[Marxism] From Hospital, Afghans Rebut U.S. Account
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 26 07:58:57 MST 2009
NY Times, January 26, 2009
From Hospital, Afghans Rebut U.S. Account
By CARLOTTA GALL
MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan — The American military declared the nighttime
raid this month a success, saying it killed 32 people, all Taliban
insurgents — the fruit of an emphasis on intelligence-driven use of
Special Operations forces.
But the two young men who lay wincing in a hospital ward here told a
different story a few days later, one backed up by the pro-American
provincial governor and a central government delegation.
They agreed that 13 civilians had been killed and 9 wounded when
American commandos broke down doors and unleashed dogs without warning
on Jan. 7 in the hunt for a known insurgent in Masamut, in Laghman
Province in eastern Afghanistan. The residents were so enraged that they
threatened to march on the American military base here.
The conflicting accounts underscore a dangerous rift that has grown
between Afghans and the United States forces trying to roll back
widening Taliban control of the countryside.
With every case of civilian casualties or mistaken killings, the anger
that Afghans feel toward the government and foreign forces deepens and
makes residents less likely to help American forces, Afghan officials
warn. Meanwhile, American forces are reluctant to share information
about future military raids with local officials, fearing that it will
be passed on to the Taliban.
Added to all that is a complication for American forces here: many
villagers are armed, in the absence of an effective local police force.
Into that increasingly complex environment, the Obama administration is
preparing to send as many as 30,000 more troops this year. As the plan
moves forward, Afghan officials and some Western coalition partners are
voicing concern that the additional troops will only increase the levels
of violence and civilian casualties, after a year in which as many as
4,000 Afghan civilians were killed.
The outrage over civilian deaths swelled again over the weekend.
Hundreds of angry villagers demonstrated here in Mehtarlam, the capital
of Laghman Province, on Sunday after an American raid on a village in
the province on Friday night. The raid killed at least 16 villagers,
including 2 women and 3 children, according to a statement from
President Hamid Karzai.
The president condemned the raid, saying it had not been coordinated
with Afghan officials, and called for such raids to stop. The United
States military said that 15 armed militants, including a woman, had
In a sign of how serious the episode was, an American military
spokesman, Col. Greg Julian, said the military would send an
investigation team to the area, The Associated Press reported.
Raids like the ones in Laghman Province by United States Special
Operations forces, on Jan. 7 and on Friday, have been a special focus of
complaint for several years.
Provincial governors say the tactics used, and the lack of coordination
with Afghan and other American and NATO forces, alienate villagers and
cause unneeded casualties among civilians. The raids are undoing much of
the good work done by other American and international troops and
reconstruction teams, they say.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission warned that the lack
of accountability of those conducting such raids, and the lack of
redress for civilian victims, was stoking resentment. “The degree of
backlash and community outrage that they provoke suggests they may often
not be an advisable tactic within the Afghan context,” the commission
concluded in a report in December.
Mr. Karzai said in an address at the opening of Parliament on Tuesday
that he had once more sent written requests to United States forces and
to NATO to end civilian casualties.
Afghans would never complain about casualties among their security
forces, but they would never accept the suffering of civilians, he said,
to a great shout of support from the chamber. The speaker of the Senate,
Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, followed with a warning that if more care was
not taken, the nation could rise up against the foreign troop presence here.
A number of different American units, Special Forces and others, have
been conducting counterterrorism operations around the country for the
past seven years, operating out of the Bagram and Kandahar airfields,
and several small Special Forces bases. They do not operate under NATO
command and usually do not coordinate their operations with Afghan
forces, since they argue that the element of surprise is critical.
Military spokesmen often release results of raids but do not identify
the forces involved. Philip Alston, a United Nations special rapporteur,
or investigator, complained last year that despite high-level meetings
with the military, he had been unable to identify some of the groups
conducting the raids or to establish the chain of command under which
Afghan officials and others suspect some of the raids may also be
carried out by the C.I.A.
The raid in Masamut on the night of Jan. 7 was typical of many conducted
in Afghanistan. United States Special Operations forces entered the
village under cover of darkness looking for a known Taliban insurgent,
Gul Pacha, who was killed in the raid, along with a visitor to his home,
another Taliban member, Bahadur Khan.
According to several villagers, the nighttime raid stirred alarm and
confusion as people were roused from their sleep.
One of the first to be shot and killed was a man called Qasem, a member
of the Afghan Border Police who was at home on leave. His brother,
Wazarat Khan, said Qasem was killed as soon as he looked out his front door.
“We did not think they were Americans; we thought they were thieves,” he
said. “They killed my brother right in the doorway.”
One of the men in the hospital, Abdul Manan, 25, who had a bullet wound
in the shoulder, said he woke up when he heard a female neighbor calling
for help and heard three shots.
He said he came out of his house and saw soldiers wearing headlamps. “I
thought they were smoking cigarettes,” he said. “They said something in
English that I did not understand, and then they shot me.”
Another man, Darwaish Muhammad, 18, hospitalized with shrapnel wounds,
said he was awakened by the mother of a neighbor, Shahpur Khan, calling
for help. He had been shot.
Mr. Muhammad said he and two others rushed to help carry the woman’s son
on a rope bed down a slope outside the village to get help. They were 10
minutes from the village when a helicopter fired a rocket at them,
killing the wounded man and two of the bearers. He and the mother were
badly wounded, he said.
A United States military spokesman, Col. Jerry O’Hara, confirmed that
United States air support forces had fired on a group of five carrying a
wounded person outside the village. He said all five had been killed and
all were militants. That some of the villagers survived may explain some
of the discrepancy of the death toll.
Colonel O’Hara added that care had been taken not to use air power
inside the village, to avoid civilian casualties. He dismissed the
villagers’ accounts that they had mistaken the soldiers for thieves. “I
am not buying that,” he said. “These people were acting as sentries.”
In a statement, Colonel O’Hara said, “Coalition forces exercised great
restraint and prevented any civilian casualties at the same time the
enemy placed the whole village in harm’s way by operating the way they do.”
In an interview, he also expressed frustration that four years after his
earlier tour in Afghanistan, people still were not coming forward with
information against Taliban members. “Until there is active involvement
amongst Afghan civilians to turn in or give a tip on people with
explosives, you are not going to get on the road to peace,” he said.
Yet, after seven years of war, Afghans say that villagers are less and
less inclined to side with a foreign army that still conducts house
searches and bombardments.
The villagers of Masamut readily acknowledged that Mr. Pacha had been a
member of the Taliban. They had even nicknamed him “Al Qaeda.” But they
criticized the United States forces for killing his elderly father and
two sons along with him, and for the shooting of the other villagers.
“The government should have informed us not to come outside while they
surrounded the house of Gul Pacha,” said Mawla Dad, 35, whose brother,
nephew and cousin, an off-duty policeman, were all killed.
The governor of Laghman Province, Lutfullah Mashal, acknowledged that
some of the villagers were armed. But he explained that because there
was no police force to speak of in rural areas, villages kept security
through a kind of neighborhood watch. “Whoever came out with a weapon,
he was shot because the American forces have night-vision devices,” the
Villagers of Masamut, and local officials who visited the village
afterward, protested the tactics used in the raid to United States
military officials. The governor also complained that the raid had been
conducted without coordination with Afghan forces or even with other
American forces based in the province.
The raid undermined the government, Mr. Mashal said, and the tactics
violated Afghan customs and whipped up a religious hatred, which was
very damaging for both the government and the international forces.
“The people are angry with us,” he said. “Unless the international
community, and especially military forces, coordinate with us, we are
not going to win this war, because to win the war is to win the hearts
and minds of the people, and then you can beat the enemy.”
More information about the Marxism