Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kill-Capture Program | Killing Civilians

Kate Clark provides background on the Saturday bombing that killed 14 people on Saturday in Helmand Province.


President Karzai has said he will no longer allow NATO airstrikes on houses because they are causing too many civilian casualties. The president’s ultimatum follows the pictures shown on Afghan TV on 29 May of distraught villagers in Helmand carrying the bruised and dusty corpses of their small children who had been killed in an air strike on 28 May. The following day, ISAF apologized, although it insisted its forces had been targeting a house from which insurgents had been firing. The deaths of children and women, whether in air strikes or night raids, usually bring prompt apologies from ISAF, but it seems many other cases are simply never admitted to. Not all allegations of civilian casualties are true, says AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark. But neither are all denials.

May 2011 has been a month of intensified bloodshed, with the Taleban implementing its asymmetrical summer ‘Badr’ offensive and the international forces keeping up a high number of night raids and airstrikes. Allegations of fresh civilian casualties have been directed against both the Taleban (see our previous blog on this issue) and the international military. The relatives of the children killed in Helmand who had driven through the night to Lashkargah to show the small bodies to the cameras and the world to prove that the dead were ‘innocent civilians, not…Taleban’ (as reported in the New York Times, link below) were offered ‘sincere apologies’ from ISAF the following day for ‘nine civilians’ killed. The apologies did not cover the full extent of the family’s claims – who said two women, two men and ten children – all civilians – had been killed after the wrong house was hit.

Additional Resources: Frontline Special Kill-Capture

Air Strike Leaves 14 Dead in Helmand

KABUL, Afghanistan — The governor of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Sunday accused U.S.-led forces of killing at least 14 civilians in a bombing raid called in by besieged U.S. Marines.

Among the dead in the Saturday incident, according to a statement from the governor's office, were five girls, seven boys and two women.

The 14 were inside two houses that were struck by bombs or missiles after U.S. Marines came under attack at 8 a.m. in the Nawzad district of Helmand, the statement said.

At a press conference following the attack, President Karzai said Afghans' patience with air strikes had run out.

"The Afghan people can no longer tolerate these attacks on their homes and one day the Afghan government will be forced -- if you do not come to an understanding with us based on a negotiated solution to this, that is the prevention of the bombardment of Afghan homes -- the Afghan government will be forced to take unilateral action in this regard"

Many Afghans have been infuriated by graphic footage broadcast on Afghan television that showed grieving relatives holding the bodies of several children, including babies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weigh in Now. Pentagon Spending Actions

Peace is not a passive but an active condition, not a negation but an affirmation.

~ Mary Roberts Rinehart

Important update on the House approval process for the Defense Authorization Bill. If you have not already called your representative do so now.

Call on Congress by clicking the link below.
Use Pentagon Budget to End Wars and Bring Troops Home

War is never the answer.

The U.S. government invests $2.1 million every minute of every day on the military, almost half of the world's combined military spending. We know that there are alternatives that would truly offer hope and security for so many around the world.

Non-military options are working where wars and occupation failed. Popular movements demanding change are the best antidote to oppression and militarism. From Tunisia, Egypt and right here at home in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, people are using non-violence to demand their economic and human rights.

Update on 2012 Defense Authorization Bill
From the UFPJ Legislative Working Group.

As a constituent I find the entire bill (HR 1540) National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 unacceptable. There is simply no justification for authorizing another $553 billion in defense spending plus $118 billion to pay for the continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.*

As a constituent, you want your Representative to vote "No."

Last night the House Rules Committee decided which amendments to 2012 Defense Authorization bill could be debated and brought to the floor. Unfortunately, they eliminated the amendment from Barbara Lee, which would have restricted funding for Afghanistan to the rapid, safe withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan.

They are however some other worthwhile amendments that the House will be voting on tonight or sometime tomorrow.

These include -

Amendment #35 (Conyers et.al) which would bar the use of American ground troops in Libya.

Amendment #50 (Lee and Amash) which would strike out language (1034), granting the President an expanded authorization for the use of force.

Amendment #55 (McGovern and Jones) calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan by requiring the President to provide a plan and timeframe for an accelerated withdrawal of American troops.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Torture and Death | Afghanistan and Iraq

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

A joint investigation by The Nation Institute Investigative Fund and reporter Joshua Phillips, Need to Know exposes the limits of a US military task force charged with examining cases of detainee torture, death and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a story about the failure to live up to international standards and a complete lack of accountability.

The film focuses on Iraq, but the longer article looks at Afghanistan.

Inside the Detainee Abuse Task Force
"Birt, who retired as a chief warrant officer in 2007, was most deeply troubled by the lack of accountability for cases involving detainee deaths. She was the primary investigator on a case that has stayed with her, involving incidents in Afghanistan in 2002 in which US military police working in the Bagram detention facility beat two Afghan detainees until they died. The victims were Mullah Habibullah, the brother of a Taliban commander, and a 22-year-old taxi driver simply named Dilawar, who was later found to be innocent of any insurgent activity.

"I'd never seen just regular old soldiers chain a guy to a ceiling and beat him until his legs look like he was run over by a bus," said Birt, referring to Dilawar. She and other CID agents thoroughly investigated the allegations, producing a case file thousands of pages long, and the MPs and interrogators involved were court-martialed. The final outcome of the case "had a profound effect on my trust of the justice system," Birt recalled.

"We had eighteen people who confessed to complicity in two homicides, and no one served over six months in jail," she said. "People were convicted and given a slap on the wrist." Of the twenty-seven Army personnel charged in the Afghans' deaths and related abuses, only four troops were sentenced to jail time.

Birt had wanted to be a police officer ever since she was 8 and passionately believed in accountability through sober law enforcement. Yet the minimal punishment for the Bagram beating deaths rattled her.

"The outcome of that investigation and the lack of justice was my primary reason for leaving the military," she said. "We tell people all the time that we're going to be exempt from the Geneva and Hague war crimes tribunal because we're going to police our own. But we didn't police our own."

Additional Resources:

Religious Leaders Oppose Indefinite Detention (NRCAT)

Letter to members of the House Armed Services Committee

Bagram Prison: A Profile

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RED BROCADE | Naomi Shihab Nye

A Poem

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he's come from,
where he's headed.
That way, he'll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you'll be
such good friends
you don't care.

Let's go back to that.
Rice? Pine Nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That's the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

- Naomi Shihab Nye

To learn more about her work and commitment to social justice, read this profile.

Kabul Musicians Seek Tradition

Kharabat Street in Kabul was once the heart of Afghanistan’s classical music tradition. But years of war, emigration, and Taliban rule fractured the community here and its musical heritage. The musicians of Kharabat now wonder how to make themselves heard in a changing culture. Click here to learn more. Produced by Abubakar Siddique and Sayedjan Sabawoon

The Afghan Music Project

The Afghan Music Project (AMP) is a mixed media social venture, seeking to raise awareness of Afghan culture through music. All proceeds from the project will fund Afghan music teachers in Kabul who will teach music to Afghan youth, particularly young women. Explore the links below to learn more about the project.

As the country works to rebuild itself, it faces the daunting task of resurrecting a rich culture. Twenty-five years' of music censorship has left many Afghans, particularly younger generations, without important references to classic folk traditions. Furthermore, war has forced many musicians and teachers to permanently emigrate to other countries, taking with them their vital knowledge of Afghan music.

The Afghan Music Project seeks to bring Afghan culture back to its people through music education.


The rich sounds of Afghanistan and the tragic plight of its people inspired two UC Berkeley graduate students, Adam Gouttierre and Chris Becherer, to travel to Kabul, Afghanistan in the summer of 2005 and record folk musicians on location amidst kidnappings, protest riots, and civil unrest. The result is the Afghan Music Project, an 11-song album of traditional Afghan music.

All proceeds from the project will fund Afghan music teachers in Kabul who will teach music to Afghan youth, particularly young women.

Through this program the Afghan Music Project ensures that:

1) The rich musical tradition of classical Afghan music is passed from an older generation to a younger generation.
2) The level of female participation is high and emphasized.
3) Teachers can earn a living on what they love to do, educating young people.
4) Students can earn a livelihood sharing their skills with the people of Afghanistan.
5) Music becomes fun again, shared in a free and open manner.

The Recording
The Afghan Music Project was recorded at the Radio Killid Studio in Kabul, Afghanistan in Summer 2005.

The AMP players were led by Ustad Ghulum Husain, a master rubaab player. Due to the ongoing uncertainty of the political situation, the female vocalist asked not to be photographed and to be known only as ZamZama.

The recordings include seven instrumental and four vocal songs. The vocal pieces were sung in both Dari and Pushto. The instrumental pieces highlighted the sounds of the tabla, sarinda, tambur, and harmonium, in addition to the rubaab.

The rubaab, or 'Lion' of Afghan instruments, is the unofficial national instrument of Afghanistan. It is a big-bellied lute which has a long history of enchanting virgin ears.

To listen to or buy the recordings, click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Targeted and Entrapped

Wake up, open your eyes, look around you, see how this world has changed… At least take 5 minutes to look into these cases, and research, and look for real proof. (Lejla Duka, age 13, daughter of Dritan Duka, defendant in the “Fort Dix Five” case.)

This report looks at the history hehind three high profile arrests in New York and New Jersey. The Newburgh Four, the Fort Dix Five and Shahawan Martin Siraj in Bay Ridge. It documents the effort by some government agencies to conflate Muslims with terrorist and terrorism.

It also reveals the way Islamophobia has been used to sustain public fear and support for a global war on terror.


Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has targeted Muslims in the United States by sending paid, untrained informants into mosques and Muslim communities. This practice has led to the prosecution of more than 200 individuals in terrorism-related cases. The government has touted these cases as successes in the so-called war against terrorism. However, in recent years, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, local lawmakers, the media, the public, and community-based groups have begun questioning the legitimacy and efficacy of this practice, alleging that—in many instances—this type of policing, and the resulting prosecutions, constitute entrapment.

This Report examines three high-profile terrorism prosecutions in which government informants played a critical role in instigating and constructing the plots that were then prosecuted. In all three cases, the FBI or New York City Police Department (NYPD) sent paid informants into Muslim communities or families without any particularized suspicion of criminal activity. Informants pose a particular set of problems given they work on behalf of law enforcement but are not trained as law enforcement. Moreover, they often work for a government-conferred benefit—say, a reduction in a preexisting criminal sentence or a change in immigration status—in addition to fees for providing useful information to law enforcement, creating a dangerous incentive structure.

In the cases this Report examines, the government’s informants held themselves out as Muslims and looked in particular to incite other Muslims to commit acts of violence. The government’s informants introduced and aggressively pushed ideas about violent jihad and, moreover, actually encouraged the defendants to believe it was their duty to take action against the United States. In two of the three cases, the government relied on the defendants’ vulnerabilities—poverty and youth, for example—in its inducement methods. In all three cases, the government selected or encouraged the proposed locations that the defendants would later be accused of targeting. In all three cases, the government also provided the defendants with, or encouraged the defendants to acquire, material evidence, such as weaponry or violent videos, which would later be used to convict them.

The government played a significant role in instigating and devising the three plots featured in this Report—plots the government then “foiled” and charged the defendants with. The defendants in these cases were all convicted and are facing prison sentences of 25 years to life. These prosecutions—and others that similarly rely on the abusive use of informants—are central to the government’s claim that the country faces a “homegrown threat” of terrorism. Serious questions have been raised about the government’s role in each of these cases, as well as around the set of laws that have facilitated these practices. They also raise fundamental human rights concerns.
Click here to read the full report.

Other Testimonies

Newburgh is an extremely impoverished town. How much money did they spend on this whole production? They need to be investing in our communities for the future, not spending millions of dollars on a fake case that makes nobody safer.- Alicia McWilliams, aunt of David Williams, defendant in the “Newburgh Four” case

There are many stories that overlap. Many men in our communities have been targeted, and the women and children are left out in the cold.- Shahina Parveen, mother of defendant Shahawar Matin Siraj


The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law was established in 2002 to bring together the law school’s teaching, research, clinical, internship, and publishing activities around issues of international human rights law. Through its litigation, advocacy, and research work, CHRGJ plays a critical role in identifying, denouncing, and fighting human rights abuses in several key areas of focus, including: Business and Human Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Caste Discrimination; Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism; Extrajudicial Executions; and Transitional Justice. Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman are the Center’s Faculty Chairs; Smita Narula and Margaret Satterthwaite are Faculty Directors; Jayne Huckerby is Research Director; and Veerle Opgenhaffen is Senior Program Director.

The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at New York University School of Law provides high quality, professional human rights lawyering services to community-based organizations, nongovernmental human rights organizations, and intergovernmental human rights experts and bodies. The Clinic partners with groups based in the United States and abroad. Working as researchers, legal advisers, and advocacy partners, Clinic students work side-by-side with human rights advocates from around the world. The Clinic is directed by Professor Smita Narula of the NYU faculty; Amna Akbar is Senior Research Scholar and Advocacy Fellow; and Susan Hodges is Clinic Administrator.

Twelve Dead in Afghan Protests over NATO Killing of Two Women in Night Raid

Twelve people were killed and 80 wounded in violent protests this morning against the killing of two men and two women, accused of being insurgents, in a night-time raid by foreign troops in north Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.

Hours after the pre-dawn raid, more than 1,500 people carrying the bodies of the four dead marched into Taloqan, the regional capital of Takhar Province where the raid took place today

Local police and residents said the four people killed in the raid late on Tuesday night in Taloqan were civilians.

NATO-led forces said they were armed insurgents.

McClatchy reports...

"American forces entered a house in a village near Taloqan city, the capital of Takhar province, around 12:30 a.m. As a result, four people were killed. Two of the deaths are women," Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the provincial governor, told McClatchy in a telephone interview.

Afghans fear that U.S. forces, flush with success over the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistani, will increasingly rely on the tactic of swooping down in darkness on residential compounds.

With 150,000 foreign troops in the country violence across Afghanistan has reached its highest levels since the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001, with record casualties on all sides of the conflict.

The latest civilian deaths come at a time of high anti-Western sentiment. Last month, seven foreign United Nations staffers were killed when protests against the burning of a Koran by a fundamentalist U.S. pastor turned violent.

Additional Resource:

Michael Semple documents a NATO targeted killing (of the wrong person) in the same province that was featured in the Frontline special Capture/kill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Night Raid Kills Afghan Child

On Saturday Sharifullah Sahak and Alissa J. Rubin reported that for the second time in three days foreign troops killed an Afghan child in a night raid. With the increased use of targeted killings to replace boots on the ground more Afghans will be killed causing more resentment.

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the second time in three days, a night raid in eastern Afghanistan by NATO forces resulted in the death of a child, setting off protests on Saturday that turned violent and ended in the death of a second boy.

“The district governor, Abdul Khalid, said he had feared a Taliban attack on the government center and had called for help from local Afghan security forces. At the same time, there was a raid, he said. “American forces did an operation and mistakenly killed a fourth-grade student; he had gone to sleep in his field and had a shotgun next to him,” he said.

“People keep shotguns with them for hunting, not for any other purposes,” Mr. Khalid said.

The boy was the son of an Afghan National Army soldier, according to Noor Alam, the headmaster of the school the student attended. Although the boy was 15, like many rural Afghans, he was in a lower grade because he had not been able to go to school regularly, local residents said.

When morning came, an angry crowd gathered in Narra, the boy’s village, and more than 200 people marched with his body to the district center. Some of the men were armed and confronted the police, shouting anti-American slogans and throwing rocks at police vehicles and the Hesarek government center, according to the district governor and the headmaster.

The police opened fire in an effort to push back the crowd to stop its advance to the district center. A 14-year-old boy was killed, and at least one other person was wounded, Mr. Khalid said.“

In February the Afghan government accused NATO of killing 60 in an attack in Kunar province - also in eastern Afghanistan.

NATO and Pakistani Troops Exchange Fire

NATO helicopters from Afghanistan wounded two Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border attack this morning.

Initial reports from both sides are in conflict. Pakistan claimed that the Coalition helicopters based in Afghanistan crossed the border, but an unnamed Western military official said the helicopters opened fire from Afghanistan after taking fire from the Pakistani side of the border.

The Pakistani military said it had demanded a "flag meeting" with Nato commanders over the incursion in North Waziristan, an area near the Afghan border, that has been repeatedly targeted by US drones.

The statement said the two Nato helicopters – believed to be American – had entered Pakistan at the Admi Kot border post.

"We recognise that the Pakistani people and their leaders take their sovereignty very seriously. Every nation does," said Mr Kerry, a hugely popular figure in Pakistan for his role in delivering a $7.5bn aid package.

Data on US Drone Strikes in Pakistan can be found here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Night Raid Targets Wrong House | Kills 12 year old Girl and Uncle

The Many Faces of Afghanistan mural image is from the traveling exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan.

The mural was created by 6th grade students from Locke Elementary School with Karen Light in Chicago. The project description is at the bottom of this message.

The students are about the same age of the young girl killed in the night raid documented below.

Girl, 12, Killed in NATO Raid on Wrong Afghan Home
Alissa J. Rubin, NYT

“My daughter, who was sleeping with us in the courtyard, was hit by the bomb’s shrapnel in her head, and she died on the spot,” Mr. Mohammed said.

NATO issued a statement that said she had been shot. “An individual ran out the back of the compound toward the outer security perimeter and was killed when the security force mistakenly identified what they suspected was a weapon on the individual,” it said. “Later, the force discovered the individual was an unarmed Afghan female adolescent.”

The uncle, Shukrullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was a police officer; he had recently been transferred to Surkhrod District, where the raid occurred. He was 25 and had a wife and two daughters, said Mr. Mohammed, who was his brother-in-law and in whose home he was staying.

A police officer who arrived after the shooting said that Mr. Shukrullah, who was a graduate of the police academy, was at the house that night only by chance.”

The conclusion

“For Mr. Mohammed, the words were little comfort. “They killed my 12 year-old innocent daughter and my brother-in-law and then told me, ‘We are sorry,’ ” he said. “What does it mean? What pain can be cured by this word ‘sorry’?”

Project Description

As a part of their International Baccalaureate education which promotes intercultural understanding and respect as essential parts of live in the 21st century, sixth grade students at Locke Elementary School read The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. Following the Main character, Parvana, an Afghan girl who dresses as a boy to make money for her family under the rule of the Taliban, students learned about the culture of people on the other side of the world. This lead to a discussion about the war in Afghanistan: why the United States is engaged in combat there, and what the students thought about war and oppression. Whether they felt like the war was a good idea or not, they all agreed that the killing of innocent people including children their own age was terrible and enough to challenge us to think of better solutions to world conflicts.

To further demystify the Afghan people, the students each received a picture of an Afghan child and drew it using the grid method onto a larger square. Next, they painted the base colors which involved learning that all skin color is made out of different amounts of the same four colors: red, blue, yellow and white. Last, students shaded their portraits using oil pastels. The result is a patchwork of color and expression reflecting the diversity and vitality of the culture. Let these murals serve in memory of the innocent children who have lost their lives and those who continue to suffer in the war.

Fault Lines in Pakistan | Two Views

*Technical problems on Blogger bumped this message out of the system yesterday. I am re-posting.

Two views on the ramifications of the Osama bin Laden killing by US special forces in Pakistan reveal deep fault lines.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, argues in today’s New York Times that Pakistan has been duplicitous.

"It has been helpful in arresting some high-value Qaeda operatives and has allowed the United States to wage Predator drone attacks. But it has refused to move decisively against groups that Washington regards as terrorists and has put limits on American unilateral operations.”

Imran Khan, a former popular Cricket player turned politician argues that coercion from the U.S. has distorted the priorities of his country and that Pakistan should distance itself from Washington by rejecting all American aid to the country.

“Pakistan is now more vulnerable than at any time in its 63 years of existence following the US operation in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden…

"The biggest lesson to learn [from the operation] is that Pakistan should stand on its own feet, say no to aid and be a sovereign country," he said. "Our government policies have been dictated by aid, they have enslaved us by aid."

Khalilzad highlights four demands.
"First, the United States should reduce its dependence on supply lines running through Pakistan to Afghanistan. We should expand alternative supply routes through Azerbaijan and other countries in Central Asia.

Second, the United States should stay on the course set by President Obama to build, train and support Afghan security forces and reduce our own military presence while retaining the capacity to provide air support, intelligence collection and other capabilities that the Afghans currently lack. Such a posture can strengthen Afghanistan against Pakistani interference and help persuade Pakistan to embrace a settlement.

Third, the United States should conclude a longer-term agreement with Afghanistan to maintain a small, enduring military presence that would give us the capability to conduct counterterrorism operations and respond to possibilities like Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists.

Fourth, the United States could consider seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorize an investigation into how Bin Laden managed to hide in plain view. The inquiry should examine the presence of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Pakistan."

Khan highlights an action plan to get in the way of the violence. To protest the impact of the US drone attacks in Pakistan by blocking the NATO supply route that fuels the war in Afghanistan.

"Next week he will lead supporters of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), in a "huge blockade" of NATO's military supply route that goes though Pakistan to Afghanistan in protest US drone strikes inside Pakistan.

"These drone attacks are not just a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, they are a violation of all humanitarian laws," Mr Khan said. Foreign forces in Afghanistan, including Australian troops, depend on supplies trucked in from the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Anger in Pakistan over America's raid in Abbottabad could help garner public support for Mr Khan's blockade.

"The worst is that we have completely lost our credibility and we are so vulnerable," he said. "As we have been accused of harbouring the world's biggest terrorist that means any act of terrorism that takes place anywhere, all fingers will be pointing at Pakistan … the country stands terribly exposed. We could end up paying an even higher price than we have already paid.""

To learn more see this article Reclaiming Pakistan.
"Today the Pakistani state — that is its government and security structures - stands exposed as never before in front of its own people as well as the world. Never before, since 1971, has the Pakistani nation felt so defenseless and so full of anger and shame."

Additional Resource:
A Sense of Nervous Anticipation Looms in Pakistan by Sanaa Alimia
“…over the last seven years the number of Pakistanis killed is 34,017. In 2010, over 900 Pakistanis were killed in US drone attacks, which were also supported by their own government and military. Less than two weeks ago, over twenty-five people were killed in North Waziristan, in one drone attack and the month before forty civilians were killed in another drone attack. Beyond the casualties, there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Afghans and Pakistanis who cannot return home. There are countless maimed amputees, whose disfigurement is a commonplace feature of the landscape in Peshawar.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frontline Special: Kill-Capture

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Shown last night on PBS this powerful condemnation of targeted killings in Afghanistan could have been subtitled how to create enemies. Here is an action step you can take to address the issues raised in the program.

"Behind the strike that killed Osama bin Laden on May 1st was one of the U.S. military's best kept secrets: an extraordinary campaign by elite U.S. soldiers to take out thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. A six-month investigation by FRONTLINE has gone inside the "kill/capture" program to discover new evidence of the program's impact -- and its costs."


"The U.S. military report that 12,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have been either killed or captured in the past year using a secretive program ramped up by Gen. David Petraeus.

They're known as "JSOC" -- Joint Special Operations Command. They report directly to the president and, as National Journal reporter Marc Ambinder put it "operate worldwide based on the legal (or extra-legal) premises of classified presidential directive." John Nagl, a former counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, described JSOC's kill/capture campaign to FRONTLINE as "an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine.""

Today’s New York Times also makes the link to targeted killings and new legislation in Congress

“The new authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda was unveiled by the committee chairman, Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California. The committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on amendments to the bill.

The provision states that Congress “affirms” that “the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces,” and that the president is authorized to use military force — including detention without trial — of members and substantial supporters of those forces.

That language, which would codify into federal law a definition of the enemy that the Obama administration has adopted in defending against lawsuits filed by Guantánamo Bay detainees, would supplant the existing military force authorization that Congress passed overwhelmingly on Sept. 14, 2001. It instead named the enemy as the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Action Step: This link from last week’s Wage Peace Newsletter takes you to a site where you can send a letter to your representative urging them to reject this bill.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beauty to Expose the Brutality of War

If you have never travelled to Afghanistan, these images can start to fill the gap, giving you a sense of the timeless beauty. It is a narrated homage (of sorts) by Simon Norfolk to John Burke’s photographs of the second Anglo-Afghan war from 1878-1880.

It’s not neutral.

It is a remarkable travelogue/political commentary documenting the scale of the international intervention in Afghanistan and the tremendous challenges Afghans face in designing a better future for themselves.

Take the time to watch.

Targeted Assassinations | AAN

The mural image Hidden Children is from the travelling exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan.

The image was created by the Guilford College Community with Hannah Swenson, Courtney Mandeville and Layth Awartani.

"The targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden has given a boost to those in the US who believe this is also an effective strategy to defeat – or at least degrade – the Taleban in Afghanistan. This new report from senior analyst Kate Clark (Afghanistan Analysts Network), warns against this strategy, stressing that the legality of targeted killings depends on the accuracy of the intelligence which drives them."

The Takhar attack:
Targeted killings and the parallel worlds of US intelligence and Afghanistan
Kate Clark | 10 May 2011 | Afghanistan Analysts Network

"On 2 September 2010, ISAF announced that ‘coalition forces’ had killed the Taleban deputy shadow governor of Takhar who was also a ‘senior member’ of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in an air attack. Immediately, Afghans, including the provincial governor, police chief and President Karzai insisted an egregious mistake had been made and civilians who had been campaigning in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections had been targeted. Ten were killed and seven injured. The military has remained adamant to this day that it got the right man."


"The findings of this investigation raise systemic concerns over the intelligence that drives this and other targeted killings in Afghanistan. Targeted killings – as one element of the so‐called ‘kill or capture’ strategy – are one of the main metrics of success claimed by General Petraeus and an ever more important aspect of international military policy in Afghanistan…"

Click here for the full report.

Addition Resource: Frontline | Kill-Capture | 10 May 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

ISAF | 1,400 Attacks in 90 Days

The US/NATO strategy. Escalating violence to foster diplomacy.

This morning Canadian General Chris Whitecross confirmed that the International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF) is increasing armed attacks. Although General David Petraeus is the commander of ISAF the figures below do not include the actions of US special forces that operate independently. Here is part of what she had to say.

"We will continue to support capacity and capability development of the Afghan National Security Forces and transition process through 2014. In fact, our pace is higher than usual. In the last 90 days, ISAF has conducted more than 1,400 operations, captured or killed more than 500 insurgent senior leaders, and captured or killed more than 2,700 lower-level insurgents..."

Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

"In Afghanistan, we have to continue to take the fight to al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. Perhaps now they will take seriously the work that we are doing on trying to have some reconciliation process that resolves the insurgency…"

" [O]ur message to the Taliban hasn't changed; it just has even greater resonance today. They can't wait us out, they can't defeat us; they need to come into the political process and denounce al Qaeda and renounce violence and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan."

In addition to escalating armed attacks General Petraeus has expanded the controversial Afghan Local Police Initiative - essentially creating local militia forces.

The initiative is being tested in 70 districts with about 300 ALP per district, a total of about 20,000.

"...General Petraeus describes the ALP as a "night watch with AK-47's". They are expected to man checkpoints, detain individuals and turn them over to regular forces, and to provide intelligence on Taliban activities. For other issues, they are expected to call in ANSF or ISAF for support. The intent is to allow villages to resist intimidation and to prevent the Taliban from creating safe havens.


US Special Operations Force trainers are assigned to each unit, along with Afghan Interior Ministry personnel. Training may take from 5 days to 3 weeks. Units are paid through the Ministry of Interior, and participants are paid 60% of an Afghan National Policeman's salary. Equipment provided consists of AK-47 rifles, radios, and uniforms."

To read more on ALP click here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Deadly Embrace – The War in Afghanistan

The mural image Eternal Scream is from the travelling exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan. The image is by Michael Schwartz in Tucson Arizona.

Deadly Embrace
May 4th, 2011 | Zaher Wahab

"The suicide bomber, dressed in police uniform, hugged commander K.M Mujahed, Kandahar’s chief of police as he was leaving his office this afternoon, and detonated the explosives strapped to his body, shredding both of them, and two others, into pieces. The Karzai government, the International Security Assistance Force, and the US embassy all condemned Mujahed’s assassination.

This was the third “hug and kill” of a prominent figure and the latest incident in a series of nine spectacular, violent episodes the occupation and resistance have inflicted on each other in the last few days in the war-torn country. There has been a sharp escalation in anti-American and anti-Western feelings in recent months expressed in various forms. COIN has failed miserably. The insurgency has penetrated all organs of the Afghan state."


"Most Afghans are exhausted by 32 years of bloody turmoil and the decade-long brutal American occupation without an end date or endgame in sight. Hence, appearances notwithstanding, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-foreign (especially anti-American) sentiment throughout the country with frequent street demonstrations and burnings of the US flag and Obama’s effigy. Demonstrators chant “death to America” and “go home America.

The deadly embrace continues."

Zaher Wahab, a professor from Lewis and Clark College, is currently teaching in Kabul. His latest dispatch (4 May 2011) is a cautionary tale; a vivid description of the on-going violence in Afghanistan and the failure of the United States military policy. The growing animosity against the United States and other foreign armies is spelled out.

To read the entire story click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Growing up in the Shadow of 9/11

Growing up in the shadow of 9/11 is a fascinating project from American University that was completed last week - before the assassination of Osama bin Laden. It is a site you should visit.

Perhaps no other segment of society has been as well covered as the student celebrations over the news. In part because they were awake and ready to respond to the announcement, but more importantly, 9/11 was an event that defined a whole generation.

While the depiction of jubilant flash mobs has been covered in pictures, the real story is that these young people were deeply influenced by the path laid out by President Bush. That the world was divided into good and evil. That there were choices to be made. You were either with us or against us.

A dangerous simplistic way to understand complex conflicts. It would also be dangerous and simplistic to say a particular segment acted in one way. The video project makes that clear and we will revisit that issue soon.

The Pictures

In Washington, college students spilled in front of the White House chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” and puffing cigars. In State College, Pa., 5,000 students waved flags, blew vuvuzelas, and sang the national anthem and the chorus to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Cheering students jumped into Mirror Lake at Ohio State — as they do with big football games — and swelled the Common in Boston.

"We are the 9/11 generation," "We've grown up with Osama bin Laden in our lives, the same way the previous generation grew up with Vietnam over their heads.

"Now he's gone; it's shocking. To many, it meant that the war on terrorism is over, but as the days go on, more people are starting to ask, 'Where do we go from here?'"

Madeline Novey, editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ending the War on Terror

Commentary on the assassination of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan.

Beyond Retaliation | Voices for Creative Nonviolence

In the past, President Obama has said that “we stand on the shoulders of giants like Dr. King, yet our future progress will depend on how we prepare our next generation of leaders.” (Jan. 18, 2010). In a historic speech, “Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence”, King said: “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.”

Justice or Vengeance | Phyllis Bennis

Today, the Arab Spring is on the rise across the Middle East and North Africa. It's ineffably sad that President Obama, in his claim that bin Laden's death means justice, didn't use the opportunity to announce the end of the deadly U.S. wars that answered the attacks of 9/11. This could have been a moment to replace vengeance with cooperation, replace war with justice.

But it was not. Regardless of bin Laden's death, as long as those deadly U.S. wars continue in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond, justice has not been done.

The Legacy for Afghanistan | Jonathan Steele

It was understandable that Americans wanted justice after the appalling atrocities of 9/11, but justice should never be confused with revenge. Revenge is hot-blooded, but justice needs to be cool and controlled. Rushing to topple the Taliban looked more like a response governed by revenge and a desire to show that something was being done rather than a response that fitted the crime.

The Muslim World Sounds Off | Juan Cole

Usama Bin Laden, a mass killer, passed virtually unmourned from the scene. There were no demonstrations against his killing in the Arab world. A few Taliban protested in Quetta and Afghanistan, as one might expect. Mostly Muslims denounced him and expressed relief he was gone.

Bin Laden carried out 9/11 to begin a big political and social movement. Nearly 10 years later the vast majority of Muslims did not trust him and many seem glad to see the back of him, while large numbers had decided that he was irrelevant to their lives.
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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