The American Bear


Is the US maintaining death squads and torture militias in Afghanistan? | Glenn Greenwald

“[In] the name of restoring the rule of law, heavily-armed internationals and their Afghan counterparts are wandering around conducting raids that too often result in killings and being held accountable by no one.” — UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, 2009


[In] 2010 … US forces in the Paktia Province, after surrounding a home where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two male civilians (government officials) who exited the house in order to inquire why they had been surrounded, and then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager). When local villagers loudly complained, the Pentagon lied about what happened, claiming that the dead males were “insurgents” or terrorists; the bodies of the three women had been found by US forces bound and gagged inside the home, and suggested that the women had already been killed by the time the US had arrived, likely the victim of “honor killings” by the Taliban militants killed in the attack. US media outlets, needless to say, mindlessly recited the US government’s claims (CNN: “Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan ‘honor killing’”), but the Pentagon was finally forced to admitthat its Special Forces had killed the women and then covered-up and lied about what happened.

Whatever is true about these latest human rights abuses, the perception is widespread in Afghanistan that the US is responsible and that the militias it is training are no better than the Taliban. From [Matthew] Rosenberg:

“The action also reflected a deep distrust of international forces that is now widespread in Afghanistan, and the view held by many Afghans, President Hamid Karzai among them, that the coalition shares responsibility with the Taliban for the violence that continues to afflict the country… .

“But Afghan officials cited as even more troubling American Special Operations units’ use of Afghan proxy forces that are not under the government’s control. Afghan civilians and local officials have complained that some irregular forces have looked little different from Taliban fighters or bandits and behaved little differently.”

So that’s where the US is after almost 12 years of waging war in that country, the longest war in its history. The US is blamed on equal terms with the Taliban, at least. It maintains and supports (if not directs) non-government militias which are perceived, with ample evidence, as being death squads and torture units. Thus do we find, yet again, that the fruits of US humanitarian interventions - liberating the oppressed and bringing freedom and democracy to the world - are little more than replicating the abuses of the tyrannical regime it targeted, just under a different owner. Most amazing of all, the next time a new “Good War” is proposed, none of this will stop large numbers of Americans from believing that both the goals and the likely outcome will be beneficent.

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See also:
Karzai expels US forces from Afghan province | Al Jazeera
Talk of Inquiry, but Not Much Is Sure After Afghan Ban on U.S. Troops | NYT
Karzai’s Ban on US Special Forces: Is It a Response to Operations of CIA Assassination Squad? | The Dissenter

Karzai’s Ban on US Special Forces: Is It a Response to Operations of CIA Assassination Squad? | Kevin Gosztola

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai ordered United States special forces to leave the Maidan Wardak province after reports of units engaging in the torture and disappearing of Afghan civilians.The order came on February 24 and was immediately followed by the US military rejecting the allegations.

Leaders in the province issued the order in response to Afghans working with US special forces who were allegedly responsible for the “disappearance of at least nine men and the murder of an Afghan university student.” But, on February 25, NATO spokesman German Gen. Gunter Katz said the “International Security Assistance Force found no evidence showing foreign forces were involved in abuses. Katz “did not comment on the Afghans allegedly linked to the Americans.” He added, ”We could not find evidence that would support these allegations.”

Perhaps, it is true that US-led coalition forces are not responsible for the alleged atrocities. A recent report from The New York Times cites Afghan officials, who say “Afghan irregulars who worked with elite American forces” were responsible. The officials apparently have “photos and video of the suspects” and “they are not known irregular forces, like the Afghan Local Police, a defense militia created and trained by coalition Special Forces.” The officials believe “the suspects are part of a force whose existence has been kept secret by the Americans.”

Therefore, this should be the headline. The outrage in Afghanistan is not coming from US Special Forces. According to Afghan officials, they have uncovered some kill or capture team—an assassination or death squad.

The Times adds this is why there is confusion:

…[O]fficials at the coalition and a separate American command, United States Forces-Afghanistan, which operates many of the Special Operations units in the country, say they do not run any secret militias. “My total honest answer: We have no idea what they’re talking about,” a senior American officer said.

One possibility that would match the descriptions of attackers offered by local Afghan officials and, at the same time, exclude American military forces would be that the suspects were working with the Central Intelligence Agency, whose operatives run militias in a number of provinces. A spokesman for the CIA refused to comment on the issue.

One senior Afghan official said it was possible: Afghans, he said, make no distinction between military-type outfits. Americans with weapons, high-end gear and facial hair were “all special forces. It’s a phrase that catches all.”…

Without speculating on what CIA force or CIA-linked force this may be, revelations in the past years indicate that the CIA has a paramilitary presence in Afghanistan. [READ]

The New American Way of War | Andrew Bacevich

A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it. Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do. This is the approach the Obama administration is now pursuing: first through the expanded use of aerial drones for both intelligence gathering and ‘targeted’ assassination; and, second, through the expanded deployment of covert special operations forces around the world, such as the team that killed Osama bin Laden. The New York Times reported today that the head of the Special Operations Command ‘is seeking new authority to move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels’.

Drones and special forces are the essential elements of a new American way of war, conducted largely in secret with minimal oversight or accountability and disregarding established concepts of sovereignty and international law. Bush’s critics charge him with being a warmonger. But Obama has surpassed his predecessor in shedding any remaining restraints on waging war.

How exactly the new American way of war will promote the longterm well-being of the United States is unclear. Indeed, the question goes almost unasked. All we know is that there are a lot of people out there who qualify as bad guys. And we aim to kill them all.