching closely for indicators of the Taliban’s resilience as American troops accelerate their withdrawal. In a separate attack Saturday, an Italian captain was killed by a grenade in western Afghanistan.
The insider attack occurred shortly after noon in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan, after an Afghan soldier got into a verbal dispute with an American service member, according to an account by the provincial governor’s office. The Americans returned fire, killing the Afghan gunman, provincial officials said. Afghan and American officials are investigating the incident, but provincial authorities said they had found no evidence that the Afghan soldier had links to the insurgency.
The U.S. military said an Afghan was detained after the shooting, but it provided no details about the circumstances.
Insider attacks became a paramount concern for the U.S.-led coalition here last year, when Afghan troops killed 64 foreign military personnel and civilians in 48 incidents. Far fewer have occurred this year. Before Saturday’s attack, five coalition members had been killed in so-called “green on blue” attacks.
U.S. military officials went to great lengths to study insider attacks last year after their prevalence began to poison the military partnership at the heart of the U.S. strategy for winding down the Afghan war. Investigators found that relatively few such attacks could be traced to the insurgency, with a high percentage stemming from fights over cultural differences.
Earlier Saturday, an Italian military training team was returning to its base in Farah province when it came under attack. One soldier was killed and three wounded in the blast, according to the Italian Defense Ministry.
The Taliban did not assert responsibility for that attack but hailed it in a statement. According to local reports, its statement, which could not be corroborated, said an 11-year-old child had lobbed a grenade at the Italians.
“This incident clearly shows the utter hatred of Afghans toward the foreign invaders who have occupied our land in the past decade,” the statement said.
Saturday’s military casualties came two days after seven Georgian troops were killed in a truck bombing in southern Afghanistan.