Posts Tagged ‘NATO and United States forces’

UN Report on Afghan Civilian Toll Contradicts NATO Claims

February 18, 2009

2,118 Civilians Killed in 2008, Report Finds

Posted February 17, 2009

Today, the United Nations released a report detailing the civilian death toll in Afghanistan in 2008. According to the report, 2,118 civilians were killed in 2008 – 828 by the American-led coalition forces. Most of those were, unsurprisingly, killed in the various air strikes and raids against Afghan villages.

While getting exact numbers of deaths in Afghanistan is virtually impossible given the chaotic situation on the ground, particularly in the restive south, the report once again points to the absurdity of last month’s NATO report, which claimed only 973 civilians overall killed and only 97 by international forces.

NATO and the United States generally deny reports of civilian killings and only rarely concede to them – many times the question of whether people killed were civilians or militants is left disputed. Some human rights groups have suggested the actual civilian toll in 2008 may have been nearly 3,000.

Related Stories

compiled by Jason Ditz [email the author


The Torture Presidency

December 15, 2008

By Scott Horton | Harper’s Magazine, Dec 13, 2008

President George W. Bush has launched “Operation Legacy,” which he placed in the hands of his ultimate advisor, indeed his “brain,” Karl Rove. Remember Rove? He’s the man who refused to testify under oath when summoned by Congress to do so and was recently identified in a Congressional report as the plotter behind the U.S. Attorneys scandal, among other trainwrecks. The Rove effort features a 2-page set of talking points which have been circulated to members of the administration’s team highlighting the supposedly major Bush accomplishments which have begun to fill the American media. They start with the contention that “Bush kept us safe” by preventing any further attack on American soil after 9/11. Really?

Let’s just take a look at some of that “deranged” criticism. Indeed, let’s start with the criticism from the man tapped by Bush’s fellow Republicans to succeed him, John McCain. This week the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a powerful report, released jointly by chair Carl Levin and ranking member John McCain, that received the unanimous support of its Democratic and Republican members. The report concluded that Donald Rumsfeld and other high-level officials of the administration consciously adopted a policy for the torture and abuse of prisoners held in the war on terror. It also found that they attempted to cover up their conduct by waging a P.R. campaign to put the blame on a group of young soldiers they called “rotten apples.” Lawyers figure prominently among the miscreants identified. Evidently the torture policy’s authors then enlisted ethics-challenged lawyers to craft memoranda designed to give torture “the appearance of legality” as part of a scheme to create the torture program despite internal opposition. A declassified summary of the report can be read here; the full report is filled with classified information and therefore has been submitted to the Department of Defense with a request that the materials be declassified for release. (Don’t expect that to happen before January 20, however).

This report sums up all you need to know about George W. Bush’s eight years of leadership. Karl Rove stresses that Bush has been a perfect moral example for young people in the country. The report tells us that when photos and other evidence of abuse first surfaced, the Bush Administration firmly denied any connection between their policies and the abuse, then attempted to scapegoat a group of more than a dozen young recruits (but not, of course, any of their supervising officers, who knew the details of the administration’s involvement and would have made things messy if disciplined). The report puts these actions in an unforgiving light:

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.

But of course, Bush only turned to torture to keep America safe, right? Wrong. With the unanimous support of its 12 Republican members, the Committee concludes:

The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

The report has some more bombshells in it waiting to emerge on declassification. It studies with some care the introduction of specific torture techniques, showing how they were reverse engineered from the SERE program—used to prepare American pilots to resist interrogation techniques used by the Soviets, North Koreans, Chinese and North Vietnamese. By “reverse engineering,” we mean it was adopting the techniques used by the nation’s Communist adversaries in prior generations. We have met the enemy, and he looks remarkably like George W. Bush.

And deep in its classified hold, the report looks into the use of psychotropic drugs which were, with Donald Rumsfeld’s approval, routinely administered to prisoners in order to facilitate their interrogation—in violation of international agreements and American criminal law.

The report, even in its still-classified form, does not tell the whole story of what happened. It does not address the program administered by the CIA. And even with respect to the Department of Defense, the Committee and its investigators were effectively stonewalled by the United States Special Operations Command and its overlords in the Pentagon who failed to provide information about special rules of engagement introduced with the authority of Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone that authorized the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held for intelligence interrogation in operations dating back to the earliest weeks of the “war on terror.”

The Levin-McCain Report, when fully declassified and circulated, will tell Americans a good deal about our history. It will help define what will become known as the “torture presidency” of George W. Bush. But it is also a remarkably incomplete document, testimony to the Bush Administration’s conscious policy of obfuscation, misdirection and deceit—its mockery of Congressional oversight, and its corruption of our Constitution and system of government. It gives us a clear lesson. As John McCain stated: “This must never be repeated. Never.”

PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN: Taliban Raids on NATO Convoys Crippling – Analysts

December 15, 2008

By Zofeen Ebrahim | Inter Press Service

KARACHI, Dec 14 (IPS) – While NATO and United States forces have downplayed raids in Peshawar by pro-Taliban militants, destroying hundreds of their military vehicles and supply containers destined for Afghanistan, analysts here believe that the damage is significant.

On Saturday the militants destroyed 11 trucks and 13 containers in the latest of a series of attacks over the past week designed to disrupt supply lines to NATO and U.S. troops fighting the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan

Saturday’s raid defied increased security for some 13 supply terminals around Peshawar, ordered after a major raid last weekend in which hundreds of trucks and containers were torched.

After that raid, the U.S. military in Afghanistan had played down the damage in a statement that said it would have only “minimal effect on our operations’’. U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul Lt. Col. Rumi Nielsen-Green was quoted saying: “It’s militarily insignificant.’’

But analysts here think otherwise and say that if the attacks continue they will impact plans to double the strength of NATO troops in Afghanistan from the present 67,000 — nearly half of them from the U.S.

“More troops mean more supplies,” said Ikram Sehgal, a noted defence analyst.

Sehgal does not buy the U.S. dismissal of the attacks as insignificant. “If I’m hurt bad, I’m not going to own up. It is a significant loss whether they (U.S.) admit it or not. It will create horrendous problems.”

If troop deployment is increased as planned then an estimated 70,000 containers of supplies will have to be shipped to Afghanistan annually.

“If the supply lines are cut off, it will have a choking effect on the troops,” said Brig. Mehmood Shah, former home secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) that borders Afghanistan.

Already NATO has begun looking for alternative supply routes to Afghanistan, even through Belarus and the Ukraine.

Contractors engaged in moving the containers are jittery at the possible loss in business.

Kifayatullah Jan, manager at the Port World Logistics, a contractor that has been ferrying NATO supplies, said last week’s attack on their terminal, in which 106 containers were torched, “must have cost the U.S. millions’’.

“And if the loss to the U.S. is insignificant, for us it may mean we close shop,” said Jan, talking to IPS from Peshawar over telephone. “We can’t do business if the government cannot provide us protection,” he said. According to Jan, the company and its drivers receive regular threats from militants to “stop transporting supplies to the Americans or face the consequences.”

In March, insurgents torched 40-50 NATO oil tankers near Torkham. In April, a military helicopter valued at 13 million US dollars was hijacked. And in July, there were sporadic attacks on the convoys. Last month, some 60 Taliban fighters hijacked a convoy of trucks in broad daylight as it was travelling through the Khyber pass.

Talk of alternative supply routes have been going on since September. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. defence department was seeking safer but longer routes through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia due to “strikes”, “border delays”, “accidents and pilferage” in Pakistan.

“The Iran route is out. And they simply cannot airlift the supplies because it would be far too costly. But the supplies can come from the north,” suggested Sehgal.

“The supplies can pass through the northern route by rail through Russia and the Central Asian nations to northern Afghanistan,” agreed Mehmood Shah, but added: ” It’s a poor alternative and will take very long to reach southern Afghanistan.’’

About 75 percent of supplies, including food, fuel, equipment and vehicles meant for the allied forces in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan’s Khyber Pass, after being offloaded from ships at the southern port city of Karachi. A second overland route connects Pakistan’s Quetta city with Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Pakistan represents the shortest land route to Afghan cities like Kandahar and Kabul.

In last week’s attack on the Port World terminal, the security guards on duty watched helplessly as around 300 militants blasted their way into two transport terminals and torched vehicles.

“These included APC jeeps, trucks, lifters and fire brigades,” said Jan. “They came through the main gate which they destroyed using a rocket-propelled grenade and set fire to 106 vehicles including 80-90 Humvees. They also shot dead one of the guards.’’

“I was in my village near Charsadda, less than a hour from Peshawar, when the guards telephoned me around 3:15 am. There was no way the dozen or so of our guards could confront the militants who were armed with sophisticated weapons,’’ Jan said.

According to Shah, the attackers were criminal elements and not necessarily the Taliban as they latter have still not entered the settled area. “However, they all work hand-in-glove. And for all we know, they may have carried out the attack at the behest of the Taliban.”

However, Rahimullah Yusufzai, resident editor of English daily, The News thinks otherwise. An expert on the Taliban he said: “These recent attacks show that militants are slowly moving into the settled area; that they have gained strength, and are not afraid,” he said. “It also shows how weak the government is and that it cannot protect anyone.”

Yusufzai told IPS that the earlier hijackings of convoys on the highways were only possible if the drivers, and perhaps even the contractors, were in collusion with the Taliban.

Terming these depots as “soft” targets, Sehgal said it is easier to attack such passive locations than intercept convoys that are protected by Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary (FC) militia.

While past attacks have been limited to pilfering and sale of the loot in the local markets, the latest attacks were intended to disrupt supplies. “This means they want to sever the supply lines to make it unsustainable for the deployed forces,” said Sehgal.

Yusufzai observed that the Taliban were adopting the age-old strategy of cutting off supply lines from the south. “It also signifies that the capacity and numbers of the militants have grown despite the army’s claim of annihilating entire villages in the tribal areas.”

“This war on terror has unleashed more horrors than one can imagine. The Pakistan army, by its own act has steered civilians towards militancy. In a bid to capture one Talib, entire villages have turned into Talibans,” said Yusufzai.

%d bloggers like this: