Archive | Afghanistan

UN Reveals ‘Credible and Reliable’ Evidence of US Military Torture in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

New report finds U.S.-backed Afghan government still committing widespread torture

The United Nations revealed Wednesday it has “credible and reliable” evidence that people recently detained at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan have faced torture and abuse.

The UN’s Assistance Mission and High Commissioner for Human Rights exposed the findings in a report based on interviews with 790 “conflict-related detainees” between February 2013 and December 2014.

According to the investigation, two detainees “provided sufficiently credible and reliable accounts of torture in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak in September 2013 and a U.S. Special Forces facility at Baghlan in April 2013.”

The report states that the allegations of torture were investigated by “relevant authorities” but provided no information about the outcome of the alleged probes or the nature of the mistreatment.

This is not the first public disclosure of evidence of torture during the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now into its 14th year. The U.S. military’s Bagram Prison, which was shuttered late last year, was notorious for torture, including beatings, sexual assault, and sleep deprivation, and further atrocities were confirmed in the Senate report (pdf) on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form. Afghan residents have repeatedly spoken out against torture and abuse by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.

The Senate report on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form, exposes U.S. torture at black sites in Afghanistan and around the world.

Moreover, residents of Afghanistan have testified to—and protestedtorture by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.

Beyond U.S.-run facilities, the UN report finds that torture and abuse have slightly declined over recent years but remain “persistent” throughout detention centers run by the U.S.-backed Afghan government, including police, military, and intelligence officials. Of people detained for conflict-related reasons, 35 percent of them faced torture and abuse at the hands of their Afghan government captors, the report states.

According to the report, prevalent torture methods used by Afghan forces include, “prolonged and severe beating with cables, pipes, hoses or wooden sticks (including on the soles of the feet), punching, hitting and kicking all over the body including jumping on the detainee’s body, twisting of genitals including with a wrench-like device, and threats of execution and/or sexual assault.”

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Afghan Civilian Deaths Rise to Record High

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Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Children have been the worst affected by soaring rates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Over 10,000 civilians died in Afghanistan’s ongoing civil war in 2014, according to a grim United Nations report released Wednesday.

Despite claims from Washington that the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan has left behind a stable country, the U.N. report states the country’s decade-old conflict is only intensifying.

“In 2014, (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNMA) documented the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in a single year since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009,” the report stated.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, the report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. The report attributed the steady rise in civilian killings to “increased ground engagements” and the mushrooming use of heavy explosives such as mortars in civilian populated areas.

Among the victims, children accounted for 714 killed and 1,760 wounded – a 40 percent increase over the previous year.

At 72 percent, the vast majority of civilian deaths were blamed on “anti-government elements,” which includes the Taliban and other militant groups. Around 12 percent of casualties were caused by Afghan government security forces, while “international military forces” were responsible for 2 percent.

According to U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Nicholas Haysom, “Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm.”

“Parties to the conflict should understand the impact of their actions and take responsibility for them, uphold the values they claim to defend, and make protecting civilians their first priority,” Haysom stated.

More Afghanistan news:

27 Taliban Militants Killed by Afghan Military

Record Number of Landmine Clearer Deaths in Afghanistan in 2014

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Afghanistan Wakes Up To Islamic State Threat

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Afghan security officials check people at a road side as part of increased security measures in Helmand Province following the death of Islamic State recruiter Mullah Abdul Rauf in a military operation on February 9.

Afghan security officials check people at a road side as part of increased security measures in Helmand Province following the death of Islamic State recruiter Mullah Abdul Rauf in a military operation on February 9.

By Qadir Habib and Michael Scollon

After consistently rejecting the idea, Kabul could no longer ignore what self-declared recruiters and fighters had been telling them for months — the Islamic State (IS) group had indeed arrived in Afghanistan.

“Islamic State or those people who call themselves Islamic State are active in some areas and our intelligence reports confirm it and we cannot deny it,” Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Sidiqqi admitted during a February 10 interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan.

The message resonated, particularly considering that it came just two days after Sidiqqi had urged media not to report on “a group that doesn’t even exist in Afghanistan” because it could further IS’s aims.

But he said that national security forces were on top of the situation, offering assurances that “wherever they act we destroy them and don’t give them the opportunity to become active in Afghanistan.”

Top Priority

As it turns out, even as Kabul worked to downplay talk of IS’s arrival in Afghanistan, it was actively trying to ensure the import did not gain a foothold in the country.

The efforts paid off on February 9 when Mullah Abdul Rauf, who had publicly declared that he was recruiting for Islamic State in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, was killed in a military operation there.

Confirming the death of the former Taliban commander and Guantanamo prison inmate, Afghanistan’s spy agency — the National Directorate of Security  (NDS) — said Rauf had been a top priority for a month.

The same day, the Islamic State’s self-declared spokesman in Afghanistan, Abdul Qadir Wahidi (alias Abu Ibrahim Khurasani), spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan from a prison in the central Ghazni Province.

He said that he was arrested about two months ago by NDS officers when he appeared in Kabul for what he thought would be peace talks with government officials.

Wahidi said it was he who sent and appeared in a video to a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in September in which he claimed to represent a group called the Islamic Organization of Great Afghanistan, and expressed its willingness to fight for Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wahidi was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for serving as Islamic State’s spokesman and for his role in kidnapping a Ghazni official in late 2014.

Skeptics Abound

There has been ample skepticism about whether Islamic State is capable of carving out a place for itself in a militant scene dominated by well-established groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Some pointed to cultural clashes that would erupt when outsiders adhering to a strict form of Wahhabism encroached on long-established tribal traditions in Afghanistan. Others asked whether disgruntled Taliban were simply saying they were allying themselves with Islamic State in order to gain street cred. And the possibility was raised that provincial officials were heightening alarm in order to attract more funding and security from Kabul.

But as the discussion wore on, reports about the presence of Islamic State and Wahhabist, foreign fighters continued to trickle in.

Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, deputy governor of Helmand Province, claimed in late January that IS militants were active in Kajaki District, where Rauf was later killed.

Rasulyar said the Islamic State militants, who were carrying black flags to indicate their allegiance to Al-Baghdadi’s group, were clashing with white-flagged Taliban.

“We consider both groups an enemy, both of them are enemies of Afghans and killing Afghans,” Rasulyar said. “But, it would better for us if they would fight each other and our Afghans were spared from their evil.”

A local resident, who spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan on condition of anonymity, said on January 26: “They have come here, spreading propaganda and talking a little bit about Wahhabis. Local mullahs are concerned.”

To the west, in Farah Province, an official told RFE/RL that IS-linked militants had moved into a mountainous region in Khak Safed district.

“There are about 80 people in 10 groups, they are flying the black flag. They are training children to use weapons and when they come to the village, they spend their own money,” district Governor Abdul Khaleq Norzai said on January 25. “They don’t take anything from others and don’t eat others’ food. If something costs 10 afghanis they pay 20 afghanis for it.”

Nipping IS In The Bud

“Worrisome” and “serious” appear to be the common refrain among Afghans and outside observers when discussing Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan.

The group’s emergence comes as Afghan security forces and U.S. Special Operations forces are already engaged in increasing raids targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, and as new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tries to maintain security amid a drawdown of U.S. troops.

Speaking before a gathering of Afghan clerics in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on February 13, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq called on the Afghan government to take serious action to counter Islamic State’s activities.

Military analyst Jawed Kohistani said that, if Kabul doesn’t answer the call now, it will mean trouble by as early as this summer.

“They [IS recruits in Afghanistan] will resolve their problems with the Taliban, find resources to fund their activities, and will be prepared for offensive operations,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on February 13. “If [the government] doesn’t make good use of the capabilities and abilities of its military forces and doesn’t pay attention to intelligence, we will be confronted with enormous problems in the future.”

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Legacy of Endless Afghan War Includes Nation Plagued by Unexploded Bombs

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With a majority of the victims children, unexploded ordnances in war-torn Afghanistan are claiming more than one life every single day

Children at Kandahar airfield being educated about unexploded ordnances in 2009. One person on average is killed every day in Afghanistan from munitions that were dropped or left behind by U.S. or Nato forces. (Photo: Thomas Sjørup/Afghanistan Matters/flickr/cc)

As seen in other abandoned battlefields in the anals of U.S. wars overseas, new reporting out of Afghanistan shows that among the other deadly legacies left behind by foreign troops are tens of thousands unexploded munitions dropped from the sky or left in the ground that will continue to kill and maim civilians long after the “official” fighting has stopped.

Reporting from the Afghan city of Khost, Guardian foreign correspondent Sune Engel Rasmussen reviewed data and spoke with members of the UN’s Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (Macca) to learn that unexploded bombs and shells in Afghanistan “are killing and maiming people at a rate of more than one a day”—the vast majority of whom are children.

Citing MACCA statistics from 2014, Rasmussen reports “there were 369 casualties in the past year, including 89 deaths. The rate rose significantly in October and November when 93 people were injured, 84 of them children. Twenty died.”

Offering a tragic account of siblings from a single family, Rasmussen relays the story of 10-year-old Mohammad Yunus and his eight-year-old sister, Sahar Bibi. “The grenades that killed Mohammad and Sahar, as they were combing through dry branches to collect firewood for their family, should have detonated long before they were picked up. Instead, the shells exploded in the children’s hands and ripped through their bodies, killing them instantly. The blasts also injured their two brothers, aged five and 12.”

In a war that has spanned more than twelve years—with no end in sight—it is not surprising that the number of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) has risen to alarming rates, but as was true in the U.S. war in southeast Asia—where the nations of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia continue to suffer the consequences of years of carpet bombing by the U.S. military—the problem will not go away just because the war is at some point declared over.

As the Guardian reports:

Though first steps have been taken to tackle [UXO], agencies complain the US-led forces are withholding information about where they may have dropped explosives.

“We ask for information about battlefields that may have UXO, but we have received coordinates for only 300 locations. It’s not enough,” said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, director of Macca.

Colonel Calvin Hudson, Nato’s Combined Joint Task Force chief engineer in Kabul, says Nato gives as much information to mine-clearing agencies as possible without compromising operational operational security – coordinates for areas where Afghan forces continue their operations are withheld.

Much of the fighting in Afghanistan has taken place in and around residential areas, increasing the risk of civilian casualties in the aftermath of the war. UK and US diplomats emphasise that international law does not give their countries a responsibility to clear battlefields. But that does not absolve Nato countries of their duty to clean up after themselves, said Rashid.

“It is a moral responsibility,” he said, adding that scattering unstable explosives around the country defeats the initial purpose of the war. “Military intervention is the last resort, and it’s intended to protect people and stabilise the country,” he said.

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White House declines to call Afghan Taliban ‘terrorists’

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The White House on Thursday declined to describe Afghanistan’s Taliban as a terrorist group, prompting consternation from the right, which accused President Barack Obama’s administration of being out of touch.

“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism, they do pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

“What’s also true though is that it is important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” he said, pointing to a difference in designation.

“The Taliban is a very dangerous organisation,” he added.

The Treasury Department has imposed anti-terror sanctions on around 2,000 Taliban fighters, leaders, supporters and financiers.

But the White House’s distinction got short shrift from its political opponents, with Republicans sending footage of the comments to supporters.

“It slits throats, it attacks buses, it drives car bombs into markets and it’s not a terrorist group. Look, you can’t parody this administration,” said conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer.

Others said the White House’s distinction was based more on politics than reality, pointing to the negotiated release of Taliban captive and US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

The White House says it does not negotiate with terror groups.

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Indian Desperation in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

 

During his recent visit to Pakistan, the newly-elected President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani

said that his government and the people of Afghanistan desire to further strengthen bilateral

relations with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest. He elaborated, “We must overcome the

past…we will not permit the past to destroy the future.”

The Afghan president who was accompanied by Afghan Defence Minister Gen. Bismillah

Muhammadi, Afghan Chief of General Staff Gen. Sher Muhammad Karimi and other senior

security officials also visited the General Headquarters and met Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff

Gen. Raheel Sharif. In this regard, a press release from the Inter Service Public Relations said

that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lauded Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and the

sacrifices made by the nation. Pakistan’s proposal to offer security and defence cooperation and

training opportunities to Afghanistan have been received positively. There also exists the

realization of mutual economic cooperation in various fields.

It is notable that Gen. Raheel accompanied by the DG of Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI),

went to Kabul on December 17, 2014. During his meeting with his Afghan counterpart, President

Ashraf Ghani and the ISAF commander, he presented the evidence of linkage between the recent

massacre of children at Peshawar school and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sanctuaries in

Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. He also asked about action against the TTP chief

In response, Afghan government and US has started taking action against the TTP. A number of

TTP militants have been captured in Afghanistan, while Fazlullah survived in a drone attack.

Meanwhile, Washington has also designated Mullah Fazullah as a global terrorist and seized his

Being a well-rounded Afghan politician, President Ashraff Ghani understands that the signing of

the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has provided a sense of certainty—after

the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan—-though US President Barack Obama had

stated that 9800 troops would remain in Afghanistan from December 2014 till the 2016 complete

Now, even the US and its western allies who intend to seek stability in Afghanistan realize that

after the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan will be thrown in era of uncertainly and civil

war—and terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan is interrelated. Notably, in the recent

years, a series of international conferences were held in order to bring stability and peace in

Afghanistan. For this purpose, US-led developed nations which also pledged billions of dollars

for the development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help,

stability cannot be achieved in Afghanistan.

In this regard, ongoing operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency, especially the

operation, Zarb-e-Azb which has broken the backbone of the Taliban insurgents has been

broadly welcomed internationally as well as in Washington. During his recent meeting with Gen.

Raheel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has praised Pakistan military operations against the

terrorists. And during his visit to Islamabad, US Secretary of State John Kerry met Pakistan’s

political and military leaders on January 13, this year. He also appreciated Pakistan’s armed

forces about the successes, achieved during operation, Zarb-e-Azb. Sources suggest that during

the meeting, John Kerry was also shown evidence of Indian involvement in subversive activities

across Pakistan—financial support, training and provision of weapons to the militants.

Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increasing in the backdrop of growing engagements of

Pakistan and Afghanistan including US. To further its interests, Indian secret agency, RAW is

using Academia by funding writers like Bruce Riedel. Bruce Riedel belongs to breed of paid

writer, who creates contents which are void of realities and are prejudiced.

While, India is using every opportunity to affect improving relations between Pakistan and

Afghanistan, as both the countries are witnessing and welcoming increased engagements after

swearing in of Ashraf Ghani as President and Peshawar carnage incident. In fact, Indian politico-

diplomatic circle does not want peace and stability in this region.

New Delhi which has already invested billion of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging

strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan

security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects. And, the then President Karzai had

also signed another agreement with New Delhi to obtain Indian arms and weapons. However,

under the cover of these agreements, India has further been strengthening its grip in Afghanistan

to get strategic depth against Pakistan.

Indian presence in Afghanistan is much more than economic activities. Due to Af-Pak thawing,

India is up to its usual tirade to foment an environment by conducting terrorist attacks in both

Pakistan and Afghanistan to prove that Pakistan is creating trouble for Afghanistan.

On the other side, India through their consulates and other facilities in Afghanistan is equipping

and infiltrating Baloch Sub-nationalists and other terrorists in Pakistan’s province of Balochistan,

and had tasked Afghan intelligence-National Directorate of Security (NDS)-their cohorts to

In this context, reports regarding the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar roaming between Quetta and

Karachi are concocted contents on the behest of Indian propagandist, whereas he lives in

Afghanistan. Moreover, there are authentic information that Indian allies are harbouring Pakistan

wanted TTP militants like Wali and Mullah Fazallulah. They are also supporting them for

carrying out activities against Pakistan.

Nevertheless, taking note of Indian negative approach, in the recent past, US Senator John

McCain reminded the Obama administration that encouraging India to take a more active role in

Afghanistan, while simultaneously criticizing Pakistan could be a recipe for disaster. In fact,

India wants instability in Afghanistan, which favors its secret goals against Pakistan. But,

Pakistan seeks stability in Afghanistan, which is not possible owing to Indian presence in that

country. Therefore, Pakistan has legitimate concerns in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, Afghan new regime realizes that the future of Afghanistan’s prosperity and stability

depend upon a formula to address Pakistan’s security concerns, as both the countries have been

facing common challenges. Hence, positive developments between Pak-Afghan relations have

resulted into Indian desperation in Afghanistan.

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The War Is Over, But Afghanistan Remains Shackled

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Neo-Imperialism

“Afghanistan is no closer to controlling its institutions than Washington is to defeating terror. Afghans have inherited a disbanded mercenary army which the state cannot possibly maintain on its own,” a political analyst tells MintPress.

America’s war in Afghanistan is over!

In a statement to the press on Dec. 28, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed that after 13 years of bloody conflict, “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Though U.S. troops will no longer officially engage in combat missions in Afghanistan, that is not to say that Washington will completely devest its military interests from the region. While Jan. 1 was marked by a much mediatized military handover, wherein Afghanistan assumed control over its security and military apparatus, approximately 12,000-13,500 foreign troops — including 9,800 U.S. soldiers — will still be arrayed throughout the country under the post-2014 NATO-led mission “Operation Resolute Support.”

NATO’s new role and scope of activities in Afghanistan have been defined in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a military cooperation treaty signed by newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Maurits Jochems on Sept. 30, ahead of any U.S. withdrawal.

Yet as officials gathered in Kabul to celebrate Afghanistan’s military emancipation from NATO on Jan. 1, reports came through that a shootout between armed Afghan troops and Taliban militants led to the deaths of innocent civilians on Dec. 31. A wedding party in Sangin, a city located in Helmand province, south of the capital Kabul, was hit after Afghan soldiers misfired a rocket in response to Taliban attacks, killing an estimated 29 people. The incident served as a reminder of the serious threat that the Taliban continues to pose to the impoverished, war-torn nation.

Thus, although Afghanistan is no longer the ward of the international community, experts warn that its sovereignty and independence constitute little more than a facade.

“For all intents and purposes, Afghanistan remains a country under occupation,” said Aref Abu Hatem, a leading political analyst based in Yemen, to MintPress News.

“Afghanistan is no closer to controlling its institutions than Washington is to defeating terror. Afghans have inherited a disbanded mercenary army which the state cannot possibly maintain on its own. If anything, NATO has locked Kabul into a financial trap to better assert control and defend its interests in the region,” he added.

Neo-Imperialism

This notion that Afghanistan has remained but a pawn in The Great Game has been at the center of many debates over the years.

Former President Hamid Karzai, often referred to as Washington’s strategic ally in Central Asia, highlighted such sentiments in his farewell speech in September, when he declared: “The war in Afghanistan is to the benefit of foreigners. But Afghans on both sides are the sacrificial lambs and victims of this war.”

Mohsen Kia, an independent political analyst based in Tehran, explained to MintPress that Karzai’s virulent criticism of the United States reflects Afghans’ strong resentment toward Western powers.

“President Karzai put his finger on an issue which has long troubled Afghanistan. Afghans do not feel in charge of their own fate. Rather they feel trapped by powers greater than their own, which play by rules they can neither comprehend nor oppose,” Kia said.

“Just as Afghans felt trapped and suffocated under British and Russian rule, they have come to understand the United States as yet another imperialistic power. In all fairness Washington has done little to disperse such sentiments,” he said. “Everything the U.S. has done over the past 13 years has been done in the Pentagon’s interests, not the Afghans’ … even though it was sold this way.”

While U.S. officials have dismissed the notion that America has increasingly developed imperialistic traits over the decades, arguing that the U.S. has been a positive influence on the world, many have begged to differ.

On Dec. 28, Obama emphasized America’s positive influence in Afghanistan, stressing:

“Our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan — along with our NATO allies and coalition partners — have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history.”

While U.S. officials justify civilian casualties in targeted attacks as collateral damage in the pursuit of their greater ambitions, others have perceived the footprint of a neo-imperial power that operates unchallenged.

In March 2012, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was found guilty of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a murderous rampage. Though Bales had clearly operated beyond the scope of his military mandate, the U.S. refused to subject him to Afghan law. British journalist and whistleblower Glenn Greenwald argued that this was classic imperialist behavior.

“One prime prerogative of all empires is that it is subject to no laws or accountability other than its own, even when it comes to crimes committed on other nations’ soil and against its people,” Greenwald wrote.

“What is most revealed by the decision to remove Bales from Afghanistan is the American belief that no other country – including those its invades and occupies – can ever impose accountability on Americans.”

But if Washington has played Big Brother to impoverished Afghanistan, using its superpower status to impose its hegemonic will and maintain Kabul within its political grasp, Afghanistan’s Prince Ali Seraj, the head of the National Coalition for Dialogue With the Tribes of Afghanistan, told MintPress that Afghanistan has played a hand in its own demise by developing feelings of codependency.

Codependency

Ravaged by decades of war, Afghanistan stands as a nation severely diminished — an empty shell with no real institutional substance and very limited economic resources.

Although home to billions of dollars in untapped natural resources, such as energy and precious minerals, Afghanistan remains trapped in abject poverty, its people plagued by hunger.

In a report for AFP, dated Jan. 2, Guillaume Lavallee quoted Haji Mubin Ahmad, a local Afghan businessman, as saying that his country’s economy continues to rely heavily on foreign aid. “Cutting the aid is like cutting the oxygen — we will die,” Ahmad is quoted as saying.

“Rather than help shore up Afghanistan’s ailing economy, the United States and its allies have instead thrown billions of dollars at the military, prioritizing the development of a mercenary army via private U.S. contractors rather than bank on Afghans to rebuild their state,” Prince Ali Seraj told MintPress.

“Afghanistan has become so dependent on foreign aid that Kabul cannot possibly dream of honoring its troops’ salaries without outside intervention. Kabul does not own its army, foreign powers pay the bills. There lies Afghanistan’s biggest paradox,” he added.

Indeed, while NATO has transferred all military responsibilities to Kabul, Afghanistan remains nevertheless vulnerable to outside control due to financial destitution.

“It is easy to see how foreign powers could use Afghanistan’s financial problems to lean on officials and push for control. Having a mercenary army only opens the door to manipulation,” warned Prince Ali.

But while figures like former President Karzai have been keen to paint the U.S. as the source of all Afghanistan’s troubles, Afghan officials have much to answer to when it comes to manipulating America’s ambitions to their own benefit.

As Afghan political analyst Haroun Mir noted in a December opinion piece for Al-Jazeera, although Kabul does not yet control its finances and essentially relies on foreign aid, it still has the power to rein in corruption, nepotism and political wrangling to solidify its footing and ultimately build itself back up again

“Afghans have been made to believe that all solutions to their problem lie outside their borders, with the international community. This thinking has trapped Afghans into a vicious circle of political dependency. A nation which cannot think for itself or envision itself can never be truly free or sovereign,” stressed Prince Ali.

“Foreign aid, yes! Foreign tutelage, no! It is as perversive as radicalism, since it stands in negation of democratic values. Only Afghans can heal Afghanistan. The real question is: Does the international community truly aspire to empower Afghans?”

Finding a way out

With the Taliban back on the offensive, Afghanistan is in a difficult position, confronted with the realities of a life spent under the Taliban or neo-colonial servitude.

“Why is the U.S. leaving when Afghanistan cannot possibly defend itself? The coffers of the state are empty and since no efforts were spent in rejuvenating Afghanistan’s economy, they will remain empty,” Prince Ali said, noting, “Afghans cannot even feed themselves. … How can they be expected to commit to the upkeep of a mercenary army?”

Iranian expert Kia echoed Prince Ali’s comments, arguing that Afghanistan’s salvation lies in the Afghan people’s ability to revive their national economy and provide the state with a sustainable source of income.

“Afghanistan was once a buoyant commercial and agricultural land. Investments need to flow in this direction. Only then will Afghanistan rise again. Only then will the state be free of foreign diktat,” Kia stressed.

Prince Ali, who worked closely with the Reagan administration in the late 1980s, when Afghanistan was under the thumb of Soviet Russia, believes that his country’s problems stem from Washington’s miscalculations and gross oversight in handling radicalism.

“The solutions are there, yet U.S. officials have refused to break away from their failed strategy, engaging the wrong people and implementing the wrong policies,” he said.

“Thirteen years of failure have reduced Afghanistan to playing the role of the emperor without clothes. Everyone is telling us how successful we have been, how far we’ve come over the decade, and yet hunger is rampant and security has deteriorated further,” he added.

Perhaps all Afghanistan needs now is space to carve out its own path, free of the constraints of its allies.

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Drone Guidelines to Protect Civilians Do Not Apply to Afghanistan: White House Official

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New Rolling Stone article provides more evidence that, despite public claims, U.S. war in Afghanistan is nowhere near over

The ISAF color guard marches during the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) and XVIII Airborne Corps colors casing ceremony, Dec 8, 2014 at North Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, Afghanistan. Despite public ceremonies like this one, marking the supposed conclusion of U.S.-led combat, the war continues. (Photo: ISAF/Public Domain)

The ISAF color guard marches during the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) and XVIII Airborne Corps colors casing ceremony, Dec 8, 2014 at North Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, Afghanistan. Despite public ceremonies like this one, marking the supposed conclusion of U.S.-led combat, the war continues. (Photo: ISAF/Public Domain)

Despite the December 28th “official” end of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, a new Rolling Stone article provides more proof that armed combat is nowhere near over: the Obama administration still considers the country to be an “area of active hostilities” and therefore does not impose more stringent standards aimed at limiting civilian deaths in drone strikes.

At issue are the Presidential Policy Guidelines (pdf), passed in May 2013 in response to widespread concerns about the killing and wounding of non-combatants by U.S. drone strikes. The new guidelines impose the requirement that “before lethal action may be taken,” U.S. forces are required to attain “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.” It is impossible to verify the impact of this reform on civilian deaths and injuries, because U.S. drone attacks are shrouded in near total secrecy.

However, an unnamed senior administration official told Rolling Stone journalist John Knefel that the Presidential Policy Guidelines do not apply to Afghanistan. “Afghanistan will continue to be considered an ‘area of active hostilities’ in 2015,” said the official. “The PPG does not apply to areas of active hostilities.”

This is not the first time President Obama has played fast and loose with its own drone war reforms. In October 2014, it was revealed that the Obama administration holds that the reforms also do not apply to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, because they are also deemed to be “areas of active hostilities.”

According to Knefel, “That perplexing distinction – that formal combat operations are over but that the U.S. still remains in an armed conflict – in many ways exemplifies the lasting legacy of Obama’s foreign policy. From Yemen to Pakistan to Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, the administration has consistently downplayed its actions – some acknowledged and some covert – saying that the wars are (almost) over while retaining virtually all the powers of a country at war.”

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6 Killed in US Drone Strike‌ in Afghanistan, Main Victims‌ Civilians

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6 Killed in US Drone Strike‌ in Afghanistan-Main Victims‌ Civilians
Washington carryies out continual drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia, killing people. A US-led assassination drone strike has killed at least 6 people in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar.

Three other people also sustained injuries in the latest drone attack in the province, Hazrat Hossein Mashraqiwal, the police spokesman for Nangarhar.

The spokesman further said that the drone strike took place in the provincial Lal Pur district on Wednesday.

A similar strike on Wednesday, reportedly killed at least 3 people in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Logar. The US-led terror drones also killed at least seven people in the neighboring province of Khost on Sunday.

The US carries out targeted killings through drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Washington claims the targets of the drone attacks are al-Qaeda militants, but local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of the attacks over the past few years.

 

Posted in Afghanistan, USA0 Comments

US-Trained Afghan Army Behind Deadly Attack on Wedding Party

NOVANEWS

New Year’s Eve incident that killed as many as 26 sparks protest, investigation

U.S. military conducting training for Afghan National Army Soldiers in 2010. (Photo: isafmedia/flickr/cc)

The U.S.-trained Afghan army was responsible for a New Year’s Eve attack on a wedding party that killed as many as two dozen people including women and children, local officials have said.

The incident took place in Sagin district in the southern province of Helmand, and was first reported on by the Associated Press.

Witnesses said the house where the wedding was taking place was hit after guests firedcelebratory shots into the air.

The incident sparked hundreds of people to travel from Sagin to the home of the governor in the provincial capital to demand justice, AP reports.

“What we know so far is that our soldiers fired mortar rounds from three outposts but we do not know whether it was intentional,” General Mahmoud, the deputy Commander of the Afghan 215 corps in Helmand province, told Reuters.

“We have launched our investigation and will punish those who did this,” he said.

The exact toll from the attack is still unclear; Agence-France Presse‘s latest reporting indicates that 17 people, all women and children were killed, and that 49 others were wounded in the shelling. Reuters reported Thursday that 26 people were killed and 41 others wounded.

According to reporting by AP on Friday, two soldiers have already been arrested, and eight more are under investigation.  Mahmoud told AP that there was “still a possibility of more arrests.”

In a statement issued Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and urged the Afghan government to conduct a full investigation of the incident.

The deadly fire came at the end of what was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians, and just hours before Afghanistan formally took over security operations for the country, even as the U.S. is continuing its military role there for at least another year.

“I want to congratulate my people today that Afghan forces are now able to take full security responsibility in protecting their country’s soil and sovereignty,” Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said in a speech Thursday marking the transition.

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