Archive | Afghanistan

Graphic video shows Afghan woman stoned to death for eloping

NOVANEWS

KABUL: A young Afghan woman who was married against her will has been stoned to death by extremists after she was caught eloping with another man, local officials told AFP Tuesday.

The graphic video shows the woman, named as Rokhsahana and aged between 19 and 21, being stoned.

Rokhsahana can be heard repeating the ‘Shahada’, or Muslim profession of faith, her voice growing increasingly high-pitched in the nearly 30-second clip run in Afghan media. Local authorities confirmed the footage.

The killing took place about a week ago in Ghalmeen, an area some 40 kilometres from the Ghor provincial capital of Firozkoh, governor Seema Joyenda said.

Rokhsahana had been “stoned to death by Taliban, local religious leaders and irresponsible armed warlords”, Joyenda told AFP.

Joyenda, one of Afghanistan’s only two female governors, said that according to authorities’ information Rokhsahana’s family had “married her to someone against her will and she was eloping with a man her age”.

She condemned the stoning, calling on Kabul to take action to “clean the area”.

“This is the first incident in this area but will not be the last. Women in general have problems all over the country, but especially in Ghor… The man with whom she was eloping has not been stoned.”

Ghor police chief Mustafa Mohseni told AFP that the incident happened in an Afghan Taliban-controlled area, confirming that it was the first such incident “this year”.

Read: Parents of young woman stoned to death await justice

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Manhunting in the Hindu Kush

NOVANEWS

Image result for cia logo

https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/manhunting-in-the-hindu-kush/

From 2011 to 2013, the most elite forces in the U.S. military, supported by the CIA and other elements of the intelligence community, set out to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda forces that remained hidden … along Afghanistan’s northeastern border with Pakistan. Dubbed Operation Haymaker, the campaign has been described as a potential model for the future of American warfare.

The military’s own analysis demonstrates that the Haymaker campaign was in many respects a failure. The vast majority of those killed in airstrikes were not the direct targets. Nor did the campaign succeed in significantly degrading al Qaeda’s operations in the region.

The frequency with which “targeted killing” operations hit unnamed bystanders is among the more striking takeaways from the Haymaker slides. [Documents obtained by The Intercept] show that during a five-month stretch of the campaign, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not the Americans’ direct targets. Larry Lewis, formerly a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, … found that drone strikes in Afghanistan were 10 times more likely to kill civilians than conventional aircraft. This month, an American airstrike on a hospital run by the international organization Médecins Sans Frontières … killed at least a dozen members of the humanitarian group’s medical staff and 10 patients, including three children. A nurse on the scene recalled seeing six victims in the intensive care unit ablaze in their beds.

Note: Read more about the major failings of US drone attacks. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war news articles from reliable major media sources.

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For Some Military Families, President Obama’s Decision To Keep Troops In Afghanistan Is ‘Another Knife’ In The Heart

NOVANEWS



http://www.ibtimes.com/some-military-families-president-obamas-decision-keep-troops…

U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge Thursday to keep American troops in Afghanistan through 2016 was the last thing Mary Hladky wanted to hear. “It’s what we were dreading,” said the mother of three, whose son Ryan is in the National Guard after serving in the Army from 2009 to 2013 and in Afghanistan during the surge in 2011. She said announcements such as the one Obama made last week no longer surprise her, but they are still very upsetting.

In May 2014, Obama said it was “time to turn the page on … the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” saying he would withdraw the last American troops from the former country by 2016. Thursday, the president reversed course, saying the U.S. would keep at least 9,800 troops in the Central Asian nation through most of 2016, with at least 5,500 of them there at the end of next year. Obama … was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and top military leaders when he made the announcement in Washington. After her son’s deployment, Hladky joined a group called Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), which has for years urged lawmakers to bring U.S. troops back from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Obama said last week he opposes the idea of what he called “endless war,” it appears the decision to conclude what is now a 14-year-old conflict in Afghanistan will no longer be his to make, given the end of his term in office in January 2017. Meanwhile, his move has resulted in a tremendous amount of anger and betrayal being felt among many military families.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war news articles from reliable major media sources.

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US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital

NOVANEWS
by DAVE LINDORFF

Killing Machine

The Air Force’s top killing machine, the AC-130J, was sent to attack the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz.

Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.

This even as the US desperately tries to bury the issue of its perfidy by offering “condolence payments” to victims of the attack, though without accepting blame beyond saying it was a “tragic mistake.”

The “mistake” claim looks increasingly shameless as it becomes clear that this was not, as the US corporate media continue to incorrectly report, a “bombing” gone wrong, but rather was a prolonged hour-long attack by an AC-130 gunship, the deadliest killing machine in the US Air Force’s weapons roster of mayhem. The aircraft, equipped with the latest night-vision sighting equipment, reportedly made five 15-minute assaults on the hospital’s main building housing the emergency operating room and recovery rooms, firing its array of howitzer cannons, 30-millimeter machine canons and other heavy weapons whose standard ammunition includes both high-explosive tips and anti-personnel rounds designed to scatter death in a wide pattern.

This is, in other words, not a precision targeting weapon, but a weapons system designed to spread death over a wide swath.

It explains why the building itself was not leveled, as happens when, for example, a drone first Hellfire missiles at a building or a plane drops a bomb. Rather, the hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.

Horrific enough to attack a hospital, but to attack it with a weapons system designed to slaughter as many people as possible is almost beyond comprehension.

The hospital in Kunduz was a well-known and long-established institution with a distinctive shape operating in a city that until recently was under full government control. That the US/NATO command did not clearly know the function of that structure is inconceivable, despite US government efforts to claim that a specific provision of the hospital’s coordinates to US forces by Medicine Sans Frontieres days before the attack “must have” gotten waylaid somewhere along the way. (see aerial photo of the hospital in Kunduz).

KundusHospitalAerialView.preview

Here’s what a military website says about the plane sent to wreak this havoc:

“Boasting a lethal number of mini-guns, cannons and howitzers, the AC-130 Gunship has earned a reputation as one of the deadliest combat weapons on the planet.”

The website Strategypage.com offers the added information that the AC-130’s 30–millimeter cannons fire “explosive anti-personnel rounds” as well as explosive ammunition.

If, as claimed by Pentagon officials and the top general in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Campbell, there were Taliban fighters firing from some location in or near the hospital (a claim vigorously disputed by Medicine Sans Frontieres, which says there was no fighting going on near the hospital and that all people entering the hospital, Taliban victims included, had to surrender weapons at the door as a matter of policy) it still would not justify under any circumstances the use of a weapons system like the AC-130 with its array of industrial slaughter weaponry.

The US has a lot to answer for, which explains why the White House has refused Medicine Sans Frontieres’ demand for an independent investigation into this atrocity.

No independent investigation could possibly end up exonerating the US in this case.

As I wrote earlier, the US response to calls for an independent investigation stand in stark contrast to US complaints about Russia’s refusal to participate or cooperate with a so-called international investigation into the downing of Malaysian Flight MH-17 over Ukraine two years ago.

One thing is clear: Gen. Campbell’s assurance after this atrocity that in continuing operations in and around the embattled city of Kunduz “As always, we will take all reasonable steps to protect civilians from harm,” is utter bullshit.

As for his claim that his “thoughts and prayers are with those affected,” If he really is praying, I suspect his prayers are really pleas to his god to protect him from being tried someday for mass murder.

If the US can send an AC-130 to provide “air-support” in the middle of a heavily populated urban battle zone, and can use it to assault, for over an hour, a known hospital facility, nobody is safe from American military power.

This is a case that must not go away, that cannot be “paid off” by “condolence” money, and that should lead to some high-profile trials for war crimes.

The Kunduz murders must, as MSF is demanding, be investigated by a genuinely independent international body, not by the killers themselves in the US military or the US government.

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Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq

NOVANEWS
by RALPH NADER

Oct 17, 2013 - Aleppo, Syria - ISIS fighters holding the Al-Qaeda flag with 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' written on it. on the frontline. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant aka ISIS. The group An-Nusra Front announced its creation January 2012 during the Syrian Civil War. Since then it has been the most aggressive and most effective rebel force in Syria. The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations. April 2013, the leader of the ISIS released an audio statement announcing that Jabhat al-Nusra is its branch in Syria. (Credit Image: © Medyan Dairieh/ZUMA Wire/ZUMAPRESS.com)

The photographs in the New York Times told contrasting stories last week. One showed two Taliban soldiers in civilian clothes and sandals, with their rifles, standing in front of a captured U.N. vehicle. The Taliban forces had taken the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. The other photograph showed Afghan army soldiers fully equipped with modern gear, weapons, and vehicles.

Guess who is winning? An estimated thirty-thousand Taliban soldiers with no air force, navy, or heavy weapons have been holding down ten times more Afghan army and police and over 100,000 U.S. soldiers with the world’s most modern weaponry – for eight years.

ISIS forces from Syria have taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, and the battered city of Fallujah. ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria are estimated to number no more than 35,000. Like the Taliban, ISIS fighters, who vary in their military training, primarily have light weaponry. That is when they are not taking control of the fleeing, much larger, Iraqi army’s armored vehicles and ammunition from the United States.

Against vastly greater numbers of Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. weapons, U.S. planes bombing daily, 24/7 aerial surveillance, and U.S. military advisors at the ground level, so far ISIS is still holding most of its territory and is still dominant in large parts of Syria.

The American people are entitled to know how all this military might and the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2003 and 2001 respectively, can produce such negative fallouts.

Certainly these failures have little to do with observing the restraints of international law. Presidents Bush and Obama have sent military power anywhere and everywhere, regardless of national boundaries and the resulting immense civilian casualties, in those tragic, blown-apart countries.

The current perception of the U.S. in these countries is that of invaders on a rampage. Recruiting motivated fighters, including a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers, is easier when the invaders come from western countries that for over a century have been known for attacking, carving up boundaries for artificial states, intervening, overthrowing, propping up domestic dictators, and generally siding with oligarchic or colonizing interests that brutalize the mass of the people.

It hasn’t helped for these invasions to be supported by an alien culture rooted in the Christian crusades against Islam centuries ago, whose jingoism in the U.S. continues among some evangelical groups today.

But of course more contemporary situations are, first and foremost, the wanton destruction and violent chaos that comes with such invasions. With the absence of any functioning central governments and the dominance of tribal societies, the sheer complexity of the invaders trying to figure out the intricate “politics” between and within tribes and clans turns into an immense, ongoing trap for the western military forces.

When the U.S. started taking sides with the Shiites against the Sunnis in Iraq, or between different clans and tribes in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers, not knowing the language or customs, were left with handing out $100 bills to build alliances. Our government air-shipped and distributed crates of this money. With the local economies at a standstill, public facilities collapsed, fear gripped families from violent streets and roads, and all havoc broke lose in the struggle for safety and survival.

Afghan soldiers, who are paid only $120 a month, will do almost anything to supplement their income, including selling weapons. At higher levels, bribes, payoffs, extortions create an underground economic system. The combination of lack of understanding, the systemic bribes, and the ensuing corruption has produced a climate of chaos.

Then there is the reckless slaughter of civilians – wedding parties, schools, clinics, peasant boys collecting fire-wood on a hillside – from supposedly pinpoint, accurate airplanes, helicopter gunships, drones, or missiles. Hatred of the Americans spreads as people lose their loved ones.

Our “blowback” policies are fueling the expansion of al-Qaeda offshoots and new violent groups in over 20 countries. On 9/11, the “threat” was coming from a corner of one country – northeastern Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney prevaricator frenzy led to local bounty hunters taking innocent captives, falsely labeled as “terrorists,” who were sent to the prisons in Guantanamo, Cuba. These actions have damaged our country’s reputation all over the world.

All this could have been avoided had we heeded the advice of retired, high-ranking military, national security, and diplomatic officials not to invade Iraq and their advice not to overreact in Afghanistan. But the supine mass media, and an overall cowardly Congress let the lies, deceptions, and cover-ups by the Bush regime go unchallenged and, as Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) put it, Bush/Cheney “lied us into the Iraq War.”

It isn’t as if the Taliban and ISIS are winning the “hearts and minds” of the local people. On the contrary, while promising law and order, they treat local populations quite brutally, with few exceptions. But the locals have long been treated brutally by the police, army, and militias jockeying for the spoils of conflict. Unfortunately, there is still no semblance of ground-level security.

All Empires fail and eventually devour themselves. The U.S. Empire is no different. Look at the harm to and drain on our soldiers, our domestic economy, the costly, boomeranging, endless wars overseas and what empire building has done to spread anxieties and lower the expectation level of the American people for their public budgets and public services.

Not repeatedly doing what has failed is the first step toward correction. How much better and cheaper it would be if years ago we became a humanitarian power – well received by the deprived billions in these anguished lands.

What changes are needed to get out of these quagmires and leave a semblance of recovery behind? Press those gaggles of presidential candidates, who war-monger with impunity or who are dodging this grave matter, for answers. Make them listen to you.

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What Remains in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS
by VIJAY PRASHAD

afghanwar

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) keeps as diligently careful records about violence in the country as is possible.

Little attention is paid these days to Afghanistan, as the focus of attention seems to be further westwards – with the Russian intervention and Western failure in Syria centre-stage. UNAMA data shows that the Taliban’s strength is now as it was before October 7, 2001 – when the United States began its Global War on Terror in the country.

More than half of the districts in the country are rated with threat levels of either “high” or “extreme”. These districts – from Nuristan in the east to Farah in the west – range across the country. There are few safe havens. The Taliban, by the UN’s count, is back.

On September 28, the Taliban stormed into the northern city of Kunduz.

After US airstrikes – including one that hit a hospital, killing civilians – and a surge by the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Taliban has decided to withdraw. But this is a tactical withdrawal.

As they withdrew from this northern city, the Taliban attacked another provincial centre – Ghazni – south-west of the capital, Kabul. Fierce fighting continues on the outskirts of the city. It says a great deal about the determination of the ANA that it has decided to hold that city, unlike Kunduz, which fell swiftly.

But it also says a great deal about the Taliban’s range – attacking here and there, with little fear of aerial bombardment.

One of the great vulnerabilities in Afghanistan is that its long highways are prone either to ambush by the Taliban or to being shut down. The Taliban has periodically shut down Highway One, which links the major cities of the country.

In Baghlan district, south of Kunduz, the Taliban has closed the highway for the past two weeks. That is the reason why the ANA troops could not get to Kunduz faster. Helmand, in Afghanistan’s south, was the focus of the 2010 US surge; large sections of it are now outside the mandate of the Kabul government.

The roads are a constant threat, with the Taliban and other elements holding them or threatening traffic upon them.

Debate mainly centres around whether the US should withdraw its remaining 9,800 troops. This is myopic. Little that the US has done during this 14-year period seems different from what the ANA is now doing.

In Helmand, from February 9, the ANA conducted Operation Zulfiqar. It replicated the McChrystal surge of 2010. The army went into Sangin, an stronghold of the Taliban, but could not hold this opium country.

Thousands of families fled the area, and by many accounts the Taliban returned. Attaullah Afghan, a member of Helmand’s provincial council, asked “how much longer might our people suffer? Our people have paid a heavy price for Operation Zulfiqar.”

Much the same kind of sentiment emerged in 2012 when the US surge failed to clear the Taliban from the area. Whether the US troops remain or not is hardly the issue. They have failed in their mission. They have been failing since 2001. They cannot do anymore, or any less.

What are the politics that befuddle Afghanistan? The US blasted its way to Kabul in 2001 with the expectation that it would be able to defeat the Taliban and send it to obscurity.

This has not happened. The Afghan People’s Dialogue for Peace, which drew together eleven Afghan popular networks and the Human Rights Commission for a discussion that lasted for most of 2013 and into 2014, lays blame with some of the culprits here.

A social worker from the Development Council in Balkh, on the Uzbekistan border, says that low literacy rates, unemployment and poor infrastructure narrow the lives of people. “People living in such conditions,” she said, “are easily susceptible to manipulation by the Taliban.”

A local councillor from Helmand agrees with her. Lack of basic facilities for ordinary people “drives the conflict”.

From Badakshan, in the far north-east, a participant in the dialogue offered the following sentiment: “I know many ex-jihadists from Wardoj district who are unemployed and living in miserable conditions. One of them joined the Taliban in Wardoj just for the financial incentive. This problem occurs because most ex-jihadist fighters are now unemployed, living in poverty and basically needing to survive.”

One former Taliban fighter who took advantage of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme of 2010 was killed on the way home from one of the dialogue meetings.

He had told the meeting that he felt abandoned by the polticial process. Add to the futility of the peace process the chaos seized by the Poppy Mafia and the Kabul Kleptocracy that has absorbed aid money.

Not one of the sensible suggestions emerging from the Afghan Dialogue can come to pass. The process is buried between the money being made from the war and the impoverished warriors on the ground.

It is also utopian. The war continues. It is fuelled by the root factors of economic collapse and by regional contests. Pakistan’s security services continue to play a double-faced role here: Islamabad eggs on the US to conduct drone strikes, while encouraging more Taliban fighters into Afghanistan.

The West has no leverage over Pakistan’s establishment.

The only possible partner who might make a regional difference is China, which has long worried about the Taliban. China worries greatly about the insurgency in the north-east, along the Afghan-Tajikistan border.

It is here that Chinese extremists are reportedly training and might eventually threaten western China. At the same time, China is a major investor in Pakistan and one of its major allies. But thus far, China has put little public pressure on Pakistan to cease its support to the Taliban.

In 1997, the UN helped create the Six Plus Two Group, which included the six states around Afghanistan – China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – along with the United States and Russia.

This group, which could do little, disbanded in 2001. It is imperative to revive such a regional initiative that would squeeze the Taliban and help Afghanistan rebuild after decades of war.

Matters are grave for the country. On October 12, a UNAMA staff member, Toorpaki Ulfat, was killed in Kandahar.

“She represented the best of what Afghan youth have to offer,” said UNAMA head Nicholas Haysom. “Her commitment was not dimmed by the challenging security environment.”

But until a new accord is created at the regional level, and until the government is truly able to break out of the grip of the Poppy Mafia and the Kabul Kleptocracy, there is little hope for Afghanistan – the presence of the US troops notwithstanding.

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Enough. Even War Has Rules

NOVANEWS

Surgery activities in one of the remaining parts of MSF’s hospital in Kunduz. In the aftermath of the bombings on the 3rd October 2015. (Photo: MSF)

The following remarks were delivered by Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 — just five days after the U.S. military bombing of an MSF hospital in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan killed twenty-two people—including health providers, adult patients, and children—and wounded dozens of others.

On Saturday morning, MSF patients and staff killed in Kunduz joined the countless number of people who have been killed around the world in conflict zones and referred to as ‘collateral damage’ or as an ‘inevitable consequence of war’. International humanitarian law is not about ‘mistakes’. It is about intention, facts and why.

The US attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz was the biggest loss of life for our organisation in an airstrike. Tens of thousands of people in Kunduz can no longer receive medical care now when they need it most. Today we say: enough.  Even war has rules.

In Kunduz our patients burned in their beds. MSF doctors, nurses and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other. One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table – an office desk – while his colleagues tried to save his life.

Today we pay tribute to those who died in this abhorrent attack. And we pay tribute to those MSF staff who, while watching their colleagues die and with their hospital still on fire, carried on treating the wounded.

This was not just an attack on our hospital – it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated. These Conventions govern the rules of war and were established to protect civilians in conflicts – including patients, medical workers and facilities. They bring some humanity into what is otherwise an inhumane situation.

The Geneva Conventions are not just an abstract legal framework – they are the difference between life and death for medical teams on the frontline. They are what allow patients to access our health facilities safely and what allows us to provide healthcare without being targeted.

It is precisely because attacking hospitals in war zones is prohibited that we expected to be protected. And yet, ten patients including 3 children, and 12 MSF staff were killed in the aerial raids.

The facts and circumstances of this attack must be investigated independently and impartially, particularly given the inconsistencies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened over recent days. We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the US, NATO and Afghan forces.

Today we announce that we are seeking an investigation into the Kunduz attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. This Commission was established in the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions and is the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law. We ask signatory States to activate the Commission to establish the truth and to reassert the protected status of hospitals in conflict.

Though this body has existed since 1991, the Commission has not yet been used. It requires one of the 76 signatory States to sponsor an inquiry. Governments up to now have been too polite or afraid to set a precedent. The tool exists and it is time it is activated.

It is unacceptable that States hide behind ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ and in doing so create a free for all and an environment of impunity. It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake.

Today we are fighting back for the respect of the Geneva Conventions. As doctors, we are fighting back for the sake of our patients. We need you, as members of the public, to stand with us to insist that even wars have rules.

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The US Massacre in Kunduz Exposes the Bankruptcy of Obama’s National-Security Policy

NOVANEWS

Air power inflicts horrific human-rights violations and has been thoroughly discredited as a means of fighting insurgencies

US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in Washington. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The aerial destruction that rained down on a hospital complex run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, a provincial capital in northeast Afghanistan, on October 3 puts an exclamation point on the story of America’s 14 years of warfare in that Central Asian country. At least 22 people were killed, among them doctors, other medical personnel, and patients, including three children, and dozens were wounded in the attack.

Beyond the obvious, immediate implications of this massacre—which serves as a reminder that for all of those 14 years, the United States has engaged in a brutal, mismanaged and ill-conceived war—more broadly the ruins of the Kunduz hospital are a symbol of America’s unfortunate reliance on air power, including drone strikes and bombers, to combat a host of insurgent groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in Africa.

After the events in Kunduz, Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym, MSF, issued a series of scathing statements, demanding an investigation of the incident by an impartial international body “under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed.” Christopher Stokes, MSF’s director general, said that the group is “disgusted” by the statements of Afghan government officials who justified the attack by claiming that Taliban fighters were present.

“Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the U.S. airstrike on Saturday morning,” said Stokes. “The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers.” And he slammed the United States for its ever-changing excuses about the bombing. “Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government.”

The attack was particularly egregious because MSF had repeatedly supplied the United States with the precise GPS coordinates of its hospital complex in recent days and weeks. (President Obama’s spokesman called the Kunduz bombing a “profound tragedy” rather than a war crime, and he said that Obama has complete “confidence” in investigations by the Defense Department, by NATO, and by US and Afghan military officers—but he refused to call for an independent investigation, as demanded by MSF.)

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have been piling up for years, of course—most of them the result of indiscriminate Taliban attacks, including randomly placed IEDs and suicide bombings, but a large number caused by what the United Nations calls “pro-government” forces—that is, the United States and its allies and the Afghan National Security Forces. In October 2013, in a special issue of The Nation, “America’s Afghan Victims,” investigative journalist Nick Turse and I researched and wrote a package of stories that provided an account of the ongoing carnage in Afghanistan. In it, we tried to cut through the murky smokescreen that has obscured the toll of dead and maimed among civilian victims from the start of the war in October 2001 through the end of 2012. We documented 458 separate incidents that resulted in as many as 6,481 civilians killed by American forces during that period, and we provided a detailed, interactive database and chart covering every one of those incidents.

At that time, according to data from the UN, human rights groups, and private researchers such as those at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, it was clear that at least 19,000 Afghan civilians perished during the first twelve years of the war, from violence on all sides. But we also showed that neither the US military nor the government of Afghanistan nor the UN have anything like a complete count of the war’s toll, and that the numbers that exist understate the scope of the tragedy. Since then, of course—as underscored in red by the Kunduz massacre—the toll has only grown. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which only began trying to track casualties eight years ago, between 2007 and 2012 there were at least 14,728 civilian deaths; since then, even as the American presence has been cut back, another 8,260 more civilians died through mid-2015. Again, based on our reporting, those numbers are only a fraction of the actual total.

If there’s such a thing as an “Obama doctrine” of US national security policy in place, it’s built around two pillars: first, using air power to counter “malign” actors such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State, rather than direct, on-the-ground involvement of US forces; and second, the arming and training of proxy forces and newly built national armies to carry out the battles on the ground. Yet both pillars are crumbling. Few if any experienced national security policymakers and military experts believe that airstrikes can do more than harass or disrupt well-organized insurgencies, and the doctrine of using air power—developed during and after World War II in the Strategic Bombing Survey, proselytized by Robert McNamara and the Vietnam-era Whiz Kids—has been thoroughly discredited, as argued convincingly this week by James Russell of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Just this week, The New York Times reported extensivelyon the failure around the world of US efforts to support proxy forces and fledgling national armies, ranging from the $65 billion spent to build Afghanistan’s crumbling army, tens of billions spent in Iraq to rebuild the army that the United States dismantled in 2003, and the $500 million effort to organize a rebel force in Syria against the Islamic State that managed to put only “four or five” fighters in the field.

The seizure of Kunduz by the Taliban, the first provincial capital it has controlled since 2001, is a glaring sign of that failure. Despite massive American assistance and training to the Afghan National Security Forces over many years, the Taliban (as well as a newly emerging Islamic State force, exploiting rifts within the Taliban) has demonstrated not only staying power but the ability to seize and control large areas and to menace provincial capitals and even strike in Kabul itself. Backed by Pakistan, the Taliban—under a new commander, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who took control in the wake of the just-reported 2013 death of Mullah Omar—has made gains across the country. Earlier this year, Afghanistan’s interior minister designated 11 provinces as severely threatened and nine more facing medium-level threats. From Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces in the far northeast to Ghazni, Logar, and Kunar provinces in eastern Afghanistan and around Kabul to the vast province of Helmand in the south, the Taliban has carried out significant offensive actions. According to a gloomy report from the Brookings Institution, “Insecurity has significantly increased throughout the country, civilian deaths have shot up, and the Afghan security forces are taking large, and potentially unsustainable, casualties.”

Though President Obama has insisted that the rebooted Global War on Terror will take pains to avoid civilian deaths, the Kunduz bombing came just five days after another, even more extensive massacre, this one in southern Yemen. On September 28, the American-backed Saudi Arabian air force obliterated a wedding party, killing at least 131 civilians, including 80 women huddled under a desert tent. The war in Yemen, which pits a rebel force of Houthis against remnants of the toppled, pro-Saudi regime that formerly ruled the country, is devolving into a proxy battle between Iran, which nominally backs the Houthis, and a US-Saudi coalition that is intent on using military force to restore Saudi dominance of the Arabian Peninsula. In the latest in a series of what appear to be indiscriminate air attacks that have killed many civilians, calls for an independent inquiry into the massacre by the UN were blocked by Saudi Arabia, with American support.

The Obama administration appears to have learned the lesson that affairs in the Middle East cannot be reordered to conform with American ideas about democracy and civil society by deploying tens or hundreds of thousands of US troops in feckless “state building” missions. But it has yet to grasp the related lesson that Washington cannot defeat insurgencies, even terrorism-inclined ones, by remote control via drones or by air power that deploys fighter jets and AC-130 gunships. Indeed, as even Donald Rumsfeld seemed to conclude in the waning days of his tenure as President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, by blowing up low- and mid-level insurgent commanders, the United States is creating more terrorists than it kills.

The White House should draw the conclusion from the Kunduz massacre that there isn’t going to be a military solution to Afghanistan’s civil war. For fourteen years, under relentless US military action and the presence of up to 100,000 US troops, the Taliban hasn’t gone away. Since 2001, the one inescapable conclusion has been that only a power-sharing arrangement among all of Afghanistan’s factions, including the Taliban, can provide even the hope of ending the war. To get there will require diplomacy at least as intensive and prolonged as the process that led to the historic agreement between Iran and the P5+1 world powers over Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program.

In 2015, there have been promising signs that both the Afghan government and the Taliban might be ready to talk peace, and several recent meetings have been held between the parties toward that end. Last spring, China demonstrated a willingness to involve itself in brokering a deal, which could be important because Pakistan, the Taliban’s chief sponsor, is an erstwhile ally of China. Iran, now that it’s shown its own readiness to reintegrate into the global polity, could be an important partner in bringing Afghanistan’s warlords and tribal chieftains toward a deal. For President Obama, whose instincts seem to tell him to favor diplomacy over war, there’s an opportunity to follow his success with Iran by one in Afghanistan, too.

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Snowden Has a Simple Solution to Get to the Bottom of the US Afghan Bombing ‘War Crime’

NOVANEWS

But then maybe some don’t want the truth

Overnight, Medecins Sans Frontiers, or the “Doctors without Borders” medical group which suffered a tremendous loss of life at the hands of US bombardment this past Saturday, stepped up its criticism of what it has previously called a US “war crime.”

As Reuters reports, earlier today it called for an independent international fact-finding commission to be established to investigate the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which it deems a war crime, and which it would use to decide whether or not to file criminal charges, although it was unclear against whom precisely: perhaps 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama?

Why independent: because as MSF said “we cannot rely on internal investigations by U.S, NATO and Afghan forces.”

Instead, the medical charity said that the commission, which can be set up at the request of a single state under the Geneva Convention, would gather facts and evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan. MSF said it sent a letter on Tuesday to the 76 countries who signed up to the additional protocol of the Geneva Convention that set up the standing commission in 1991.

There is one problem: neither the United States nor Afghanistan are signatories and Francoise Saulnier, MSF lead counsel MSF, said that the consent of the states involved is necessary.

Good luck getting it.

Assuming the US does “agree” to comply with this fact-finding mission, we expect the full data dump – after all the necessary scrubbing of the evidence of course – to take place, some time in 2019.

For now, however, the MSF is not backing down: “If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries at war,” MSF International President Joanne Liu told a news briefing in Geneva. “There is no commitment to an independent investigation yet.”

MSF is in talks with Switzerland about convoking the international commission of independent experts.

“Today we say enough, even war has rules,” Liu said.

Again, good luck with all of that.

Then again, none other than US persona non grata #1 has provided a quick and easy solution.Yes, quick and easy, unless it is mysteriously revealed that all the AC-130 audio and video record is stored on the clintonemail.com server. We all know what happens then.

 

AC-130 warplanes record the gunner’s video and audio. It’s time to release the tapes to an #IndependentInvestigation.pic.twitter.com/jtFyVCJ7Uw

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Doctors Without Borders Airstrike: US Alters Story For Fourth Time In Four Days

NOVANEWS
Commander of war in Afghanistan tells Senate panel that US forces had called in airstrike at Afghan request – ‘an admission of a war crime’ says MSF chief.

Image result for US BOMBS HOSPITAL PHOTO

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.

Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistan had made an “admission of a war crime”.

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.

“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” Campbell told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday morning.

The airstrike on the hospital is among the worst and most visible cases of civilian deaths caused by US forces during the 14-year Afghanistan war that Barack Obama has declared all but over. It killed 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, who had sought medical treatment after the Taliban overran Kunduz last weekend. Three children died in the airstrike that came in multiple waves and burned patients alive in their beds.

On Tuesday, MSF denounced Campbell’s press conference as an attempt to shift blame to the Afghans.

“The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” said its director general, Christopher Stokes.

Campbell did not explain whether the procedures to launch the airstrike took into account the GPS coordinates of the MSF field hospital, which its president, Joanne Liu, said were “regularly shared” with US, coalition and Afghan military officers and civilian officials, “as recently as Tuesday 29 September”.

AC-130 gunships, which fly low, typically rely on a pilot visually identifying a target.

It is also unclear where the US special operations forces were relative to the fighting, but Campbell has said that US units were “not directly engaged in the fighting”.

Campbell instead said the hospital was “mistakenly struck” by US forces.

“We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” Campbell told US lawmakers, declaring that he wanted an investigation by his command to “take its course” instead of providing further detail.

But Jason Cone, Doctors Without Borders’ US executive director, said Campbell’s shifting story underscored the need for an independent inquiry.

“Today’s statement from General Campbell is just the latest in a long list of confusing accounts from the US military about what happened in Kunduz on Saturday,” Cone said.

“They are now back to talking about a ‘mistake’. A mistake that lasted for more than an hour, despite the fact that the location of the hospital was well known to them and that they were informed during the airstrike that it was a hospital being hit. All this confusion just underlines once again the crucial need for an independent investigation into how a major hospital, full of patients and MSF staff, could be repeatedly bombed.”

Campbell suggested but did not say that the Afghans were taking fire from the Taliban from within the hospital grounds, a claim the Afghan government has explicitly made. MSF unequivocally denies that the hospital was a source of fire. It has also noted the precision of the strike that hit only the main hospital building and not its adjuncts.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said that according to international humanitarian law, the critical question for determining if US forces committed a war crime was whether they had notified the hospital ahead of the strike if they understood the Taliban to be firing from the hospital.

“Any serious violation of the law of armed conflict, such as attacking a hospital that is immune from intentional attack, is a war crime. Hospitals are immune from attack during an armed conflict unless being used by one party to harm the other and then only after a warning that it will be attacked,” O’Connell said.


How the story shifted
3 October
“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz city at 2:15am (local), Oct. 3, against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”
Colonel Brian Tribus, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan
4 October
“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz city at 2:15am (local), Oct. 3, against insurgents who were directly firing upon U.S. service members advising and assisting Afghan Security Forces in the city of Kunduz. The strike was conducted in the vicinity of a Doctors Without Borders medical facility.”
Colonel Brian Tribus, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan
5 October
“We have now learned that on October 3rd, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces. An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf.”
General John Campbell, commander, US Forces-Afghanistan and Nato’s Operation Resolute Support
6 October
“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires.”General John Campbell, commander, US Forces-Afghanistan and Nato’s Operation Resolute Support

The US account has now shifted four times in four days. On Saturday, the US military said it did not know for certain that it had struck the hospital but that US forces were taking fire in Kunduz.On Sunday, it said that the strike took place in the “vicinity” of the hospital and suggested it had been accidentally struck. On Monday, Campbell said that the Afghans requested the strike and said US forces in the area were not “threatened”.

On Tuesday, he clarified that US forces called in the airstrike themselves at Afghan request.Meanwhile, the defense secretary, Ashton Carter, said in a statement on Tuesday, that the Department of Defense “deeply regrets the loss of innocent lives that resulted from this tragic event”.Doctors Without Borders has demanded an independent inquiry, rejecting the three current investigations – by the US, Nato and the Afghans – as compromised by their partiality.

This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime,” Liu said on Tuesday.In the past, the US has upbraided both allies and adversaries over the indiscriminate use of aerial strikes.

On Thursday, the US defense secretary said Russia was pouring “gasoline on the fire” of the Syrian civil war after it launched a campaign of airstrikes against opponents of Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad.A day later, the National Security Council spokesman, Ned Price, said the White House was “deeply concerned” that its Saudi ally in the Yemen conflict had bombed a wedding party, something the US itself did in Yemen in 2013.

When Israel shelled a UN school in Gaza housing thousands of displaced Palestinians in August 2014, a State Department spokesman said the US was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” attack.Addressing Tuesday’s committee hearing, Campbell confirmed that he has recommended to Obama that the US retain thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond Obama’s presidency – reversing a plan to reduce the force to one focused on protecting the US embassy in Kabul.He argued for “strategic patience” in the longest war in US history, which has now stretched five years longer than the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

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