Afghanistan: Atrocity against Civilians. The Fiction of US Troop Withdrawal

Afghanistan: Atrocity against Civilians. The Fiction of US Troop Withdrawal

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No amount of lying Pentagon propaganda can hide the reality that the war has been an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people and for the thousands of dead and tens of thousands of maimed troops sent to kill and die there in the interests of empire

By Richard Becker

On March 1, a U.S./NATO helicopter gunship killed two Afghan brothers, seven and eight years of age, as they tended cattle in Uruzgan province. According to reports from residents, the boys were listening to a radio, which the helicopter crew interpreted as “radio signals” from Afghan resistance fighters.

The latest killing comes amidst a series of atrocities against civilians that has further enflamed opposition to the ongoing occupation.

On. Feb. 24, Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-installed “president” of Afghanistan, announced that he was demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. Special Forces troops from Wardak province within two weeks. Wardak is a key strategic region and an area of active resistance to the U.S./NATO occupation.

Will NATO commanders pay any more attention to Karzai’s latest “order” than the many earlier ones that NATO forces ignored and Karzai quietly dropped? Not likely.

Eleven and a half years of U.S./NATO war and occupation have been a disaster for all but a tiny sliver of the Afghan population.
Afghanistan ranks as the worst country in the world for infant mortality, with a shocking 122 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. (CIA World Factbook 2013) By way of comparison, the infant mortality rate is 6 per 1,000 in the U.S. and 4.8 per 1,000 in Cuba. Life expectancy is just 49 years. Afghanistan is listed as 172nd out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, with the average adult having 3.3 years of schooling.

Global Research, Mar. 5, 2013

What prompted Karzai’s latest proclamation was explained in a statement from his office, which read in part: “After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special force[s] stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.

“A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge.”

While U.S. commanders predictably denied the accusations, the level of popular anger in Wardak was made clear by street protests and threats by civilian groups to join the armed resistance if U.S. forces were not withdrawn.

On Feb. 26, 500 people marched in protest of the killings. “If the situation remains like this, this province will collapse very soon,” protester Haji Abdul Qadim told the Reuters news service. “People will join the insurgency very soon because of the abuses of these forces.”

In another recent incident brought to international attention on Feb. 26, a Swedish organization that operates health clinics in Afghanistan said that U.S. military forces occupied and damaged one of their clinics in Wardak on Feb. 11.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said in a statement: “Foreign soldiers entered the health facility by force, tied up and blindfolded the guard on duty, and occupied the facility.”

Afghan protesters throng the streets following the killing of four people in a NATO raid
Afghan protesters throng the streets following the killing of four people in a NATO raid during an anti- US demonstration in Taloqan, Takhar province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. (Photo: Fulad Hamdard/AP)

Andreas Stefansson, director of SCA, said that it was the second time one of SCA’s clinics had been occupied by NATO troops. The previous occupation lasted three days. Stefansson said that NATO has promised that such an occupation would not happen again.

“What we are seeking is that they actually live up to what they say,” Stefansson said. (Reuters, Feb. 26)

On Feb. 13, 10 people, including women and children, were killed in a NATO air strike in Kunar province. On June 6, 2012, 18 civilians were killed in a strike in Logar province. The grisly list of “accidental” killings stretches back a decade.

A ‘president’ in name only

These atrocities and the daily abuses that inevitably accompany imperialist occupation are the source of burning anger among the Afghan people. In the eyes of the population, Karzai shares blame with the occupiers for these outrages. Thus, Karzai’s repeated “orders” forbidding Afghan army units from calling in U.S./NATO air support and for U.S. troops to withdraw from Wardak and stop the hated “night raids” on people’s homes.

In reality, the lowest level U.S. commander has greater military authority than does the ‘president’ of the country.

Afghan children killed in a 2011 NATO air strike
Afghan children killed in a 2011 NATO air strike (Photo: Uruknet)

But his proclamations continue to be disregarded by the occupation forces, exposing the actual power relationship in the country. In reality, the lowest level U.S. commander has greater military authority than does the “president” of the country.

Further illuminating both this relationship and the U.S. intention to maintain a dominant role in Afghanistan was a Feb. 3 joint interview with then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Panetta and Dempsey reaffirmed that the United States would sustain a “strategic partnership” with Afghanistan, citing a decision by the NATO heads of state during a 2012 summit meeting in Chicago to maintain a long-term presence in the country despite a drawdown in the number of U.S. ground troops in the country.

“We’re committing to an enduring presence,” Mr. Panetta said on Feb. 3.

“Strategic partnership” and “enduring presence” are more Washington weasel words for continuing colonial domination over Afghanistan.

On Feb. 26, it was revealed that claims of resistance attacks inside the country declining by 7 percent in 2012 were just one more Pentagon lie. The 7 percent figure was posted on the International Security Assistance Force (the official name of the U.S./NATO force in Afghanistan) website in January, to bolster the administration’s “positive track” line about the war.

When the Associated Press made inquiries about the statistics, NATO officials in Kabul immediately backtracked, stated that they had “erred,” and admitted that in fact, there was no decline at all.

Costs of war

Eleven and a half years of U.S./NATO war and occupation have been a disaster for all but a tiny sliver of the Afghan population.

Despite tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-funded “reconstruction aid,” Afghanistan remains one of the very poorest countries on the face of the Earth. The total U.S. budget for the Afghanistan war is over $640 billion and counting. (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

While U.S. and other NATO-country contractors, and elements of the Afghan elite, have become incredibly rich from this “aid,” the Afghan government presently spends a miniscule $46 per year on health care per person. (GlobalHealthFacts.org)

Afghanistan ranks as the worst country in the world for infant mortality, with a shocking 122 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. (CIA World Factbook 2013) By way of comparison, the infant mortality rate is 6 per 1,000 in the U.S. and 4.8 per 1,000 in Cuba. Life expectancy is just 49 years. Afghanistan is listed as 172nd out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, with the average adult having 3.3 years of schooling.

In addition to the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands wounded in the war, more than 2.7 million Afghans remain external refugees, most in Pakistan and Iran, and 425,000 are internally displaced. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2012

No amount of lying Pentagon propaganda can hide the reality that the war has been an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people and for the thousands of dead and tens of thousands of maimed troops sent to kill and die there in the interests of empire.

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Hamid Karzai says US, Taliban are colluding

[Karzai says that Taliban are zeroed-in on the alleged 2014 date, executing bombings with the intent of convincing the Afghan govt. that Western forces will be needed into the indefinite future, collaborating with the Pentagon for common purpose.  Karzai is calling-out the Americans for staging a bloody, fake terror war with the Taliban’s help.  He has accused the Americans with the same charge that he has been levelling at the Pakistanis, of working with or supporting the Afghan Taliban.  Pakistan and the US have been working together in Pakistan to stage a phony terror war, now Karzai points-out that the same thing has been happening in his country.  US Special Forces have been given until today to get out of Maidan Wardak.  If Karzai is seriously trying to expose the entire criminal “simulated war” and to put it to an end, then the new Sec. Defense Hagel will be wasting his breath and really getting an earful at his meeting with Karzai today.]

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai says US, Taliban are colluding

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Associated Press in Kabul

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a gathering of women to mark International Women’s Day, in Kabul. Photo: AFP

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused the Taliban and the US of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave as planned by the end of next year.

Karzai said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on Saturday — one outside the Afghan Defence Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province — show the insurgent group is conducting attacks to help show that international forces will still be needed to keep the peace after their current combat mission ends next year.

“The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: next year. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents,” he said during a nationally televised speech about the state of Afghan women.

There was no immediate response from the US-led military coalition, which is gradually handing over responsibility for securing the country to Afghan forces.

They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents
Afghan president hamid karzai

Karzai is known for making incendiary comments in his public speeches, a move that is often attributed to him trying to appeal to those who sympathise with the Taliban or as a way to gain leverage when he feels his international allies are ignoring his country’s sovereignty. In previous speeches he has threatened to join the Taliban and called his Nato allies occupiers who want to plunder Afghanistan’s resources.

His latest remarks come as his government is negotiating a pact with the US for the long-term presence of American forces in Afghanistan and just days after an agreement to transfer the US prison outside of Kabul to Afghan authority fell through. His comments also came while US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is making his first visit to Afghanistan since becoming the Pentagon chief.

Karzai said in his speech that any foreign powers that want to keep troops in Afghanistan need to do so under conditions set forward by Afghanistan.

“We will tell them where we need them, and under which conditions. They must respect our laws. They must respect the national sovereignty of our country and must respect all our customs,” Karzai said.

Karzai offered no proof of coordination, but said the Taliban and the United States were in “daily negotiations” in various foreign countries and noted that the United States has said that it no longer considers the insurgent group its enemy. The US continues to fight against the Taliban and other militant groups, but has expressed its backing for formal peace talks with the Taliban to find a political resolution to the war.

Karzai said he did not believe the Taliban’s claim that they launched Saturday’s attacks to show they are still a potent force fighting the United States. “Yesterday’s explosions, which the Taliban claimed, show that in reality they are saying they want the presence of foreigners in Afghanistan,” Karzai said.

Taliban Maintain Militant Tradition, Welcome New Sec. Def. Hagel To Afghanistan with Celebratory Truck Bomb

[The Taliban like nothing better than high profile targets.  Before this attack near Sec. Def. Hagel, came two attempts to get near Panetta, and before that, a near miss on Cheney (SEE: Taliban take credit for bomb that killed American, Afghans, December 14, 2012 ; ‘Suicide attack bid’ on US Defence Secretary, Mar 14, 2012 ; Cheney Unhurt After Bombing in Afghanistan , February 27, 2007 ).]

Hagel’s re-introduction to Afghan war begins with bombing

THE STAR, MALAYSIA

By Phil Stewart

KABUL (Reuters) – Chuck Hagel’s first full day in Afghanistan as U.S. defence secretary began with the sound of a suicide bombing about a kilometre away from one of his morning briefings.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel greets members of the 101st Airborne Division and other branches of service, during his visit to Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel greets members of the 101st Airborne Division and other branches of service, during his visit to Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

“I wasn’t sure what it was,” Hagel said, asked about his initial reaction to the blast that killed nine civilians outside the Afghan defence ministry.

“But we’re in a war zone. I’ve been in war … So (we) shouldn’t be surprised when a bomb goes off or there’s an explosion.”

Hagel’s morning briefing pressed on – even as an announcement about the incident came over the loudspeakers at the NATO facility hosting him at the time, aides said.

He would later board a flight to Bagram airfield near Kabul to meet commanders helping run America’s longest war, and then fly to an airfield in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

There, he pinned Purple Heart medals on two soldiers who, like him, were wounded in battle.

“It is true. I was in the United States Army in 1968 – Vietnam,” he told troops in Jalalabad on the warm day, an American flag hanging from a banner above him.

Hagel, the first Vietnam veteran to become defence secretary, was awarded two Purple Hearts during that conflict and still carries bits of shrapnel in his chest.

For the 66-year-old former Republican senator, the trip is a re-introduction to the Afghan war – one that will be scrutinized by Republican critics who opposed his nomination and questioned his judgment.

The last time Hagel saw the Afghan conflict up close was during a trip with then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008.

Since then, more than 30,000 American “surge” troops have come and gone, and the Democratic president announced last month that about half of the 66,000 U.S. forces remaining will be home by early next year. NATO will wrap up the combat mission by the end of 2014, leaving just a relatively small training and counter-terrorism force.

But even as the war winds down, and NATO commanders focus on shifting the business of war to Afghan forces, the still-resilient Taliban insurgency is making its presence known through high-profile attacks like Saturday’s bombing.

Hagel acknowledged as much in a message to NATO personnel upon his arrival on Friday evening.

“Even as we move into more of a support role, this remains a dangerous and difficult mission,” Hagel said. “We are still at war and many of you will continue to experience the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle.”

Sergeant Jeremyah Williams, one of the two soldiers who received the Purple Heart from Hagel, was injured on his fifth deployment in the past decade. Williams was on guard duty on December 2 at the time of a suicide bombing just 30 metres (100 feet) from his position at a gate to his base.

Williams said he suffered traumatic brain injury, one of the signature wounds of the Afghan and Iraq wars.

“I was just a little confused about what happened at first,” Williams said, adding the blast did not knock him out but made him dizzy, with ringing in his ears.

Obama has trumpeted Hagel’s qualifications and war record, noting he fought at the enlisted rank, not as an officer. Hagel, Obama argued, looked at war with the perspective of “the guy at the bottom” sent to fight, and perhaps die, abroad.

Williams expressed pride at receiving the Purple Heart from Hagel. But he did not seem to care much whether Hagel had been an officer, or not.

“It really doesn’t matter if you’re enlisted or an officer – we’re all really here to do the same job,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters