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The Kandahar massacre: The epitome of injustice made in US

by Catherine Shakdam, source

Just as US President Barack Obama is looking to sell out yet another war in the Middle East to Congress on account that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “allegedly” unleashed lethal toxins onto local civilian populations, invoking moral grounds for a military action, a US military jury has allowed a man accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to by-pass the death penalty and instead be sentenced to a life in prison without parole, underscoring America’s pandemic double standard policy and its neo-colonial attitude towards what it perceived as “lesser” powers, in this case the Afghan people.

While such an outcome was somewhat to be expected given the US’ poor track records in addressing its own military’s wrong doings throughout its Middle Eastern outposts – we all remember the leniency with which accusations of tortures and war crimes in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib were met by the US military.

Over a year of despicable ill treatments in between 2003 and 2004 — rape, sodomy, torture, violence, psychological abuse — led to dishonorable discharges and a few years in military prison – in between 10 and 3 years for the 11 soldiers convicted -, a pathetic slap on the wrist given the gravity of such acts and a far-cry from justice – the sheer magnitude of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ crimes called for much more than just a prison sentence.

On March 11, 2012, just as dawn was about to break, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a murderous rampage in a village in the Panjwayi District of the Kandahar province. Bales murdered 16 civilians – included 9 children – 11 of which were from the family.

The brutality and bestial violence of Bales’ atrocious crime stunned not only Afghanistan but the world as many saw in the crime of this one soldier the reflection of America’s evil, the little value human life carries in its eyes.

Bales who pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him in a bid to avoid the death penalty had the audacity to take to the stand and offer the world an apology for his “act of cowardice.”

Choking back tears the father of two attempted to justify the unjustifiable, the unforgivable. “What I did was an act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bullshit and bravado. I am sorry, truly, truly sorry, for what I did to those people. I murdered their families. If I could bring their family members back, I would in a heartbeat,” His line of defense – the fear of being perceived as weak by his fellow military, the trauma of being an active soldier on foreign ground.

Beyond the horror of such senseless loss of lives and the deep repercussions this massacre will carry for villagers and more importantly the victims’ families, it is the method behind the crime which is truly blood-chilling and stomach-churning … And somewhat for Bates to assume that an apology on his part would even begin to cut it, only better underscores what value one Muslim’s life hold in America’s eyes.

Far from being the problem, Bates is merely the symptom of a system which has demonized an entire people based on their religion and culture. America has learned in its decade of war in the Middle East that one “Arab’s life,” one Muslim’s life is worth no more than the bullet it takes to end it.

One has only to look back at Lynndie England posing smiling before a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners, or see how willing she was to humiliate and dehumanize Iraqi men by holding them naked on a leash to please her superior officers, to understand the magnitude of the pandemic.

The world has grown accustomed to seeing US soldiers desecrate copies of the Holy Quran or urinate over the dead bodies of their enemies. While former US President George W. Bush keenly stressed that America’s war was not against Islam but against terror back in 2003, Muslims would beg to differ, and as far as they’re concerned it is America which is the terror.

One cannot help but wonder what sentence a Muslim man would have received should the role had been reverse. What would have happened if an Afghan soldier had massacred 16 American civilians in their sleep and slayed its way through an entire family of unsuspecting, innocent and unarmed US citizens? Would an apology have suffice then? Maybe not …

It would be interesting to see what sentencing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – also known as the Boston bomber – will be subjected to once the American justice system is done with him.

The Boston bombing killed 3 people and injured over 264. While it is impossible to measure pain and horror, Bales’s murder spree can hold up before the evil logic of terror, thus giving both events some symmetry in their monstrosity.

After a year of anguish and sorrow, the people of Panjwayi were offered … Nothing! The families of the victims were not even present when Bales delivered his apology. His words, however small and insignificant were not even offered as tokens of contrition to ease their unbearable grief. As far as Afghanistan stands, justice was not served; actually its people feel betrayed by the United States of America.

Back in 2012 as the US military was negotiating with a very angry and antagonistic Afghan government, US officials promised that should Bales be allowed to be repatriated back to the US and tried on American soil, the prosecution would seek the death penalty in payment for his crimes.

Haji Mahmoud, head of the local shura in Panjwai was there when a joint Afghan-US delegation arrived to investigate the killings in Alkozai and Najiban villages.

“The Americans emphasized that he would be tried in the US, but they also said that he would be given the death penalty,” he told reporters earlier this month.

Ghulam Rassoul, a Panjwai tribal elder, who was among the delegation that traveled to Kabul four days after the massacre told the press that he too had been assured that Bales would face the death penalty when tried on US soil.

“The Afghan government and the US investigative team gave us promises that the criminal will be given the death penalty,” he recalled.

As many questions remain unanswered — How did Bales manage to return to Camp Belambay at 1:30am to reload ammunition after killing four people in Alkozai village? Who authorized his coming and going? How Bales could leave the base with a 9mm pistol, an M4 rifle and a grenade launcher? – tribal elder Haji Obaidullah said to see clearly now.

“It is evident that the foreigners have not come to rebuild Afghanistan, but to kill Afghans and destroy the nation. Bales’ violation of military code by drinking alcohol with two other soldiers the night of the killings; telling a fellow soldier upon his initial return to the joint Afghan-US base that he had killed people; and later uttering a three-word confession, “I did it” – means Bales was not the only culprit.”

“The entire American battalion based in the area is involved. They have committed this killing jointly,” he said.

Betrayed and angry the people of Kandahar have warned that their justice will be as swift as America’s injustice.

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Afghans rally against US night raids & 2 civilians killed

Afghans rally against US night raids in Kunar Province

Press TV

Hundreds of angry protesters have taken to the streets in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar to protest against night raids carried out by US-led forces in the war-ravaged country, Press TV reports.

On Saturday, the demonstrators chanted anti-US slogans in condemnation of the ongoing US nighttime operations, and called on the US military to immediately cease such attacks.

The protesters also said American forces storm residential areas in their villages late at night and massacre their family members, demanding the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan.

The development comes days after people in Afghanistan’s northern province of Balkh held a demonstration in protest against deadly night raids by US-led forces.

The protesters gathered outside the governor’s compound, chanting anti-American slogans and torching American flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.

Afghan investigators have found substantial proof that American Special Forces have been involved in kidnapping, torturing and killing of Afghan civilians across the war-torn country.

US-led deadly night raids have killed dozens of Afghan civilians in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months…

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US-led raid leaves 2 civilians dead in central Afghanistan

Press TV

At least two civilians have been killed and two others wounded when US-led foreign forces carried out an attack in Afghanistan’s central province of Wardak, Press TV reports.

Local residents said foreign troops raided Goli Khel village in the Sayd Abad district of the province, located 97 kilometers (about 60 miles) southwest of Kabul, on Saturday, and blew up the main entrance to several houses to open up their way into the buildings.

Locals identified the victims as civilians, adding that a woman was among the dead. US-led military forces have reportedly laid siege to the village.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not yet confirmed any casualties, and made no comments on the attack.

On July 3, twenty people were killed and nine others injured when foreign forces carried out an air raid in the Musa Khel district of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.

It came a day after four people were killed in US-led airstrikes in the Miyanishin district of the southern province of Kandahar.

On June 29, eight people were killed when US-led foreign forces launched two separate airstrikes in Paktia and Kandahar provinces.

On June 22, at least 30 people were killed after US-led forces launched an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika.

American soldier on trial for killing 16 Afghani civilians

Al Ahed news

An American army soldier, who pleaded guilty to the murder of 16 Afghani civilians during raids to avoid death penalty, faces the beginning of his sentencing trial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington on Monday afternoon.

Sergeant Robert Bales, 40, went on a murderous rampage in two poor villages during a nighttime raid in the Kandahar province last March.

Bales shot his victims, many of them women and children, often in front of family members or in their beds, setting some of them on fire.

Bales had said in response to why he killed the villagers, “There’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did.”

Moreover, Bales’ lawyers have said the soldier was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

Also, Bales admitted he was steroids to become “huge and jacked”, which probably “increased my irritability and anger.”

In Afghanistan, people were enraged that Bales avoided death penalty.

The brother of one of Bales’ victims had told CBS News that not sentencing Bales to death penalty shows that “America is encouraging its soldiers to kill Afghan people, destroy and torch their houses, then come to America [and receive] a Medal of Honor.”

US forces shoot and kill school teacher in eastern Afghanistan

(US-led forces operating in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, on October 13, 2012-file photo)

Press TV

US forces have shot and killed a school teacher in Afghanistan’s central-eastern province of Ghazni, security sources say.

Local Afghan officials said the American troops opened fire on the school teacher while he was working in his grape orchard in the Ghazni province.

The security sources added that the US soldiers also opened fire on policemen who had rushed to the scene to take the farmer to hospital. Four policemen were seriously wounded as the result of the shooting.

Local residents have expressed anger over the recent deadly incident.

Many civilians have lost their lives in US-led strikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past decade, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged at the seemingly endless number of the deadly assaults.

There have been many anti-US protests in Afghanistan in recent years against attacks by American troops on civilians. Many of the demonstrations and protests have turned violent.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces have been a major source of tension between Kabul and Washington.

The latest deadly incident comes after a series of US airstrikes claimed the lives of more than 100 people and severely injured several others in different regions of Afghanistan over the past few days…

65 killed in US overnight airstrikes in Afghanistan

Press TV

At least 65 have been killed in overnight airstrikes carried out by US forces in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia, Press TV reports.

The casualties came after a series of airstrikes happened in an area of Paktia Province on Sunday night. The US military has confirmed separate air raids in three villages, saying those killed were militants.

While Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

The Taliban have not yet commented on the deadly incident.

Just two days ago, at least 60 people were killed and several others severely injured in similar airstrikes.

American forces have increased their air attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

The raids are a source of friction between Kabul and Washington as they often result in civilian deaths. The Afghan government has on numerous occasions warned Washington to stop attacks on innocent civilians.

Many civilians have lost their lives in US-led strikes and operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past decade, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged at the seemingly endless number of the deadly assaults.

Students stage anti-US rally in western Afghanistan

Press TV

Hundreds of angry students have staged a massive rally in the central-western province of Ghour, calling on the Afghan government to cancel a planned security deal with the United States.

Local Afghan security officials say a large number of protestors poured onto streets of the city of Cheghcheran, chanting anti-American slogans and torching American flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.

Eyewitnesses say things turned violent after the furious demonstrators marched towards the camp of Spanish troops in the area and set fire to a number of tents. At least three protesters were injured in the violent clashes with Afghan security forces.

The demonstrators said a security treaty between Washington and Kabul will pave the way for a prolonged US military presence in Afghanistan.

Washington had promised to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. However, it has been locked in tricky negotiations with Kabul over a strategic partnership beyond 2014.

In May, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was ready to let the US set up nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

Many Afghans believe that the US is envisaging permanent military bases there.

Afghan political groups have warned that things will get worse should the US set up permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Afghan political figures have also heaped scorn on the US-led forces for committing unforgivable crimes against Afghan women and children since invading the country in 2001.

Thousands of Afghan civilians, including a large number of women and children, have been killed during night raids by foreign forces and CIA-run assassination drone strikes.

The increasing number of casualties in Afghanistan has caused widespread anger against the US and other NATO member states.

US airstrike leaves 2 dead in eastern Afghanistan

Press TV

At least two people have been killed and one more injured when American forces carried out an airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia, Press TV reports.

Local officials said the attack took place in the provincial capital city of Gardez, situated some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Kabul, on Saturday.

The authorities identified the victims as security guards working for a private construction company.

The US military has not yet confirmed any casualties, and made no comments on the airstrike.

On July 3, twenty people were killed and nine others injured when foreign forces carried out an air raid in the Musa Khel District of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.

It came a day after four people were killed in US-led airstrikes in the Miyanishin district of the southern province of Kandahar.

On June 29, eight people were killed when US-led foreign forces launched two separate airstrikes in Paktia and Kandahar provinces.

On June 22, at least 30 people were killed after US-led forces launched an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika.

The incident took place at a border checkpoint in the province as Taliban militants were attacking the checkpoint.

On April 28, US-led troops killed at least four Afghan civilians in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar.

The incident took place in the Chaparhar District of the province after US-led soldiers opened fire on people working on a farmland, said Director of Provincial Development Council Malak Mohkam Khan.

West boosts efforts to engage Taliban in peace talks

Press TV

Senior Western officials are seeking to engage in talks with Taliban militants after nearly twelve years of the costly US-led war in Afghanistan, Press TV reports.

British Prime Minister David Cameron backed controversial peace talks with the militant group during his recent visit to Kabul on Saturday. However, he emphasized on the need to move forward with both military and political approaches.

“And yes, of course we now believe alongside our security approach, which is about training up the Afghan army and police force, we believe yes, there should be a political process as well, but a political process that will only succeed if those involved in terms of the Taliban put down their arms and stop fighting,” Cameron said during a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital.

The British premier remarks come after his top general said the West had missed a chance to strike a peace deal nearly ten years ago. The top British military commander in Afghanistan has said the West should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago.

“Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run. I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future,” General Nick Carter said in an interview with the British daily the Guardian on Friday.

The developments come after President Barack Obama administration supported peace talks with the Taliban after US-led forces lost ground against the militants in recent months across Afghanistan.

Senior Pakistani officials have also welcomed the dialogue between Taliban and the United States in Doha, but the Afghan government has expressed serious concerns about the ongoing US-led peace process with Taliban in Qatar.

Senior Afghan officials say the move contradicts the US security guarantees, noting that the Taliban militants will be able to use their Doha office to raise funds for their campaign in Afghanistan.

The Kabul government has also suspended strategic talks with Washington to discuss the nature of the US presence after foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than 11 years, insecurity remains across the country.

Afghanistan frees thousands of Bagram prisoners

Press TV

Afghan authorities have released more than 2,156 prisoners since the US forces handed over the notorious Bagram prison to the Kabul government, Press TV reports

The office of President Hamid Karzai said in a statement on Thursday that the prisoners were acquitted after Afghan judicial authorities found no evidence of their involvement in militancy.

Several months ago, Washington and Kabul signed a deal under which the US consented to give control of the Bagram Detention Center in the northeastern province of Parwan to Afghan forces.

In November 2012, Karzai ordered Afghan forces to take control of the prison and accused US officials of failing to fully comply with the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding on Detentions.

Karzai has often accused the US of acting in cahoots with the Taliban to justify the presence of foreign troops in the war-torn country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in May 2010 confirmed reports on the existence of a secret detention facility at the Bagram Airbase, located 11 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of the city of Charikar in Afghanistan’s Parwan Province.

Human rights groups had said that Bagram detainees were menaced, forced to strip naked and kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells.

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan took place in 2001 under the pretext of combating terrorism, toppling the Taliban regime and establishing security in the country.

However, insecurity continues to rise across Afghanistan despite the presence of foreign forces in the country.

US allies urged to end illegal detentions in Afganistan

The Afghan government has called on the US-led foreign forces to stop the illegal detention of locals in various parts of the war-ravaged country.

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry demanded in a statement on Monday that the US-led forces must hand over all detainees to the Kabul government.

Several senior Afghan officials have stressed that no foreign country is allowed to run secret prisons inside their military camps.

They say no foreign country has the right to run detention centers inside Afghanistan and that the detaining of Afghan citizens by foreign troops is against the country’s sovereignty.

Afghan government has recently revealed that British forces are holding 90 Afghans prisoners in Camp Bastion – a military base located in the volatile southern Helmand Province.

Press TV

The illegal detentions were made during military operations. British forces in Afghanistan are normally allowed to detain suspects for four days.

The detainees’ lawyers said they have been held in custody without charge for up to 14 months, which amounts to unlawful detention and internment. Lawyers say the case is against international law and the British constitution.

Last week, General Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, also criticized the detentions as “illegal” and “inhuman.”

“The prisoners must be handed over to the Afghan authorities,” he said, adding, “After their handover to us, they will be dealt with according to our judicial laws, and the agreements reached with the international community.”

British forces have been based in Helmand Province since the US-led war in Afghanistan began in 2001. Some 9,000 British troops are currently stationed in the war-ravaged country.

On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai set a two-week deadline for the British military to hand over all the Afghan prisoners.

108,000 private contractors in Afghanistan and “we have no idea what they’re doing”

by Aubrey Bloomfield, source

Two recently released reports, one by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), show that not only is the number of private contractors in Afghanistan increasing, but the Pentagon is also unable to tell what they are even doing there. Citing the reports, David Francis of the Fiscal Times points out that there are now 108,000 private contractors in Afghanistan (over 30,000 of whom are Americans), far more than the 65,700 U.S. troops still there,and the number was counted at 110,404 last month. That amounts to 1.6 contractors, roughly 18,000 of which are private security contractors, for every American soldier.

Although the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is ostensibly winding down towards an eventual handover to Afghan security forces, as Francis argues, “the increase in the contractors to troop ratio is yet another indication that although the vast majority of troops are leaving Afghanistan, a private army will remain in the country for years.”

According to the CRS, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show the increasing reliance of the military on private contractors. But replacing the military with private contractors is not necessarily a good thing. Highlighting the abuses committed by private military contractors, Angela Snell of the University of Illinois College of Law has called this trend a “convenient way for the U.S. government to evade its legal obligations, including the responsibility to protect the human rights of civilians in war and peace, by allowing private individuals, rather than official state actors, to perform services on behalf of the U.S. military.”

Not only does the growing use of private contractors give lie to the idea of a withdrawal from the country, but they are also very costly. Although still dwarfed by the ever-mounting total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, CRS reports that “over the last six fiscal years, DOD [Department of Defense] obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency.”

Moreover, Francis points out that the CRS and GAO did not just measure the number of contractors and the cost, but the reports also assessed the Pentagon’s ability to monitor the work of contractors. And the results are damning. According to Francis, taken together the reports:

“Amount to yet another indictment of how the Pentagon deals with private workers. CRS found that the Pentagon lacked the ability to document the work each contractor is performing. It also found even when the government has information on contractors, it’s often inaccurate and doesn’t reflect the actual work being done. This leaves the Pentagon unable to determine if the hundreds of billions it’s spending are leading to effective results.”

So despite the increasing number of private contractors being used and the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on them, the Pentagon is not even able to determine what they are doing or whether it is effective. As CRS reports, the information the Pentagon has on private contractors is probably not reliable enough to be used to make decisions “at the strategic level,” thus hindering its ability to tell whether the work of contractors is contributing to “achieving the mission.”

The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been massive, and destructive, wastes of lives and money. Although the U.S. and its allies say that they plan to remove combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014, this will in no way be the end of the West’s presence in the country. Francis reports that much of the work currently done by the military will be done by the private contractors after the military leaves. So while the attention paid to Afghanistan is likely to continue to dwindle even further, as has been the case in Iraq, as the military withdrawal picks up, the foreign occupation, by what one analyst has called “a de facto army,” looks set to continue on.

US-led air raids kill 2 kids in northeast Afghanistan

by Tom Janssen

At least two Afghan children have been killed and several others injured in airstrikes by US-led forces in the country’s troubled northeast, Press TV reports.

Local security officials say the airstrikes happened at 9 AM local time in two villages in Badakhshan Province.

Sources say several civilians, including women and children were also injured in the attacks.

US-led foreign forces have killed thousands of people, including many civilians, in airstrikes and nocturnal raids since they invaded the country in 2001.

Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

The Afghan government has on numerous occasions warned Washington to stop attacks on innocent civilians.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces have been a major source of tension between Kabul and Washington.

The casualties inflicted by US-led troops have sparked massive anti-US protests in the past.

Classified documents: 1 in 4 CIA drone victims were unidentified & three Afghan children killed

Classified documents: 1 in 4 CIA drone victims were unidentified

Press TV

A review of classified U.S. intelligence documents has revealed that “the CIA did not always know” the identities of people it targeted and killed in assassination drone strikes in Pakistan.

According to an exclusive NBC News report, the Central Intelligence Agency, which operates the vast majority of drone strikes in Pakistan, could not confirm the identities of about a quarter of people it killed by unmanned aircraft over a 14-month period between 2010 and 2011.

The CIA would instead classify those targets as “other militants,” a term used to describe individuals whose affiliation the spy agency could not identify but would kill them anyway.

The findings, however significant, are not exactly new as a number of investigations have previously concluded that U.S. officials were vastly underestimating the civilian casualties of CIA drone strikes.

Citing copies of top-secret U.S. intelligence records, a McClatchy report in April also concluded that the CIA had killed hundreds of unidentified people in Pakistan and Afghanistan in drone strikes.

A study conducted by researchers at the Stanford and NYU schools of law, published in September, also showed the number of “high-level” militants killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan constituted “just 2%” of the “total casualties.”

The reports are in sharp contrast to the Obama administration’s assurances that it deploys armed drones only against known senior leaders of al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

The White House’s codified policy signed by Obama in May, states that a drone strike can only be used in case of “continuing, imminent” threat to U.S. national security and when the capture of a suspect is not feasible.

The “other militants” label is now “prompting questions about how the agency [CIA] could conclude they were a threat to U.S. national security,” the NBC report said.

In his foreign policy speech at the National Defense University on May 23, President Barack Obama defended the use of drones as legal and effective.

The U.S. president, however, did not address what has become known as “signature strikes,” one of the most controversial aspects of the drone program. In these attacks, people with unknown identities are targeted based on suspicious behavior or other “signatures.”

According to some media reports, “signature strikes” on unidentified targets account for most of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

An unknown former White House official told the NBC that the U.S. sometimes executes people based on “circumstantial evidence.”

U.S. drone strikes have killed more than 4,700 people overseas since 2004, according to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Local and international investigations suggest that most of those killed in drone attacks are civilians.

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US terror drone kills three Afghan children in Kunar Province

Press TV

Three children have died in a US killer drone strike carried out in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar, Press TV reports.

The airstrike was conducted during the early hours of Thursday near the Pakistani border.

Local officials said six other people, including women, were also injured in the attack.

On May 20, at least eight people were killed and several others injured in a similar strike in the eastern province of Kapisa.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the US airstrikes in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few years, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults.

The United States uses its killer drones in a number of countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, claiming the targets of the attacks are militants, but local officials and witnesses say civilians have been the main victims.

According to data released by the Pentagon in February, Afghanistan is becoming a “drone war” with a 72-percent increase in the number of drone strikes from 2011 to 2012. The United States carried out over 500 drone attacks in Afghanistan last year, the Pentagon said.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity remains in the country.

Tales in a Kabul Restaurant

by Kathy Kelly, source

Kabul — Since 2009, Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a grim record we call the “The Afghan Atrocities Update” which gives the dates, locations, numbers and names of Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces. Even with details culled from news reports, these data can’t help but merge into one large statistic, something about terrible pain that’s worth caring about but that is happening very far away.

It’s one thing to chronicle sparse details about these U.S. led NATO attacks. It’s quite another to sit across from Afghan men as they try, having broken down in tears, to regain sufficient composure to finish telling us their stories. Last night, at a restaurant in Kabul, I and two friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers met with five Pashtun men from Afghanistan’s northern and eastern provinces. The men had agreed to tell us about their experiences living in areas affected by regular drone attacks, aerial bombings and night raids. Each of them noted that they also fear Taliban threats and attacks. “What can we do,” they asked, “when both sides are targeting us?”

The First Responder’s Tale

Jamaludeen, an emergency medical responder from Jalalabad, is a large man, with a serious yet kindly demeanor. He began our conversation by saying that he simply doesn’t understand how one human being can inflict so much harm on another. Last winter, NATO forces fired on his cousin, Rafiqullah, age 30, who was studying to be a pediatrics specialist.

A suicide bomber had apparently blown himself up near the airport. My cousin and two other men were riding in a car on a road leading to the airport. It was 6:15 AM. When they’d realized that NATO helicopters and tanks were firing missiles, they had left their car and huddled on the roadside, but they were easily seen. A missile exploded near them, seriously wounding Rafiqullah and another passenger, while killing their driver, Hayatullah.

Hayatullah, our friend told us, was an older man, about 45 years old, who left behind a wife, two boys and one daughter.

Although badly wounded, Rafiqullah and his fellow passenger could still speak. A U.S. tank arrived and they began pleading with the NATO soldiers to take them to the hospital. “I am a doctor,” said Rafiqullah’s fellow passenger, a medical student named Siraj Ahmad. “Please save me!” But the soldiers handcuffed the two wounded young men and awaited a decision about what to do next. Rafiqullah died there, by the side of the road. Still handcuffed, Siraj Ahmad was taken, not to a hospital, but to the airport, perhaps to await evacuation. That was where he died. He was aged 35 and had four daughters. Rafiqullah, aged 30, leaves three small girls behind.

And Jamaludeen knows that those girls, in one sense are lucky. Four years ago, he tried to bring first aid as an early responder to a wedding party attacked by NATO forces. Only he couldn’t, because there were no survivors. 54 people were killed, all of them (except for the bridegroom) women and children. “It was like hell,” said Dr. Jamaludeen. “I saw little shoes, covered with blood, along with pieces of clothing and musical instruments. It was very, very terrible to me. The NATO soldiers knew these people were not a threat.”

The Manual Laborer’s Tale

Kocji, who makes a living doing manual laborer, is from a village of 400 families. His story took place three weeks ago. It started with a telephoned warning that Taliban forces had entered the Surkh Rod district of Jalalabad, which is where his village is located. That day, at about 10:00 p.m., NATO forces entered his village en masse. Some soldiers landed on rooftops and slid expertly to the ground on rope ladders. When they entered homes, they would lock women and children in one room while they beat the men, shouting questions as the women and children screamed to be released. On this raid, no one was killed, and no one was taken away.

It turned out that NATO troops had acted on a false report and discovered their error quickly. False reports are a constant risk. – In any village some families will feud with each other, and NATO troops can be brought into those feuds, unwittingly and very easily, and sometimes with deadly consequences. Kocji objects to NATO forces ordering attacks without first asking more questions and trying to find out whether or not the report is valid. He’d been warned of a threat from one direction, but the threats actually come from all sides.

The Student’s Tale

Rizwad, a student from the Pech district of the Kunar province, spoke next.

Twenty-five days ago, between 3 and 4 a.m., twelve children were collecting firewood in the mountains not far from his village. The children were between 7 and 8 years old. Rizwad actually saw the fighter plane flying overhead towards the mountains. When it reached them, it fired on the twelve children, leaving no survivors. Rizwad’s 8 year old cousin, Nasrullah, a schoolboy in the third grade, was among the dead that morning.

The twelve children belonged to eight families from the same village. When the villagers found the bloodied and dismembered bodies of their children, they gathered together to demand from the provincial government some reason as to why NATO forces had killed them. “It was a mistake,” they were told.

“It is impossible for the people to talk with the U.S. military,” says Rizwad. “Our own government tries to calm us down by saying they will look into the matter.”

The Farmer’s Tale

Riazullah from Chapria Marnu spoke next. Fifteen days previously, three famers in Riazullah’s area had been working to irrigate their wheat field. It was early afternoon, about 3:30 p.m. One of the men was only eighteen – he had been married for five months. The other two farmers were in their mid-forties. Their names were Shams Ulrahman, Khadeem and Miragah, and Miragah’s two little daughters were with them.

Eleven NATO tanks arrived. One tank fired missiles which killed the three men and the two little girls. “What can we do?” asked Riazullah. “We are caught between the Taliban and the internationals. Our local government does not help us.”

The Story of US/NATO Occupation

The world doesn’t seem to ask many questions about Afghan civilians whose lives are cut short by NATO or Taliban forces. Genuinely concerned U.S. friends say they can’t really make sense of our list – news stories merge into one large abstraction, into statistics, into “collateral damage,” in a way that comparable (if much smaller and less frequent) attacks on U.S. civilians do not. People here in Afghanistan naturally don’t see themselves as a statistic; they wonder why the NATO soldiers treat civilians as battlefield foes at the slightest hint of opposition or danger; why the U.S. soldiers and drones kill unarmed suspects on anonymous tips when people around the world know suspects deserve safety and a trial, innocent until proven guilty.

“All of us keep asking why the internationals kill us,” said Jamaludeen. “One reason seems to be that they don’t differentiate between people. The soldiers fear any bearded Afghan who wears a turban and traditional clothes. But why would they kill children? It seems they have a mission. They are told to go and get the Taliban. When they go out in their planes and their tanks and their helicopters, they need to be killing, and then they can report that they have completed their mission.”

These are the stories being told here. NATO and its constituent nations may have other accounts to give of themselves, but they aren’t telling them very convincingly, or well. The stories told by bomb blasts or by shouting home-invading soldiers drown out other competing sentiments and seem to represent all that the U.S./NATO occupiers ever came here to say. We who live in countries that support NATO, that tolerate this occupation, bear responsibility to hear the tales told by Afghans who are trapped by our war of choice. These tales are part of our history now, and this history isn’t popular in Afghanistan. It doesn’t play well when the U.S. and NATO forces state that we came here because of terrorism, because of a toll in lost civilian lives already exceeded in Afghanistan during just the first three months of a decade-long war – that we came in pious concern over precious stories that should not be cut short.

‘Former US drone pilot quits, regretting bombing innocents, including children’

Press TV

A former US assassination drone pilot says he quit the force after feeling “numb” about seeing a child and other civilians blown away in his remote bombing of targets in Afghanistan and realizing he has unconsciously developed a desire to kill.

Since leaving the controversial US targeted-killing program over two years ago, the young ex-terror drone operator, who was recruited by the military after graduating at the top of his class, has become homeless and detected with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is commonly associated with US soldiers in warfronts, according to US-based National Public Radio (NPR).

In a recent NPR interview, the former drone pilot, identified as 27-year-old Brandon Bryant, offered some graphic details about feeling troubled after witnessing the immediate outcome of his bombings in Afghanistan on video screens beside his control buttons inside a windowless trailer ‘somewhere in a western US state,’ from where he fired off the missiles mounted on the assassination drones flying some 10,000 miles (16,000 km) away.

Describing his “first shot” out in Afghanistan, Bryant said he was specifically “ordered” to target a group of suspected militants that where (idly) sitting on a hill, rather than another group of militants that were “firing at US soldiers” nearby.

“We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does… and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there’s a crater there. You can see body parts of the people,” he explained. “I watched him (one of the men) bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we were watching this in infrared.”

Bryant then remembered thinking regretfully about the bombing, believing that that the targeted men were just local folks “that had to protect themselves… and I think we jumped the gun.”

The ex-drone pilot then went on to describe his next bombing in Afghanistan in which, he says, he bombed a home of suspected militants but noticed a child running around the house (on his video monitor) just before the missile hit the target.

“We just aim at the corner of the building,” Bryant explained. “We’re going to fire, and we do. And there’s about six seconds left before the missile impacts, and something runs around the corner of the building. And it looked like a small person… It was a small, two-legged person. And the missile hits. There’s no sign of this person.”

Further elaborating on the aftermath of that bombing, he added, “So we lock our camera on there, and I ask the screener, who disseminates the video feed,… who was that thing that ran on the screen?… and comes back and says, oh, that was a dog.”

But Bryant insists, “It was a person. It was a small person. Like, there was no doubt in my mind that that was not a – an adult.”

“I felt really numb,” he further emphasized, recalling his thoughts after realizing he had blown away a small child with a missile he fired off of a US assassination drone flying over Afghanistan. “I didn’t feel distraught, like I felt my first shot. I felt numb because this was the reality of war… and innocence can die as well.”

According to the NPR reporter that interviewed Bryant, shortly after that bombing, he decided to leave the [targeted-killing] program, boasted by the Obama administration as its prime mean to root out suspected anti-US militants in Muslim nations.

Bryant also explained that back in late 2010 he found himself really disturbed about his thought of which militant he is going to kill today, after looking at a poster in his work area of “five top al-Qaeda leaders,” but then having second thoughts of “that’s just not who I am. I don’t think like that… I was taught to respect life” and that if human life was to be taken in a war, “it should be done with respect.”

He then underlined that he “tried to talk” to people about his feelings but “one of the weird things about the whole [assassination] drone community is that you don’t talk about anything that you’ve done. You just don’t. So I just shut up and didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling or how I was doing.”

According to the NPR report, Bryant eventually quit the targeted-killing program and has become homeless and “staying with friends” while attending college in northwestern US state of Montana.

While noting that Bryant has also been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the NPR reported pointed to the growing realization that PTSD can also affect terror-drone pilots, even though they “haven’t’ been on the battlefield.”

The development comes while despite the rising controversy over the legality of the secret assassination drone strikes and the high number of civilian casualties caused by aerial bombings, as part of the US targeted killing program, the Obama administration insists on continuing the lethal effort to take out what it regards as anti-US “terror suspect” in Muslim nations.