Posts Tagged ‘civilian deaths’

The only package Kashmir needs is justice

August 5, 2010

Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu/India, August 5, 2010

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SEEKING JUSTICE: Protesters set ablaze police vechile after two young men were killed in firing in Pampore on August 1, 2010. Photo: Nissar Ahmad
SEEKING JUSTICE: Protesters set ablaze police vechile after two young men were killed in firing in Pampore on August 1, 2010. Photo: Nissar Ahmad
If the Prime Minister [Dr Manmohan Singh] does not take bold steps to address the grievances of the Kashmiris, there’s no telling where the next eruption will take us.

Whatever his other failings, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah deserves praise for acknowledging that the protests which have rocked the Kashmir valley these past few weeks are ‘leaderless’ and not the product of manipulation by some hidden individual or group.

This admission has been difficult for the authorities to make because its implications are unpleasant, perhaps even frightening. In security terms, the absence of a central nervous system means the expanding body of protest cannot be controlled by arresting individual leaders. And in political terms, the spectre of leaderless revolt makes the offer of ‘dialogue’ or the naming of a ‘special envoy’ for Kashmir — proposals which might have made sense last year or even last month — seem completely and utterly pointless today.

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United States to expand Pakistan drone strikes

May 7, 2010

Aljazeera, May 6, 2010

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The US has reportedly carried out more than 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008 [Getty]

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been granted approval by the US government to expand drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions in a move to step up military operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, officials have said.

Federal lawyers backed the measures on grounds of self-defence to counter threats the fighters pose to US troops in neighbouring Afghanistan and the United States as a whole, according to authorities.

The US announced on Wednesday that targets will now include low-level combatants, even if their identities are not known.

Barack Obama, the US president, had previously said drone strikes were necessary to “take out high-level terrorist targets”.

Conflicting figures

“Targets are chosen with extreme care, factoring in concepts like necessity, proportionality, and an absolute obligation to minimise loss of innocent life and property damage,” a US counterterrorism official said.

But the numbers show that more than 90 per cent of the 500 people killed by drones since mid-2008 are lower-level fighters, raising questions about how much the CIA knows about the targets, experts said.

Only 14 of those killed are considered by experts to have been high ranking members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other groups.

“Just because they are not big names it does not mean they do not kill. They do,” the counterterrorism official said.

The US tally of combatant and non-combatant casualties is sharply lower than some Pakistani press accounts, which have estimated civilian deaths alone at more than 600.

Analysts have said that accurately estimating the number of civilian deaths was difficult, if not impossible.

“It is unclear how you define who is a militant and who is a militant leader,” Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said.

Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “It is impossible to assess the accuracy of government figures, unattributed to a named official, without information about what kind of information they are based on, how the government defines ‘militants’ and how it distinguishes them from civilians.”

US message

Former intelligence officials acknowledged that in many, if not most cases, the CIA had little information about those killed in the strikes.

Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St Mary’s University, said the CIA’s goal in targeting was to “demoralise the rank and file”.

“The message is: ‘If you go to these camps, you’re going to be killed,'” he added.

Critics say the expanded US strikes raise legal as well as security concerns amid signs that Faisal Shahzad, the suspect behind the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square on Saturday, had ties to the Pakistani Taliban movement, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

CIA-operated drones have frequently targeted the group over the past year in Pakistan, and its members have vowed to avenge strikes that have killed several of their leaders and commanders.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, told CBS television channel that the US should not be surprised if anti-government fighters try to carry out more attacks.

“They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you [to] sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back,” Qureshi said.

Hedges: No One Cares

May 4, 2010

Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, May 3, 2010

We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically. We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective, suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Green Party and Code Pink, is dead. No one cares.

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Drone attacks: Killing civilians as legal

April 25, 2010
Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Washington, D.C. 24 April (Asiantribune.com):

U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV or drones), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war is the authoritative opinion of the Obama administration’s Chief Legal Counsel attached to Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

The domestic and international outcry in opposition to the Drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – started during the previous Bush administration in 2002 and increasingly used by the current Obama administration – is for the collateral damage – the vast civilian deaths – that results.

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Sri Lankan troops shot Tamil prisoners of war

August 28, 2009
Morning Star Online, Thursday 27 August 2009
by Paddy McGuffin

Graphic footage which appears to show Sri Lankan forces summarily executing Tamil prisoners during or after the recent bloody conflict has been handed to the British media.

The footage, captured on a mobile phone, was supplied to the media on Wednesday by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

It shows uniformed troops dragging naked and bound prisoners into a clearing and shooting them in the back of the head.

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UN: Sharp rise in Afghan deaths

July 31, 2009
Al Jazeera, July 31, 2009

May was the deadliest month in Afghanistan
with 261 civilians killed [AFP]

The civilian death toll in Afghanistan has risen by 24 per cent this year, the United Nations has said.

In a new report released on Friday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) blamed bombings by the Taliban and air raids by international forces for the majority of the killings.

The report said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country’s armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.

Commenting on the report, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.

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AFGHANISTAN: 800 civilians killed in conflict in January-May – UN report

July 1, 2009
IRIN NEWS,

Photo: publik16/Flickr
Civilian casualties inflicted by international forces in Afghanistan have caused anger among the affected population

KABUL, 28 June 2009 (IRIN) – Civilian deaths resulting from armed hostilities between insurgents, the US military, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and government forces have increased by 24 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

In May alone, 261 non-combatants lost their lives in conflict in Afghanistan, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told members of the Security Council at a meeting on 26 June.

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The Farah Bombing: Airstrike Report Belies “Blame Taliban” Line

June 26, 2009

By Gareth Porter | Counterpunch, June 26 – 28, 2009

The version of the official military investigation into the disastrous May 4 airstrike in Farah province made public last week by the Central Command was carefully edited to save the U.S. command in Afghanistan the embarrassment of having to admit that earlier claims blaming the massive civilian deaths on the “Taliban” were fraudulent.

By covering up the most damaging facts surrounding the incident, the rewritten public version of the report succeeded in avoiding media stories on the contradiction between the report and the previous arguments made by the U.S. command.

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US admits deadly Afghan ‘mistakes’

June 4, 2009
Al Jazeera, June 4, 2009

The May attack stoked Afghan anger over civilian casualties caused by foreign troops [Reuters]

A US military investigation has revealed significant mistakes in air raids that killed dozens of civilians in western Afghanistan last month, a military official has said.

The unnamed official confirmed a New York Times report on Wednesday that the civilian casualties would have been lower if US air crews and ground troops had adhered to strict rules.

“We do not have an issue with the accuracy of the story,” the official told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

The attack on Bala Buluk in Farah province was aimed at Taliban fighters but US defence officials say the failure to follow new procedures for aerial strikes probably led to the civilian casualties.

The incident in early May stoked long-standing tensions between Afghans and foreign troops over civilian casualties.

Conflicting figures

Afghan officials have put the civilian death toll as high as 140 while an Afghan human rights watchdog put the total at 97, including at least two Taliban fighters.

But the US military says 20-35 civilians were among the 80-95 people killed, adding that most of them were Taliban fighters who used the civilians as human shields.

The Times report did not say how many civilian casualties may have been avoided if the correct procedures had been followed.

The Pentagon has not officially responded to the report.

General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command which is the military headquarters overseeing US military operations across the Middle East and into Central and South Asia, ordered the investigation.

Procedural failure

The Times, citing an unnamed senior military official, said the investigation had concluded that one US aircraft was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but circled back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs.

That, the report said, left open the possibility that the fighters had fled or civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.

A compound where fighters were massing for a possible counter-attack against US and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, The Times said.

“In several instances where there was a legitimate threat, the choice of how to deal with that threat did not comply with the standing rules of engagement,” the newspaper quoted its source as saying.

A second military official told the Reuters news agency that the mistakes appeared to be linked to the choice of weapons used in the operation rather than any violation of the rules themselves.

The official said the investigation was still being reviewed and it was possible Petraeus could ask for further work to be done before the report was finalised

The Destabilization of Pakistan

May 30, 2009

The Main Result of the “War on Terror”

By Gary Leupp | Counterpunch, May 29 – 31, 2009

So far the principle result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the events of 9-11 has been the destabilization of Pakistan. That breakdown is peaking with the events in what AP calls the “Swat town” of Mingora—actually a city of 375,000 from which all but 20,000 have fled as government forces moved in, strafing it with gunships. We’re talking urban guerrilla warfare, house-to-house fighting, not on the Afghan border but 50 miles away in the Swat Valley. We’re talking about Pakistani troops fighting to reclaim the nearby Malam Jabba ski resort from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, who since last year have been using it as a training center and logistics base. We’re talking about two million people fleeing the fighting in the valley and 160,000 in government refugee camps.

And of course, “collateral damage”: As was reported in The News in Pakistan May 19:

Several persons, including women and children, were killed and a number of others sustained injuries when families fleeing the military operation in Swat’s Matta town were shelled while crossing a mountainous path to reach Karo Darra in Dir Upper on Monday, eyewitnesses and official sources said. Eyewitnesses, who escaped the attack or were able to reach Wari town of Dir Upper in injured condition, said they were targeted by gunship helicopters. However, police officials said they might have been hit by a stray shell. Local people said they saw some 12 to 14 bodies on a mountain on the Swat side but could not go near to retrieve them or help the injured for fear of another aerial attack.

What a nightmare scenario for Pakistan.

We’re talking about the Pakistani Army sometimes fighting over the last year to retake towns from Taliban forces in the Buner region of the North-West Frontier Province that are closer to the capital of Islamabad than the Afghan border. And while the Talibs apparently lack popular support, even among the Pashtuns (who are 15 % of the Pakistani population—26 million and 42% of the Afghan population—14 million) they have been able to inflict embarrassing defeats on the army.

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