U.S. death toll in Afghanistan 1,000

This video from the USA is called Rethink Afghanistan: Eikenberry Memos.

From Reuters today:

U.S. death toll in Afghanistan hits 1,000: website

KABUL, Afghanistan – The number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan has reached 1,000, an independent website said on Tuesday, a grim reminder that eight years of fighting has failed to defeat Taliban insurgents.

Icasualties.org said 54 U.S. troops were killed this year in Afghanistan, raising the casualties to 1,000, compared to eight in Iraq, where the total has reached 4,378. The rise to 1,000 dead coincides with one of the biggest offensives against the Taliban, a NATO-led assault in the Marjah district of Helmand, Afghanistan‘s most violent province. …

Violence is at its highest level since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. Last year was the deadliest of the war for civilians and foreign troops.

A US air strike killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan’s central Uruzgan Province Sunday, while to the south a US ground offensive in the Helmand Province town of Marjah ground through its second week, producing growing casualties and the threat of a humanitarian disaster: here.

The Afghan human rights commission has reported that the massive Nato assault on the town of Marjah has killed at least 28 civilians so far, including 13 children: here.

The human cost of Nato’s massive assault on the Afghan town of Marjah began to emerge on Thursday as Red Cross officials reported that at least 40,000 people trapped by the fighting have little or no access to medical care: here.

Kabul Bank’s executives helped finance President Hamid Karzai’s fraud-blighted reelection campaign last year, and the bank is partly owned by Mahmoud Karzai, president’s older brother, and by Haseen Fahim, the brother of Karzai’s vice presidential running mate: here.

Key senators rip Blackwater actions in Afghanistan: here.

Ministry of Defence figures reveal that there were more than 2,000 incidents of British soldiers going absent without leave (Awol) last year alone: here.

Amid growing fears in Washington that European powers may withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a speech blasting Europe for insufficient militarization and warning of a deepening crisis in the NATO alliance: here.

Are Afghan lives worth just $2,500? Here.

The New York Times has published two telegrams from the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W Eikenberry (a retired Lieutenant General), in which he has offered his assessment of the US strategy in Afghanistan, in November 2009, conveying his reservations about the counter insurgency strategy that relied on an additional deployment of 40,000 troops: here.

7 thoughts on “U.S. death toll in Afghanistan 1,000

  1. Georgia plans for arms supply route

    US: A senior diplomat said on Monday that Washington was carefully considering an offer from Georgia to use its territory as part of a complicated arms supply route for allied forces in Afghanistan.

    Georgia had suggested that weapons could be shipped from Romania across the Black Sea, offloaded in Georgia, sent by land through Azerbaijan to the Caspian Sea, then to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – but it was unclear whether any other countries approved.

    US acceptance of the plan would almost certainly antagonise Russia.



  2. 28 civilian deaths so far in battle for MarjahReport comes as Marines push out last of insurgents after 12-day battle

    By Heidi Vogt
    The Associated Press

    KABUL — The Afghan human rights commission reported Wednesday that 28 civilians have been killed so far in NATO’s offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, and urged pro-government forces to take greater care in distinguishing between civilians and militants.

    The report came as Marines started a push to clear the last pockets of insurgents from Marjah in Helmand province. The 12th day of the offensive was relatively calm as the troops secured areas they’ve already taken and moved into position to tackle these final holdouts.

    The Marjah assault is the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001. Planners see it as key to taking on the insurgents in their southern heartland and turning around the war. NATO has stressed the importance of protecting civilians as part of their counterinsurgency campaign, boosted by extra U.S. forces sent by the Obama administration.

    But military officials say that despite the care taken, the offensive has still been marred by civilian deaths, including a rocket attack last week that hit a house and killed 12 people.

    The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said in a statement Wednesday that it had confirmed 28 civilians deaths in the Marjah fighting, based on witness reports. Thirteen children were among the dead. About 70 civilians have been wounded, 30 of them children, the commission said.

    NATO has confirmed at least 16 civilian deaths, while outside observers have reported 19.

    The commission said witnesses had told them that most of the casualties came from coalition gunfire and rockets. Taliban fighters have been seen using women and children as human shields in the fighting – stationing them in windows or on roofs of houses from which they fire, according to military commanders and Associated Press reporters on the ground.

    “We do appreciate the fact that less airpower was used,” commission spokesman Nader Nadery said. “Still, as the operation continues and the number rises, we get more and more concerned.”

    The commission asked for allied troops to exert greater care in distinguishing civilians from militants. Specifically, NATO forces should “make sure that more of an assessment is carried out, and to as much as possible, avoid using rockets,” Nadery said. The commission’s head is appointed by the president but it operates independently.

    The report also comes after a NATO airstrike Sunday in central Uruzgan province killed at least 21 civilians, according to Afghan officials. NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has apologized to the Afghan people on national television.

    The military alliance reported Wednesday that fighting was tapering off in Marjah but bombs and gunmen continued to pose a threat.

    Nevertheless, some residents have started to return, and NATO said a market in the north of Nad Ali district – of which Marjah is part – has opened for the first time in 18 months.

    In the north of Marjah, more than 100 Marines and their Afghan counterparts pushed into a neighborhood they say is the last significant pocket of insurgents in the town.

    About 100 fighters are believed to have regrouped in the 28-square-mile (45-square-kilometer) area known as Kareze, according to commanders with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.

    “The reports are that it’s where a lot of the bad guys went,” said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, head of Lima Company.

    In the past week, Marines have come under heavy fire each time they skirted the zone, and several well-trained snipers have been spotted in the densely protected area.

    But troops did not meet the stiff resistance they expected – not hearing a single shot as they moved into the area. Some Afghans who were fleeing the neighborhood told them that Taliban militants had told them to get out because they were planning a large attack. But others who stayed in their homes said they hadn’t seen a militant in days.

    “The last group to come by was three days ago,” elderly Shaiesta Khan said. “I don’t know how many they were because they ordered me back into my house.” The old man said he stayed behind to protect his home while his sons took the rest of the family to safety.

    A Marine spokesman said Wednesday was the first day there were no gunbattles inside Marjah, though the previous two days had also been relatively calm.

    “It’s promising,” Capt. Abe Sipe said. But he added that fighting will likely spike as the troops move into final pockets of fighters.

    “There’s still a fair bit of clearing,” Sipe said. “We by no means think that this over.”

    Military officials have said the assault in Marjah is just the first push in a campaign that will move east into Kandahar province – the Taliban’s birthplace and where the hardline Islamist group still controls large swaths of territory.

    The United Nations on Wednesday called on all sides to do their utmost to protect children from the conflict.

    The U.N. says that while many more civilians are killed by militant bombs or attacks, new figures indicate that 131 children died in international airstrikes in 2009 – slightly more than the 128 killed by militants, including those used as suicide bombers.

    Another 22 children were killed in night raids by coalition forces, while 38 children were killed by undetermined perpetrators, the U.N. said.

    “If there is going to be war, then we would like the military on all sides to take measures to protect children,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, told reporters in Kabul.


  3. Afghan Wounded Tell of More Left Behind in Marjah


    Published: February 24, 2010

    Filed at 2:26 p.m. ET

    LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (AP) — Taxis turned into ambulances ferry wounded civilians out of the combat zone in southern Afghanistan, but one man’s long trip to a hospital began with a two-hour wheelbarrow ride.

    Mohammad’s legs were peppered with shrapnel when a bomb exploded nearby. His brother found him unconscious and lifted him into the only thing he could find, pushing him in the wheelbarrow before he flagged a taxi.

    Mohammad, who is from the Nad Ali district around Marjah, is one of 40 civilians treated at Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah since the Afghan-NATO offensive in Marjah began on Feb. 13. Both of his legs were in casts. Steel pins protruded from his right leg.

    Most of the wounded civilians recuperating at the whitewashed Italian-run hospital said their injuries were caused by ”the foreign soldiers” — a claim that does not bode well for international and Afghan forces who are trying to get residents to renounce the Taliban and embrace the Afghan government.

    Bernard Metraux, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Helmand province, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that as many as 40,000 people trapped by fighting in and around Marjah have little to no access to medical care.

    The taxi-ambulance transport strategy took several rounds of painstaking negotiations with all sides in the conflict including Taliban fighters, who at times helped navigate the wounded through minefields to get them to medical care, he said. The taxis managed to transport about 30 wounded to Lashkar Gah, 20 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of Marjah.

    ”All the taxi drivers can access some areas, but we could only evacuate a very small number,” Metraux said in the dusty provincial capital.

    He added that about 400 families from the area fled to Lashkar Gah before the fighting began, while another 300 families went to neighboring Nimroz province. If they return, they’ll face explosives that militants have hidden in compounds and doorways.

    Metraux said an accurate toll of civilians killed or wounded in military assault will not be known until health officials can move freely in the area.

    Pinning down a toll will be difficult in an area where the line between civilian and Taliban is a murky one. For many of those interviewed by The AP, the Taliban who are fighting coalition forces are villagers, underscoring the dilemma international forces face trying to rout the Afghan government’s armed opposition.

    ”There is no difference between Taliban and the civilian people. The Taliban are the rural people. They are our people,” said Musa Jan, who arrived a week ago from Marjah. He spoke to the AP outside a makeshift warehouse in Lashkar Gah where the government was distributing essentials to war victims.

    Jan and 25 members of his family escaped the fighting by piling into a three-taxi convoy.

    ”The fight was continuing when we were trying to get out,” said Jan, who said he paid about $35 for each of the three taxis. ”That was all our money, and now we have to come here and beg.”

    Jan said his neighbors house was bombed by an aircraft, killing five occupants inside, including children.

    On the hospital lawn, three wounded civilians took turns explaining how their injuries were caused by either aircraft bombardments or shooting from ”foreign soldiers.” They didn’t know the nationalities of the soldiers, and it was not clear how they identified them as foreign.

    Sayed Lal said he was going to his home when he was hit. ”They shot me. They came at night. They were foreigners,” he said. ”I was outside in the field with a friend.”

    Lal’s legs were covered with a thin white shawl. He fidgeted with his black beard as he told of three other villagers he claimed had been injured.

    Twenty-two-year-old Assadullah, sporting a closely cropped beard, said he was on his motorcycle when ”Americans fired at me.”

    ”I don’t know why they shot at me,” said Assadullah whose arm was shattered by bullets. ”I didn’t even know they were there.”

    Abdul Hamid, 12, said a raid conducted by a party of ”foreign soldiers” opened fire outside his house.

    ”I was in front of my house, and they were running and shooting,” the boy said. ”I tried to get back into my house, but they shot me in the leg, and there were more bullets, and they shot me again in my belly. Near me some other people fell into a canal. Then they called a plane and they bombarded.”

    Hamid said that afterward, the troops said one person outside the house was a Taliban fighter. ”He wasn’t,” the boy said. ”He was a civilian.”

    Sultan Mohammed who fled last Friday from Marjah said he had to walk for several hours before a motorcyclist gave him a lift. He said the Taliban fled when the soldiers came to his area.

    ”But who are the Taliban? They are the rural people,” he said.

    Mohammed said residents had not had problems from the Taliban — that they brought security to the area.

    ”We were not unhappy with the Taliban,” he said. ”The government didn’t do anything for us. Before the government didn’t help us.”


  4. Blackwater agents accused of taking 500 assault rifles meant for Afghan police

    2010-02-25 13:50:00

    Agents of America’s private security firm, Blackwater, took more than 500 assault rifles that were intended for the Afghan police force and routinely carried weapons without permission, a hearing has been told.

    During a hearing of the Senate armed services committee, it also emerged that to shed its disrepute and win contracting business in Afghanistan, Blackwater created a shell company called ‘Paravant.’

    “They made representations here that are wildly false. Everyone knew in the field it was Blackwater trying to get rid of a negative name,” The Guardian quoted Senator Carl Levin, as saying.

    However, Steven Ograyensek, a US army contracting officer who testified, said: “There is no indication that they were part of Blackwater.”

    Blackwater has come under intense scrutiny in recent years for its employees’ involvement in a 2007 Baghdad shooting in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, and other allegations.

    The company has since sought to rebrand itself as Xe. And in order to win the training contract in Afghanistan, created a firm called Paravant.

    Paravant represented itself as a separate company, even as the training personnel were aware they had been hired by Blackwater, according to witnesses and senators.

    Former Paravant official Brian McCracken acknowledged the company’s trainers were carrying weapons without authorisation. (ANI)


  5. Congress told that drunk private guards shot civilians

    * From: Times Online
    * February 26, 2010 12:00AM

    PRIVATE American security guards working for the US military in Afghanistan removed hundreds of handguns and automatic weapons from stores intended for the exclusive use of the Afghan police and used them on drunken rampages that killed two Afghan civilians and injured at least two more.

    The guards included a former US marine with a criminal record of assault and a former soldier discharged from the US army after testing positive for cocaine, congress heard yesterday.

    Justin Cannon, Christopher Drotleff and a guard using the name “Eric Cartman” from the cartoon South Park were employees of a subsidiary of the Blackwater Worldwide group, implicated in a litany of extrajudicial shootings since 2003 in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Cannon and Drotleff have been charged with killing two Afghans and injuring a third last May when they opened fire on a car carrying four civilians in Kabul, while under the influence of alcohol. The men, hired to train Afghan soldiers, had no permission to carry guns.

    Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.

    End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

    A congressional investigation in response to the shooting has revealed an email from a former vice-president of Paravant, the Blackwater subsidiary, saying: “We have not received formal permission from the army to carry weapons yet, but I will take my chances.”

    The investigation found that more than 500 AK47 rifles had been removed from the bunker by Blackwater staff without permission. Blackwater has been renamed Xe Services since its staff killed 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.


  6. Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Winning over Marjah residents won’t be easy


    MARJAH, Afghanistan — One by one, residents of Marjah stood up before Afghan officials Monday to voice complaints — their houses damaged, relatives killed during this month’s massive military offensive in southern Afghanistan.

    The frank litany of problems — aired at a meeting called to affirm central government support — highlights the challenge in store for NATO and Afghan authorities as they seek to transform the former Taliban stronghold into a model for counterinsurgency.

    Their visit occurred on a day when six NATO service members were killed in separate attacks around the country, showing that hard fighting lies ahead even if pacifying Marjah is successful. At least 10 Afghan civilians also died in a string of bombings in the south, officials said.

    An Afghan government delegation from Kabul, headed by Vice-President Karim Khalili, made its initial foray to the town to meet with some 300 tribal elders and residents at the largest shura, or council meeting, since coalition troops seized control of Marjah last month.

    NATO military commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and civilian chief Mark Sedwill came along in a sign that international forces intend to support the Afghan government’s efforts in the troubled south.

    “The most important thing is to bring peace and stability to the people in Afghanistan,” Khalili told the residents. “This is a promise. … It’s our priority to talk to each other. But others want to prevent this. We will not allow them to keep people hostage again. This is a beginning in Marjah. We will be with you. We will stay and fight. We will bring you good governance.”

    But the townspeople appeared skeptical — and some were angry.

    An elderly man, wearing a grey turban, stood up to say that his family members had been killed during the military operation, although he didn’t say by whom.

    After offering his condolences, Khalili reached out to embrace him and promised some money and assistance to his family.

    Another elderly man, dressed in a white turban and blue tunic, complained that his house was destroyed during the offensive.

    “You promised not to use big weapons. Why was my house destroyed?” he asked.

    He invited the delegation to visit his home nearby.

    The allied forces have cleared most of Marjah and are now working to secure the area, though NATO has warned there could be pockets of violence for weeks. Hundreds of Afghan police and civil servants are being brought in with the goal of establishing public services to win the support of the population.

    NATO officials say establishing good local governance is key, because corruption and lack of services have led many Afghans to turn to the Taliban.

    “We need to move fast enough to try to meet expectations. But carefully enough that we’re not party to being blind to some of the nuances,” McChrystal told reporters. “The key thing is to get the locals represented and shape it the way they want because they’ll know best. In the near term, they have to feel represented. They have to feel it’s fair.”

    He estimated there may be 200 to 300 men in the area who had been Taliban fighters before the offensive. Whether they remain loyal to the insurgency will depend on whether the Afghan authorities, backed by NATO, can provide security and governance that people believe in, he said.

    “Some could become sleeper cells, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Some may just put the gun away and see what’s going to happen. I’m hopeful what we can do is offer an opportunity, and the vast majority of those will decide not to. But if the governance and security are not sufficient, then you run a higher risk of some of those guys re-emerging,” he said.

    The 2-week-old Marjah offensive, involving thousands of American troops along with Afghan soldiers, is the largest combined assault since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban’s hard-line Islamist regime.

    It is the first test of NATO’s new counterinsurgency strategy since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan late last year.

    The six NATO service members who died Monday included one who was killed when a suicide car bomber struck a convoy on a bridge between Kandahar city and the local airport, a major alliance base in the south.

    Four Afghan civilians died in the bridge attack, the Interior Ministry said.

    Two NATO troops died in a mortar or rocket attack in western Afghanistan, a military statement said.

    It said another trooper was killed by small arms fire in the south. In a separate announcement, Britain’s military said one of its soldiers was killed by small arms fire when his foot patrol was attacked in southern Afghanistan. It was unclear if this was the same incident.

    Another service member was killed by a roadside bomb in the south and another by rocket or mortar fire in the east, the NATO statement said.


  7. Pingback: Murders in Germany, wars in the Middle East | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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