United Nations silent as US/NATO forces destroy thousands of Afghan homes

Another family's home destroyed by a US jet, killing with impunity

Kabul Press, o5 December 2010

NATO officials confirmed to this reporter that they routinely destroy Afghan homes, businesses and other structures that may be linked to the Taliban, but they refuse to provide any statistics as to how many have been destroyed. The Washington Post and The New York Times indicate that the practice is widespread and they have confirmed that whole villages have been leveled. (These field reports are referenced at the end of this article.)

In June, 2010, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Richard Falk publicly condemned the Israeli Government for its destruction of Palestinian homes. In contrast, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, and the U.N.’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, have been deplorably silent regarding similar actions by UN-supported NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This is what we know. NATO soldiers in Afghanistan operates under the acronym “ISAF” ISAF troops have the authority to destroy any structure in Afghanistan which they believe is being used to store weapons or narcotics, or which may be booby-trapped with explosives. The standard seems to be that any home can be destroyed with artillery or air strikes as long as there is some suspicion regarding it. The rationale for the destructions is that searching potentially booby-trapped homes is too dangerous a task.

There are at least six problems with this ISAF policy: Continue reading

Including US-funded “private” contractors, the US imperialist military has over 200,000 troops in Afghanistan

An Afghan child severely wounded by US jets. Death from the air and US Special Forces night raids and assassinations are supported by the economic and political work of US military contractors.

 

[Written in 2009, this article is just as relevant today. Scahill calculated that there were 189,000 US troops and military contractors on the ground in Afghanistan at that time. He estimated that this number will rise to 220,000 in 2010.–Frontlines ed]

by Jeremy Scahill

A 2009 hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it.

Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.” That’s not in one war zone–that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.

In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo released by McCaskill’s staff, “From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan.  During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”

At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed.

But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID [US Agency for International Development-ed] contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. Continue reading

Afghanistan: Measuring what the US/NATO occupation and Karzai regime have done to women

This young woman was violently attacked for appearing in public without a male--a violation of the strict Sharia law enforced by the US-supported Karzai regime.

29 November 2010, A World to Win News Service

Recent  reports by both human rights groups and Afghan officials indicate that violence against women in Afghanistan is on the rise and that this has been the trend since the beginning of the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. and other Nato countries.

A report published in April 2009 by the women’s rights organisation Womankind said that 80 percent of Afghan women suffer from domestic violence. Other reports put this figure as high as 87 percent. Afghan minister of women’s affairs Hassan-Banu Ghazanfar recently said that it effects 90 percent.

November 25 marked the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women. This violence is global and not particular to Afghan women. In the world as a whole the vast majority of women face violence in one or another serious form during their their lifetime. The facts about violence against women even in the most developed countries are shocking. Rape, physical and sexual abuse by the husband or boyfriend, harassment and worse at work places, the trade in women and sex slavery are only some of forms of anti-woman violence. These facts suggest that this is not just a remnant of the past but that world capitalism even in its most developed stage is a source of oppression, discrimination and violence against women.

So there is not single country in the imperialist-dominated  world where women have escaped from oppression and violence. This article focuses on Afghanistan not only because these women have suffered severe oppression by the various fundamentalist rulers over the last three decades, and not only because the level of violence and other sorts of oppression is so extreme, but also because the imperialist powers have occupied the country under the pretext of liberating Afghan women. Continue reading

America’s Failed War of Attrition in Afghanistan

House destroyed by US air strike

The Nation, November 22, 2010

by Jeremy Scahill

At the end of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal this weekend, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban issued a statement characterizing the alliance’s adoption of a loose timeline for a 2014 end to combat operations as “good news” for Afghans and “a sign of failure for the American government.”

At the summit, President Barack Obama said that 2011 will begin “a transition to full Afghan lead” in security operations, while the Taliban declared: “In the past nine years, the invaders could not establish any system of governance in Kabul and they will never be able to do so in future.”

While Obama claimed that the US and its allies are “breaking the Taliban’s momentum,” the reality on the ground tells a different story. Despite increased Special Operations Forces raids and, under Gen. David Petraeus, a return to regular US-led airstrikes, the insurgency in Afghanistan is spreading and growing stronger. “By killing Taliban leaders the war will not come to an end,” said the Taliban’s former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in an interview at his home in Kabul. “On the contrary, things get worse which will give birth to more leaders.”

Former and current Taliban leaders say that they have seen a swelling in the Taliban ranks since 9-11. In part, they say, this can be attributed to a widely held perception that the Karzai government is corrupt and illegitimate and that Afghans–primarily ethnic Pashtuns–want foreign occupation forces out. “We are only fighting to make foreigners leave Afghanistan,” a new Taliban commander in Kunduz told me during my recent trip to the country. “We don’t want to fight after the withdrawal of foreigners, but as long as there are foreigners, we won’t talk to Karzai.” Continue reading

Why the US military is losing the war in Afghanistan

US soldiers giving weapons training to Afghan police recruits. More and more of them are taking these weapons with them when they defect to the Taliban.

The Independent UK, November 20, 2010 

 

Be Under No Illusion, NATO is in No Shape to Make Progress in this Graveyard of Empires

by Patrick Cockburn

If Iraq was bad, Afghanistan is going to be worse. Nothing said or done at the Lisbon conference, which is largely an exercise in self-deception, is going to make this better and it may well make it worse.  It is not just that the war is going badly, but that NATO’s need to show progress has produced a number of counter-productive quick fixes likely to deepen the violence. These dangerous initiatives include setting up local militias to fight the Taliban where government forces are weak. These are often guns-for-hire provided by local warlords who prey on ordinary Afghans.

The US military has been making much of its strategy of assassinating mid-level Taliban commanders, but one study on the ground showed that many of these are men highly regarded in their communities. It concluded that killing them infuriated local people and led to many of them being recruited by the Taliban.

The US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, will tell NATO leaders today of his plan to start handing over responsibility for security in some areas to the Afghan government in 2011. This sounds like wishful thinking on the part of General Petraeus and his selection of target dates is primarily to avoid accusations that NATO has no idea when or how it will get out.

The Taliban currently controls or has influence in half of Afghanistan. While US reinforcements have been pouring into Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the Taliban have been expanding their enclaves in the north. Continue reading

Afghan women demand liberation, reject being used as pretext for war

[This article describes the oppressive conditions faced by Afghan women under the Karzai regime, whose main source of support is fundamentalist warlords who are just as reactionary and anti-woman as the Taliban. This article expresses the common view that Afghan women have made significant strides forward since the US invasion in 1991 in the areas of education, health care and political life. In reality, these advances have been concentrated among more privileged sections of women, and they do not extend beyond Kabul’s city limits. The article also raises the question of what kind of political arrangement could replace US-backed politicians like Karzai and exclude the Taliban after the US/NATO occupation forces withdraw.—Frontlines ed]

Kabul--Afghan women demand the government take action against the murderers of five women.

Afghan Women Demand Liberation, Not Lip Service

 

By Kanya D’Almeida

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Afghanistan will not know peace until women are equal participants in negotiations, stresses a report released  by the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

“We don’t want the world to see us as victims,” said Afifa Azim, general director of the Afghan Women’s Network, which is working in collaboration with the Kroc Institute. “Afghani women must be at the table if the peace process is to move forward. No women, no peace.”

Co-authored by David Cortright and Sarah Persinger, the report entitled “Afghan Women Speak: Enhancing Security and Human Rights in Afghanistan” was presented as part of the week-long Peace Conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The report includes some 50 interviews with women leaders, parliamentarians, activists, school principals, NGO and health workers, army officials and police officers in the field in Kabul, Afghanistan, from April to May of 2010.

Since United States-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, critics say Washington has dangled the question of women’s emancipation over the head of the international community, using it to justify prolonged military occupation. Pundits and policy-makers in the West have largely swallowed this argument, taking up the fight for Afghan women with great gusto while continuing to support U.S. and NATO troops in the Middle East. Continue reading

London: Led by military families, 10,000 march against NATO war in Afghanistan

A demonstrator walks through London before a protest against the Afghanistan war.

A demonstrator walks through London before a protest against the Afghanistan war.

The Guardian UK,  20 November 2010

 

Thousands of protesters have marched through London against the war in Afghanistan as Nato leaders agreed a strategy to withdraw their troops from the country.
The demonstration, which organisers said was 10,000-strong, came as the prime minister, David Cameron, said the withdrawal of British combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015 was a “firm deadline” that would be met.
Speaking at a Nato summit in Lisbon, Cameron said Afghan forces would begin taking charge of security from early next year and the security handover would be complete by the end of 2014. “The commitment we have entered into today to transfer the lead responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 will pave the way for British combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by 2015. This is a firm deadline that we will meet.”

The protesters were led by military families, including those of soldiers killed in the conflict.

Continue reading

Report from Afghanistan: Behind Enemy Lines

The Independent (UK), November 14, 2010

The prospect of a negotiated peace is dismissed almost outright. . . . “There are no al-Qa’ida fighters in Afghanistan any more.”

James Fergusson

The sound of a propeller engine is audible the moment my fixer and I climb out of the car, causing us new arrivals from Kabul to glance sharply upwards. I have never heard a military drone in action before, and it is entirely invisible in the cold night sky, yet there is no doubt what it is. My first visit to the Taliban since 2007 has only just begun and I am already regretting it. What if the drone is the Hellfire-missile-carrying kind?

Three years ago, the Taliban’s control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word “Republic” and insert “Emirate”, the emir in question being the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.

The most astonishing thing about this rebel district and for Nato leaders meeting in Lisbon this week, a deeply troubling one is that Chak is not in war-torn Helmand or Kandahar but in Wardak province, a scant 40 miles south-west of Kabul. Nato commanders have repeatedly claimed that the Taliban are on the back foot following this year’s US troop surge. Mid-level insurgency commanders, they say, have been removed from the battlefield in “industrial” quantities since the 2010 campaign began.

And yet Abdullah, operating within Katyusha rocket range of the capital and with a $500,000 bounty on his head has managed to evade coalition forces for almost four years. If Chak is in any way typical of developments in other rural districts and Afghanistan has hundreds of isolated valley communities just like this one then Nato’s military strategy could be in serious difficulty. Continue reading