British soldiers use dead Afghan as trophy photo prop


British soldier's thumbs-up sign near dead body

From the Huffington Post UK, about Afghanistan:

British Serviceman Pictured Appearing To Give ‘Thumbs-Up’ Over Dead Taliban Fighter (PICTURES)

09/05/2014 19:59 BST

Pictures purportedly showing a British serviceman posing with a dead Taliban fighter have emerged via the website Live Leak. The images were taken in the aftermath of an attack on Camp Bastion in September 2012, according to the site, and have led to an investigation by the Ministry of Defence. …

The BBC is reporting that two RAF Regiment members have already been withdrawn from frontline duties as part of the investigation. Two images show a British serviceman kneeling over a corpse, giving a ‘thumbs up’ sign.

In a statement, an RAF spokesman reiterated their “zero-tolerance policy on the mistreatment of deceased enemy personnel”, adding: “We can confirm that the incident is currently subject to an ongoing RAF Police investigation and therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Prince Harry was serving at the base as a member of the Army Air Corps during the time of the attack.

See also here. And here.

British armed forces suffer record levels of alcohol abuse: here.

THE UK government should set up an inquiry into ‘lessons learned’ after troops withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of this year, the MPs House of Commons Defence Committee has recommended: here.

The U.S. military was no match for Afghanistan’s corruption. The Pentagon wasn’t just defeated by the country’s graft – the Pentagon made it worse: here.

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Dutch general praises jihad in Syria, World War I


This video from Britain says about itself:

Afghanistan Drone War: protest held outside British airforce base used in Afghan drone war

29 April 2013

In scenes reminiscent of the anti-nuclear weapons marches in the UK decades ago, around 400 peace and justice campaigners descended on a Lincolnshire RAF base in east England after it was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence that the military compound is being used by the airforce as a launchpad for drone missions over Afghanistan.

General Peter van Uhm in 2008-2012 was commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces. Which then, as now, were involved in war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now, retired General Van Uhm has expressed sympathy for confused Dutch teenagers going to the bloody war in Syria. Boys who often end up there in fanatically religious sectarian paramilitary organisations, with big chances of getting disabled or killed. Or girls, who may end up as ‘religious military prostitutes‘, and have big chances of getting disabled or killed too.

Why are these Dutch teenagers (and teenagers from other countries) so confused that they end up in Syria?

In the Netherlands (and other NATO countries) mainstream media and politicians often depict the regime in the Syrian capital as the only cause of bloodshed in the country, by default depicting all armed oppositionists as freedom fighters. Last summer, Syria (like happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc. before) in war propaganda became ‘the new nazi Germany’; worth of risking the start of World War III for, according to neoconservative ideologists. Fortunately, a nuclear World War III then did not start about Syria. Mass popular opposition led to unexpected defeat for David Cameron’s war-minded government in the British House of Commons. Let us hope that plans to use the crisis in Ukraine to start a nuclear world war will go the same way.

Meanwhile, the CIA and other governmental organisations in NATO countries, and in Arabian peninsula absolute monarchies allied with NATO, keep arming sectarian paramilitary groups in Syria. So, if a foreign teenage boy goes to fight in Syria, then he may claim with some justification that he does things similar to his government’s.

There is still another cause sending confused teenagers to Syria. In the Netherlands (and more or less similarly so in other western countries), most of these young people are from immigrant worker families from Islamic countries. Every now and then, xenophobic bigotry, sometimes against all immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants from Morocco, gets rampant among Dutch media and politicians. If you are a young person in the Netherlands and you’re not white, then it’s harder to get a good job, or any job. If you would like to go to a discotheque, then a doorman may stop you because of the colour of your skin. The xenophobic Islamophobic PVV party of Geert Wilders, allies of the French neo-fascist National Front and other extreme Right parties in Europe, recently was more or less officially part of the Dutch government (they had an agreement, giving them influence on government policies, to prop up a minority right-wing coalition administration).

While, as we saw, media and politicians in the Netherlands (and in other NATO countries … and in Qatar and other Arab Peninsula dictatorial allies of the self-styled “Free World”) on the one hand often depict sectarian war against the Syrian regime as “good war”; on the other hand they often depict confused teenagers joining that “good” war as criminal dangerous terrorists. Police and secret services spy on them and arrest them. Recently, a boy from Amsterdam was jailed for “preparing” to join the war in Syria.

That is one face of the Dutch official establishment.

Now, back to another face of the Dutch establishment; General van Uhm. Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant of today:

Ex-Commander Van Uhm: respect for people going to war in Syria

By: Janny Groen – 05.05.14, 06:02

General (retired) Peter van Uhm respects Dutch people joining the war in Syria because they stand up for their ideals. According to him, these young people ‘in one way or another think that they need to make the world a better place.” He does not share their ideology.

Van Uhm said that in the radio documentary “Lost sons – a century at war”, which aired last night on Radio 1. In this program the former commander of the armed forces traveled to [World War I] military cemeteries in Flanders Fields in Belgium to find an answer to the question: should we be proud or grieve for young men who go to war?

In principle, we should be proud, Van Uhm says, at least if they are going to war because of pure idealism. In Syria, for example, against the oppressor Assad to end the suffering of women and children. …

Van Uhm’s condoning of people going to war in Syria is remarkable. His son, First Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm, in April 2008 at the age of 23 was killed in Afghanistan in an attack with an ‘Islamic’ roadside bomb. …

In the documentary, Van Uhm was confronted with the work of the German sculptress Käthe Kollwitz, whose son was killed in the First World War. Both the military father and artistic mother tried to make sense of the loss of their sons, but they drew different conclusions. Kollwitz wants ‘no more war’. Van Uhm continues to respect ‘young people who stick their necks out for a better world, while – if they are unlucky – they die.’

Kollwitz, Never Again War

If General Van Uhm disagrees with Käthe Kollwitz about World War I, then one may ask: does he think that war for German Emperor Wilhelm II, in which Ms Kollwitz’s son Peter died, was a worthy cause? Should the German empire have won World War I? On, on the contrary, were the German armed forces the bad guys, and their Allied opponents the good guys? Propagandists for present day militarism can’t have that both ways, though sometimes, they seem to try.

How many Dutch youngsters will interpret General Van Uhm’s words as an encouragement to depart to the bloody war in Syria? How many of them will die? How many will become disabled, physically, psychically, or both, for life? How many will get harsh governmental punishments for being ‘terrorists’? How many will really become terrorists after returning from hell in Syria?

LARGE numbers of people have been forced to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamist militants from the ISIS pro-Al Qaeda group effectively took control of parts of the city: here.

The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group from which even Al Qaeda has broken because of its excessive violence and sectarian fanaticism, constitutes a searing indictment of the crimes carried out by US imperialism in Iraq and throughout the Middle East: here.

British illegal imprisonment in Afghanistan


This video says about itself:

8 November 2013

Investigative reporter Matthieu Aikins has uncovered a video from Afghanistan showing Afghan National Army members repeatedly whipping a prisoner as US forces look on. He obtained the video whilst working on an investigation into alleged US war crimes for Rolling Stone magazine. US forces have frequently been accused of turning a blind eye to their Afghan colleagues torturing their prisoners during interrogation.

Here are links to the Matthieu Aikins reports for Rolling Stone:

The A-team killings.

Watch Highly Disturbing Footage of Detainee Abuses in Afghanistan. As Afghan soldiers abuse a prisoner, American Special Forces stand idly by: here.

Democracy Now Interview with Aikins: here.

UN report on Afghan torture: here.

Vice documentary – “This is What Winning Looks Like”: here.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Britain’s Afghan detention policy ‘unlawful’

Saturday 3rd May 2014

BRITAIN’S detention policy in Afghanistan is unlawful, the High Court in London ruled yesterday in a landmark judgement.

Since November 2009 British policy has involved internment to enable interrogation weeks or months beyond the permitted 96 hours under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) guidelines.

Mr Justice Leggatt found that detention or internment beyond the 96 hours “went beyond the legal powers available to the UK.”

The ruling came in a claim for damages brought by Leigh Day & Co solicitors on behalf of Afghan national Serdar Mohammed in conjunction with a judicial review case brought by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) for fellow Afghans Mohammed Qasim, Mohammed Nazim, and Abdullah.

Mr Mohammed was detained by British troops in 2010 and held by them without charge or access to a lawyer for 110 days before being handed over to the Afghan security services, whom he alleges brutally tortured him.

Mr Justice Leggatt found that Mr Mohammed’s detention was in “stark violation” of his rights and that it would have been apparent to the Ministry of Defence that its forces were acting without legal authority.

A Leigh Day spokesperson said: “When we send our troops abroad it is the Ministry of Defence’s job to ensure that the mechanisms are put in place to ensure that they operate within the rule of law.

“As the court has made clear, the MoD fully understood the parameters of the law regarding detention and yet they decided to operate flagrantly outside those rules.”

PIL’s participation at the hearing was by direction of the Court, in recognition of the significance of the judgment for its claimants who also suffered such detention.

PIL solicitor Phil Shiner said: “This is a judgment of profound importance with far-reaching implications for future UK operations abroad where UK personnel are on the ground.

“It tells the MoD again that no matter how they try to avoid accountability for the UK’s actions abroad, international human rights law will apply and, thus, UK personnel must act accordingly.”

The MoD said it would appeal the ruling.

See also here.

The Afghan town of Abi Barak was buried in a landslide Friday, in a catastrophe that exposes the immense poverty produced by decades of US war and intrigue in the country: here.

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Afghanistan’s torturer-in-chief living in California


This video says about itself:

UN finds ‘systematic’ torture in Afghanistan

10 October 2011

A United Nations report has found “compelling evidence” that Afghan intelligence officials at five detention centres “systematically tortured detainees for the purpose of obtaining confessions and information”.

In the report published on Monday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said torture was practised systematically in some Afghan intelligence detention centres and children were among those who had suffered.

The report singled out National Directorate Security (NDS) facilities in the provinces of Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Laghman, as well as the national headquarters of the NDS counter-terrorism department in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Mystery surrounds move of Afghan ‘torturer in chief’ to U.S. amid allegations of spy agency abuse

By Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Joshua Partlow, Tuesday, April 29, 1:15 AM

In Afghanistan, his presence was enough to cause prisoners to tremble. Hundreds in his organization’s custody were beaten, shocked with electrical currents or subjected to other abuses documented in human rights reports. Some allegedly disappeared.

And then Haji Gulalai disappeared as well.

He had run Afghan intelligence operations in Kandahar after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and later served as head of the spy service’s detention and interrogation branch. After 2009, his whereabouts were unknown.

Because of his reputation for brutality, Gulalai was someone both sides of the war wanted gone. The Taliban tried at least twice to kill him. Despite Gulalai’s ties to the CIA and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, United Nations officials and U.S. coalition partners sought to rein him in or have him removed.

Today, Gulalai lives in a pink two-story house in Southern California, on a street of stucco homes on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

How he managed to land in the United States remains murky. Afghan officials and former Gulalai colleagues said that his U.S. connections — and mounting concern about his safety — account for his extraordinary accommodation.

But CIA officials said the agency played no role in bringing Gulalai into the country. Officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on his relocation or immigration status, citing privacy restrictions. Gulalai and members of his family declined repeated inquiries from The Washington Post.

As the United States approaches its own exit from Afghanistan, Gulalai’s case touches on critical questions looming over that disengagement. What will happen to thousands of Afghans seeking to accompany the American exodus? And how will U.S.-built institutions in that country — particularly its intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) — treat those left behind?

Despite a substantial record of human rights abuses, Gulalai was able to bypass immigration barriers faced by Afghans whose work for the United States made them potential targets of the Taliban. Many have been turned away because of security objections submitted in secret by U.S. spy agencies.

Since its inception, the NDS has depended on the CIA to such an extent that it is almost a subsidiary — funded, trained and equipped by its American counterpart. The two agencies have shared intelligence, collaborated on operations and traded custody of prisoners.

Gulalai was considered a particularly effective but corrosive figure in this partnership. He was a fierce adversary of the Taliban, officials said, as well as a symbol of the tactics embraced by the NDS.

“He was the torturer in chief,” said a senior Western diplomat, who recalled meeting with a prisoner at an NDS facility in Kabul to investigate how he had been treated when Gulalai entered unannounced. The detainee became agitated and bowed his head in submission. “He was terrified, which made sense,” the diplomat said. Gulalai was “a big wheel in a machine that ground up a lot of people.”

U.S. officials said the CIA has taken measures to curb NDS abuses, including training its officers on human rights and pushing the organization to allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other monitoring groups. But even after Gulalai’s departure, U.N. reports have documented widespread mistreatment of prisoners by the NDS.

Retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who was commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan until last year, warned that “human rights is going to be a weakness for some period of time.” Allen, who suspended prisoner transfers to the NDS after reports of abuse, said the organization has made progress but described its reliance on torture as an institutional “reflex.”

A ‘cruel position’

Now in his early 60s, Gulalai lives in a rented house in a Los Angeles suburb where the dry heat and backdrop of brown hills are reminiscent of Kandahar. His front yard is surrounded by a tall, white fence with a locked gate at the sidewalk. There are citrus trees in the back and a steady hum from a freeway a block away.

Gulalai, whose real name is Kamal Achakzai, shares the house with a mix of family members, including his wife and children, who range in age from toddlerhood into their twenties. “They generally keep to themselves,” a neighbor said. “They don’t speak except to say hello.”

A burly man matching Gulalai’s description backed out of the family’s driveway on a recent afternoon. He stopped briefly to roll down his window when approached by a reporter for The Post, but then sped off without comment.

In Southern California, Gulalai is surrounded by a network of Afghans, some of whom have known him since childhood. “We see each other every weekend, we play cards together,” said Bashir Wasifi, who attended school with Gulalai in Kandahar in the 1960s before moving to the United States in 1979.

Wasifi said Gulalai showed up unexpectedly with a dozen or more relatives several years ago, after the Taliban had killed two of his brothers and a son. The circumstances convinced local Afghans that Gulalai had received special U.S. help. “He was brought here by your government,” Wasifi said.

Gulalai has struggled to adapt. He doesn’t have a job and has learned little English. It is unclear how the family is supporting itself, although friends and relatives said that Gulalai’s sons are employed and that the family owns property in Afghanistan.

“His position was a cruel position so he did cruel things, but he is not like that,” Wasifi said. “He worked with your government for 10 years. He hunted al-Qaeda for 10 years. What [more] would you want?”

Starting from scratch

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gulalai was among a core group of Pashtuns recruited by the CIA to help the agency and U.S. Special Operations teams seize Kandahar, the city that had been the Taliban’s traditional stronghold. Gulalai had grown up there surrounded by prominent fighters in the CIA-backed effort to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, many of whom went on to become members of the Taliban or senior officials in Karzai’s government.

Gul Agha Sherzai, a childhood classmate, called Gulalai “the roughest kid in school.” Sherzai, who was a candidate for president of Afghanistan this year, led the effort to recapture Kandahar in 2001. When he was named governor of the province a year later, he turned to his friend Gulalai to run security and intelligence operations.

At the time, the CIA was trying to cobble together a national intelligence service that could protect the Afghan government from internal threats as well as track down al-Qaeda operatives. The agency sought to fuse informant networks established by the Northern Alliance — which had worked with the CIA for years before the Sept. 11 attacks — with the remnants of a Soviet-era service known as the KHAD.

“It was chaos; you had to start from scratch,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official involved in the effort. The agency equipped the NDS with a fleet of vehicles brought up through Pakistan, delivered office supplies to a Kabul building that the Taliban had trashed and provided a stream of cash to cover payroll. “Money would come in on aircraft, we’d put it through a counting machine and distribute it in duffel bags,” said the former U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the CIA’s role.

The agency brought in retired operatives to teach courses in basic espionage and combine the disparate NDS elements into a coherent structure. The CIA secretly turned some of its better students into informants on the agency payroll, former officials said.

The training sessions also covered laws against torture. “It was obligatory, mandatory,” the former U.S. intelligence official said. “Whenever [NDS] captured anybody, we’d say you have to respect their human rights.”

That message came amid other conflicting signals.

Even while holding classes on the humane treatment of detainees, the CIA was setting up secret prisons where al-Qaeda suspects were subjected to brutal measures, including waterboarding. At one of the agency’s detention sites in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit, a prisoner froze to death in 2002 after being doused with water and left alone overnight.

The NDS became an extension of the CIA with considerably greater size and reach. It grew to more than 20,000 employees and established a network of dozens of prisons in facilities that in some cases had served the same purpose under Taliban, Soviet and even 19th-century British rule.

In a war that came to be defined by an escalating cycle of raids and arrests, the NDS became a critical repository, taking custody of thousands of prisoners captured by the CIA, the U.S. military and coalition forces.

The NDS branch in Kandahar was a major destination for these deliveries, with a large prison near Kandahar airport, as well as off-the-books interrogation cells hidden among walled compounds in residential neighborhoods, former detainees and Western officials said.

Sardar Mohammad, a Kandahar resident, said he was held for months in an NDS cell after a team of U.S. Special Operations forces burst into his home in 2002. Gulalai took part in the raid, Mohammad said, and participated in interrogation sessions that included one of his brothers and a son.

“Every night, they beat me,” Mohammad said. He was released after his family paid 3,000 Pakistani rupees, he said, but was arrested again later and taken to a CIA compound known as Camp Gecko before being returned to NDS. There, Mohammad said, his interrogators called him “a personal detainee of Gulalai.”

A senior Afghan official who worked with NDS said Gulalai used his position to settle tribal scores and enrich his clan. Weapons seized by the NDS were sent to an arms depot in Gulalai’s home town of Gulistan, the official said. Prisoners’ families were routinely forced to pay ransom for their release.

“He tortured and took money from them,” the official said.

Critics said that Gulalai’s tactics also drove neutral Afghans into the enemy’s ranks.

Among them was Was Abdul Wasay, who later became the Taliban’s “shadow governor” in Kandahar, an unofficial position common across areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban still exerts influence and seeks to challenge the Kabul government’s authority. The senior Afghan security official described an early encounter at an NDS prison with Wasay, who accused Gulalai of strapping his father upside down to a door and leaving him in public view.

“I saw my father like this and I decided I must fight the government,” Wasay said, according to the Afghan security official, who would discuss security matters only on the condition of anonymity. Wasay continued that fight for a decade until Afghan military forces killed him this month, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

A surge in abuse allegations

By 2005, Gulalai had survived multiple attempts on his life as well as mounting pressure on the government to remove him from his job. A bombing at his family’s residence killed one of his brothers but missed its intended target, said Afghan officials and Gulalai associates.

Twice, U.N. officials persuaded then-NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh to issue orders firing Gulalai. Both times, the orders were undone by ethnic politics, U.N. officials said, as Karzai countermanded the Tajik NDS chief to protect his fellow Pashtun tribesman.

Instead of being dismissed, Gulalai was promoted to NDS headquarters in Kabul and put in charge of the agency’s investigations directorate, known at the time as Department 17. The position gave him authority over the main NDS prison in Kabul, to which detainees from across the country were sent for long-term custody.

Allegations of abuse surged.

A secret memo circulated among senior U.N. officials and Western diplomats in late 2007 described NDS torture as “systemic” and identified Gulalai as singularly responsible.

Gulalai was “personally involved in conducting beatings amounting to torture, in detaining suspects illegally and arbitrarily and in deliberately and systematically evading detention monitoring,” the memo said. It cited unverified allegations of “disappearances” as well as testimony of “an extra-judicial killing and cover-up [that] seems very credible.”

Gulalai’s methods “included beating with a stick to the point of drawing blood, sleep deprivation for as long as thirteen days, protracted periods fastened with handcuffs and chains and suspension from the ceiling,” the memo stated.

The harshest treatment was reserved for Gulalai’s “personal prisoners,” those suspected of being involved in attacks against his family or clan. “They were held in underground cells, including in the cellars of the Investigation Directorate main offices,” the memo said.

Overall, Gulalai operated in a “culture of impunity” enabled by his close ties to high-ranking Afghan officials and status as “a key partner for international agencies working on counter terrorism and insurgency” — an apparent reference to the CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces.

A family forced to flee

Ultimately, the growing danger to Gulalai and his family prompted him to plan the exit that diplomats and rights groups had been unable to engineer.

In March 2007, Gulalai narrowly survived an attack by a suicide bomber near the entrance of a prominent Kabul mosque. An incident report contained in the WikiLeaks collection of leaked diplomatic files said that “General Gulalai” was among 12 injured in the attack, which also killed at least two civilians.

Gulalai’s son Raqib Achakzai said in a brief telephone interview last month that the family was forced to flee.

“They killed my cousins, four or five uncles, that’s why we came out here,” said Achakzai, who indicated that he works as a contractor for the U.S. military in North Carolina. He declined to discuss details of the family’s departure from Afghanistan, however, saying, “These are questions I’m not about to answer.”

CIA officials denied any involvement. “The CIA had no role whatsoever in facilitating the relocation of Haji Gulalai from Afghanistan to the United States,” agency spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Instead, Gulalai and his family apparently secured permission to travel to the United States, possibly under a “parole” designation used by the Department of Homeland Security to help foreigners facing medical emergencies or other extreme circumstances. Once in the country, Gulalai was granted asylum, said an official familiar with the case.

Asylum is designed to grant safe haven to foreigners who are likely to be arrested, tortured or killed if they return home. But U.S. law bars the granting of asylum to those who have persecuted others.

The required legal forms ask applicants whether they have “ever ordered, incited, arrested or otherwise participated in causing harm or suffering to any person” because of race, religion, nationality or other affiliation. But there is limited ability to check the accuracy of the responses.

Applicants are screened against databases for criminal convictions or terrorist ties. But experts said those records are unlikely to reveal allegations of human rights abuses, particularly when the alleged abuser was operating under government authority and was not arrested or publicly accused. Prospects of detection may have been further complicated by the fact that Gulalai used only his Achakzai name once in the United States.

There is at least one indication, however, that U.S. authorities were able to connect the asylum seeker to his NDS résumé.

At a hearing before an immigration judge in Los Angeles several years ago, Gulalai defended his asylum claim by presenting photos of the Kabul bombing and other evidence of the danger he faced in Afghanistan, said Wasifi, who accompanied his friend to help interpret.

A U.S. attorney challenging the claim asked repeatedly whether the man now calling himself Achakzai was ever known by another name. After getting only looks of bewilderment, Wasifi said, the attorney changed his question: “Then who is Gulalai?”

Gulalai chuckled and replied that it was just a nickname bestowed by his family, and apologized for the slip, Wasifi said. He emerged from the hearing with his immigration status intact.

Lea Greenberger, the attorney who, Wasifi said, represented Gulalai at the hearing, declined to discuss details of the case. “I will not represent people who violated human rights,” she said, but noted that lawyers don’t always have complete information about their clients. Clear answers on eligibility for asylum can be elusive, she said, especially when applicants come out of countries as ravaged by conflict as Afghanistan.

“If there were a clear black-and-white line, it would make things easier, but there isn’t,” Greenberger said. “In wars there are heroes who massacred others.” To some, she said, “a violation of human rights against the Taliban is perhaps an act of courage.”

A contradictory mission

As Gulalai settled into life in Southern California, the United Nations and other groups embarked on more comprehensive efforts to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by the NDS as well as the Afghan army and police.

In 2011 and 2013, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan issued reports based on interviews with hundreds of prisoners that found evidence of torture at NDS facilities nationwide.

The problem was particularly acute at five sites, including Kandahar, where two-thirds of the prisoners interviewed said they were “systemically tortured.” Many were beaten with cables, forced to endure electric shock to the testicles, or handcuffed in excruciating positions for days at a time. One detainee “reported that an NDS official removed his toenail with a knife.”

The reports, released a decade into the war, triggered significant if belated reforms.

In 2011, Allen suspended detainee transfers and imposed new requirements, including regular inspection and certification of NDS prisons by U.S. and coalition military teams before transfers could resume.

Allen said he does not think the CIA encouraged or tolerated abuse. Instead, he said, the problem was deeply ingrained, with causes including the coarsening effect of decades of conflict as well as the influence of a justice system that relies on coerced confessions to function.

“To its credit, the NDS seems committed to ending torture,” he said, “but eliminating this practice will be a heavy lift.”

The CIA was not obligated to abide by Allen’s suspension or new restrictions, officials said. Boyd, the CIA spokesman, said that although the agency “can’t publicly discuss the significant steps we’ve taken to help NDS address these issues, we take seriously any allegations of abuse.”

Others, however, said the United States disregarded the problem for the better part of a decade and never imposed serious sanctions, such as cutting off NDS funding, even after the evidence of abuse was overwhelming. Some cited the seemingly incompatible U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, where the desire to build humane government institutions could be offset by the imperative to root out the Taliban and terrorism at almost any cost.

“The fact is our mission is internally contradictory,” said Barnett Rubin, a professor at New York University who is also senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department. When U.S. troops depart, he said, “we will leave a deeply corrupt and abusive government on whose territory there are virtually no members of al-Qaeda to be found.”

NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal declined to discuss Gulalai’s tenure or departure, citing a policy against revealing information about employees of the spy service.

In 2012, the NDS created a new human rights unit to investigate alleged abuse. The British government helped install cameras in NDS interrogation booths. Mashal said that such changes had eradicated a problem that he insisted had been exaggerated. “I deny any kind of torture by NDS at all,” he said.

A third report by the United Nations, expected to be released in the coming months, is said to cite progress on detainee treatment but also evidence of ongoing torture. “Despite significant remedial steps, torture continues because there’s no real deterrent,” said Georgette Gagnon, U.N. human rights chief in Afghanistan. “We’re not aware of any NDS official who has been prosecuted or fired for using torture.”

Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim.

Afghans who worked as interpreters or security guards or in other capacities for the U.S. military and other agencies have overwhelmed a special U.S. visa program, seeking to escape before American forces depart. The State Department has granted visas to about 3,000 Afghans through the program, a spokeswoman said. But as many as 5,000 remaining Afghans are now competing for half as many slots.

Wasifi said Gulalai secured permanent resident status in the United States last year and is moving toward citizenship. The allegations against him, Wasifi said, should not stand in his way.

“I blame the U.S. for this,” Wasifi said. “If he was doing wrong to society, it is a shame for you. You appointed him to this position. NDS did not exist before. You created it. If you occupy a country, you are responsible.”

Kevin Sieff in Kabul and Sharifullah Sharaf in Kandahar contributed to this report.

Afghanistan’s ‘torturer-in-chief’ living in pink house in California surrounded by landscape that looks like Kandahar: here.

Torturing on behalf of the United States appears to be a career move that results in a comfortable lifestyle after moving on from government service: here.

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Refugees from Afghan, Syrian wars ill-treated in Bulgaria


This video is called Rethink Afghanistan War (Part 4): Civilian Casualties.

Translated from NOS radio in the Netherlands:

Bulgaria ill-treats refugees’

Tuesday 29 Apr 2014, 09:14 (Update: 29-04-14, 09:54)

Bulgaria ill-treats refugees who have entered the country. This writes Human Rights Watch in a report (pdf) on the reception of refugees in the country. Conditions in detention centers in Bulgaria are often deplorable, says the human rights organization.

Eg, refugees are bitten by aggressive dogs and children are imprisoned between adults.

“Bulgaria now closes its borders to refugees, which according to international agreements is not allowed,” said director Anna Carpenter of Human Rights Watch in the Netherlands to NOS Radio 1 News.

Beaten

Refugees come mainly from the Turkish border into the country. Most refugees come from Syria and Afghanistan. According to Human Rights Watch, they are, after entering Bulgaria, beaten up by the police, put in cars and driven back to the Turkish border.

How the UK is helping to feed the flames of war in Syria. Covert US and British support for Syrian rebels has continued, despite overwhelming public opposition: here.

FRENCH police used bulldozers to chase over 650 Syrian, Afghan and African migrants from their camps in port city Calais today — destroying homes as they went: here.

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British military helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills five soldiers


This video says about itself:

A Simple Question: Britain’s suicide war with Afghanistan

9 January 2014

The number of British troops and veterans who committed suicide in 2012 has surpassed the number that died fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan over the same period.

It has been reported that 21 serving troopers killed themselves last year, along with 29 veterans. This was while the British military’s death toll in Afghanistan reached 44, of whom 40 died in action.

This news item has shaken the British public and is embarrassing the politicians and commentators who still continue to defend the baseless and brutal invasion of 2001 and the war that ensued.

If soldiers, the ones who elected a war-career, who have hardened their hearts and strengthened their minds, are killing themselves, then what do ordinary citizens feel about the war in Afghanistan?

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Five troops killed as UK helicopter crashes in southern Afghanistan

MoD investigating circumstances of the crash but cannot confirm nationality of troops who were killed

Saturday 26 April 2014 15.51 BST

Five military personnel were killed when the UK helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Saturday.

The MoD said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash but could not confirm the nationality of the troops who were killed, but they are believed to be British.

An MoD spokesman said: “We can confirm that a UK helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan today.

“The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further until families have been notified.”

The crash, which makes Saturday the bloodiest day for foreign troops in Afghanistan in 2014, is not believed to have involved any enemy action.

It brings the total number of international troops killed in the war-torn country this month to seven.

Recently, there have been a number of so-called “insider attacks” incidents in which Afghan security forces fire on their comrades or foreign trainers or civilians.

See also here.

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Sexual assault case against United States Army general


This video from the USA says about itself:

USA Army General Sodomizes USA Soldier

22 Dec 2012

‘My husband has been home just five years out of the last 11′: Wife of general accused of multiple sexual misconduct charges blames war for adultery in the military

The wife of a U.S. Army general facing adultery and sex charges said military marriages have suffered from the extended U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and described infidelity as an emotional war wound that gets overlooked.

Rebecca Sinclair said she was hurt to learn of her husband Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair’s affair with a subordinate, which led to charges against him for more than two dozen military law violations.

But as the conduct of other U.S. generals is called into question – including that of retired Army General David Petraeus, who on November 9 quit his CIA director’s post over an affair – Rebecca Sinclair said she felt compelled to speak out.

Her husband has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere five times since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, spending a total of six of the past 11 years away from his wife and two children — the eldest, a sixth-grader, has attended six schools so far, Rebecca Sinclair said.

Many military wives know their husbands are unfaithful but stay silent to preserve their families or their financial security, especially because their spouses’ own careers can be hampered by frequent moves, said Rebecca Sinclair, who has taught business at various community colleges during her 27-year marriage.

Her husband’s affair and the fallout ‘is very painful for me, very hurtful, but I just really feel that this is something I need to talk about,’ she said. ‘Because it’s not an isolated case.’

The wife of an Army general facing sexual misconduct charges in North Carolina has written an opinion piece in support of her husband, claiming that the stresses of a decade of war contributed to recent high-profile military scandals.

Rebecca Sinclair’s husband, Fort Bragg-based Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, faces a long list of charges including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, violating orders, engaging in inappropriate relationships and adultery.

Sinclair is accused of forcing women to have sex with him during combat tours and threatening at least one victim’s life, as well as her career and the lives of her relatives if she told anyone about his actions.

Prosecutors allege that the married general committed sex crimes against five women including four military subordinates and [a] civilian between 2007 and 2012 in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany.

The 27-year Army veteran was deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan before being abruptly relieved in May.

Rebecca Sinclair’s piece was published just days after retired Gen. David Petraeus admitted having an affair with his biographer and resigned as director of the CIA. Rebecca Sinclair has spoken out about what she sees as the toll of a decade of war on military couples, many of whom have found themselves in a repeated pattern of deployments, homecomings and moves. Her husband – Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of sodomy, forcing women to send him naked photos and threatening violence against a subordinate. Prosecutors say Sinclair threatened one victim’s life, as well as her career and the lives of her relatives if she exposed him.

By Gabriel Black in the USA:

Sexual assault case against US Army general begins

8 March 2014

Opening arguments began in a court martial case Friday in which a US Army general is accused of sexually assaulting a female US Army captain. The case comes as a procedural vote in the US Senate killed a bill, deeply opposed by the Pentagon, which would have removed the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military commanders of the accused and put them in the hands of independent military prosecutors.

The Army prosecution has charged General Jeffrey Sinclair with sexual assault in addition to five other crimes. Sinclair is the highest-ranking military officer in the United States ever to be court-martialed on sexual assault charges.

According to AP News, prosecutors argued that Sinclair “used his authority to intimidate and coerce a female officer nearly 20 years his junior into sex.” Sinclair and the alleged victim, who, per AP News rules, remains unknown, had an affair for three years while she served under his command in Afghanistan.

The US Army Captain took the stand and described being forced to perform oral sex on the General after heated arguments they had in his office, and, another time, her own. “He grabbed me by the back of the neck and pushed me down. I tried to pull back, and he put his other hand on my shoulder… It felt disgusting. It felt like I had no control over my body.”

The captain broke into tears as she told the court that, after a discussion with the General about his wife and how the captain would like to meet her, “he told me that if I ever told her or anyone else about he and I, he would kill me and then he would kill my family.” She added, “and he would do it in a way no one would ever know.”

The general has pleaded not guilty to the charge of sexual assault. …

While denying having sexually assaulted the Captain, a charge that could lead to life-imprisonment, the General has pled guilty to “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,” “inappropriate relationships,” adultery, impeding an investigation, and possession of pornography.

He admits asking two women, one civilian one not, for nude photos of themselves, having sexual relations with three women and attempting to have one with another. These are military crimes that could put him in prison for 15 years.

The Associated Press reports that the General’s “lawyers are hoping the plea will limit some of the salacious evidence and reduce the case to his word against hers.”

Whatever the outcome of the case the incidence of sexual assaults in the military are endemic. In the 2012 fiscal year, 2,434 cases were reported, in 2013, 3,553 were. It is estimated that only one in ten cases are reported due to fear of demotion, intimidation and violence. The last 12 years of unending wars, military occupations and colonial-style subjugation has encouraged the most brutal and backward sentiments in the military as witnessed by the sadistic sexual abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In late February, in response to reports of sexual assault and alcohol abuse, the Army removed 588 soldiers from “positions of trust,” including posts as recruiters and sexual assault response coordinators.

In 2010, the Department of Defense estimated that 19,300 sexual assaults occurred, with more than half of the estimated victims being men. While combat trauma is the leading cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in male veterans, rape and sexual violence is the leading cause among female veterans.

In an expression of its general disdain for the constitutional principle of civilian control over the military the Pentagon brass—and its supporters in the US Senate–have steadfastly opposed any measures concerning sexual abuse that would interfere with the military’s “chain of command.” On Thursday, a bill by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, that would put the prosecution of such cases in the jurisdiction of independent military prosecutors failed by five votes.

Both the Pentagon and the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee opposed the measure. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has the closest ties to the military, warned any fellow Republicans considering a run for the 2016 presidential race that a vote for the Gillibrand proposal would wreck their chances.

“People wanting to run for president on our side, I will remind you of this vote. You want to be commander in chief? You told me a lot today about who you are as commander in chief,” Graham said. “You were willing to fire every commander in the military for reasons I don’t quite understand. So we will have a good conversation as to whether or not you understand how the military actually works.”

Opposition to the bill ran across party lines. Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin—Democrat of Michigan—claimed there would be more sexual abuse if “we undermine the authority of the very commanders who must be at the heart of the solution. Powerful evidence should lead us to the conclusion that we should not remove the authority of commanders to prosecute these cases.”

The vote coincided with a damning exposure of the military’s in-house treatment of abuse with revelations that a Lieutenant Colonel, responsible for training military prosecutors working on sexual abuse cases in the Army, is, himself, being investigated for sexually assaulting a female Army lawyer.

On Thursday an anonymous officer told the Stars and Stripes that it was investigating allegations that Lt. Col. Joseph Morse attempted to kiss and grope a female Army lawyer against her will at a training conference. Lt. Col. Morse’s job is to train lawyers in the military who handle sexual and physical abuse cases.

Military judge won’t dismiss sexual assault charges against Army general: here.

UK military allowed to investigate sexual assaults without involving police: here.

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NATO kills its Afghan allies


This video is called NATO Airstrike Kills 5 Afghan Soldiers.

From Khaama Press news agency in Afghanistan:

NATO air strike kills or injures 13 Afghan soldiers in Logar province

By Ghanizada – Thu Mar 06 2014, 10:16 am

At least 13 Afghan national army soldiers were killed or injured following an air strike by coalition security forces in eastern Logar province of Afghanistan.

The ministry of defense of Afghanistan confirmed the report and said the incident took place in Charkh district early Thursday morning.

Gen. Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the defense ministry of Afghanistan said Thursday that the airstrike left 5 Afghan army soliders dead and 8 others injured.

Gen. Azimi further added that the incident took place around 3:30 am local time in Charkh district.

He said an investigation has been launched in this regard and further details will be disclosed soon.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, ”We can confirm that at least five Afghan National Army personnel were accidentally killed this morning during an operation in eastern Afghanistan.”

The Western media agrees that the Afghan assault was ‘UN sanctioned’ — but is that really the case, asks IAN SINCLAIR: here.

The bitter legacy of Western intervention in Afghanistan: here.

The mess NATO made in Afghanistan. After a war longer than either of the two world wars, the outlook in Afghanistan remains bleak: here.

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NSA spying on WikiLeaks


This video from the USA is called Julian Assange on Being Placed on NSA Manhunting List & Secret Targeting of WikiLeaks Supporters 1/2.

And this video is the sequel.

By Thomas Gaist:

Leaked documents detail NSA surveillance operations against WikiLeaks

19 February 2014

Documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the US National Security Agency and British GCHQ have carried out political surveillance operations targeting WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and readers of the whistle-blowing web site. In addition to the US and Britain, the operations also involved the other members “of the “Five Eyes” allied countries (New Zealand, Australia and Canada).

The documents were posted by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher on the Intercept in an extensive expose titled “Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters.” Among other things, they show that the agency has collected IP addresses of computers visiting the WikiLeaks site, considered classifying WikiLeaks as “a malicious foreign actor,” and placed Assange on an NSA “manhunting” list that included alleged Al Qaeda terrorists.

The leaked documents have further exposed as lies the claims of the Obama administration that the NSA police-state apparatus is directed against “terrorists.” In reality, the NSA is using its illegal and secret access to the internet backbone to monitor the internet activity of its political adversaries and anyone considered a threat to the interests of the American ruling class.

The government of the UK has played a major role in the targeting of the web site. The leaked documents contained information about a GCHQ program called ANTICRISIS GIRL. The program is revealed in a Power Point slide prepared by the British spy agency for the 2012 SIGDEV Conference, an annual symposium held by the surveillance bureaucracies of the major powers. Under ANTICRISIS GIRL, GCHQ has been collecting IP addresses of individual computers that visit the WikiLeaks site, allowing them to identify and surveil individuals who access WikiLeaks.

As the Intercept wrote, “GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.”

“Illustrating how far afield the NSA deviates from its self-proclaimed focus on terrorism and national security,” the Intercept wrote, “the documents reveal that the agency considered using its sweeping surveillance system against Pirate Bay, which has been accused of facilitating copyright violations. The agency also approved surveillance of the foreign ‘branches’ of hacktivist groups, mentioning Anonymous by name.”

It must be assumed that by tapping into Internet cables operated by powerful telecommunications companies, the US government and its allies are able to monitor virtually all Internet activity.

Claims that surveillance does not target Americans have also been further discredited by the leak. One entry from the leaked NSA documents states that it is “Okay to go after foreign servers which US people use also” saying that surveillance operators should “try to minimize” the number of American users swept up in their electronic dragnet. When data from a US user is improperly captured, the documents state, this is “nothing to worry about.”

The US government has carried out a coordinated campaign against WikiLeaks in particular, beginning with the release of the Afghanistan War Logs in July of 2010.

An NSA file titled “Manhunting Timeline” from 2010 described the maneuvers of the US as it sought to coordinate an “international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange, and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” In August 2010, the US government pressed 10 other countries to level criminal charges against Assange, describing him as “founder of the rogue WikiLeaks internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.”

For publishing documents that exposed the war crimes of the US ruling class, Assange is now listed in this gruesomely named file, which is filled with high priority enemies of the state. The “Manhunting Timeline,” according to the Intercept, “details, on a country-by-country basis, efforts by the US government and its allies to locate, prosecute, capture or kill alleged terrorists, drug traffickers, Palestinian leaders and others.”

Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish jurist who represents WikiLeaks, said, “These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive. The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”

The leaks show that the NSA has proposed listing of Assange as a “malicious foreign agent,” a move which the Intercept said “would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance—without the need to exclude US persons from surveillance searches.”

Assange is currently trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He faces the danger of being extradited to Sweden on trumped-up sex charges. An NBC report earlier this month documented the use of sex scandals and other dirty tricks to undermine targets.

ANTICRISIS GIRL is one component of Britain’s surveillance efforts. The Global Telecoms Exploitation (GTE), which plays a role in ANTICRISIS, is also involved in the expansive data mining program TEMPORA. TEMPORA collects data from the backbone of the internet, enabling the surveillance agencies to access vast amounts of private information.

As the Intercept wrote about GTE and its role within GCHQ, “Operating in the United Kingdom and from secret British eavesdropping bases in Cyprus and other countries, GCHQ conducts what it refers to as ‘passive’ surveillance—indiscriminately intercepting massive amounts of data from Internet cables, phone networks and satellites. The GTE unit focuses on developing ‘pioneering collection capabilities’ to exploit the stream of data gathered from the Internet.”

In response to the leaks, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange posted a statement online, saying that the intelligence agencies were operating above the law.

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said. “The NSA and its UK accomplices show no respect for the rule of law.”

Gus Hosein, head of the human rights organization Privacy International, similarly cited the documents as evidence of the collapse of the rule of law. “We may be tempted to see GCHQ as a rogue agency, ungoverned in its use of unprecedented powers generated by new technologies. But GCHQ’s actions are authorized by [government] ministers. The fact that ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systemic failure in the rule of law.”

Students elect Edward Snowden to be rector at historic university: here.

USA: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters: here.

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