NATO kills Afghan civilians

This video is called Afghanistan Raid Survivors Want Vengeance.

From Reuters:

NATO’s Afghan night raids come with high civilian cost

Emma Graham-Harrison, Reuters

SURKH ROD, Afghanistan – A few minutes and a few bullets were enough to turn Abdullah from an 11th grade student with dreams of becoming a translator to the despairing head of a family of more than a dozen.

His father and oldest brother were shot dead last August at the start of a midnight assault by NATO-led troops on their house in Afghanistan‘s east. Abdullah himself was hooded, handcuffed and flown to prison, where he was detained for questioning and then released.

They were casualties of a night raid, a controversial tactic that has been stepped up dramatically since General David Petraeus took over running the Afghan war last year, despite strong opposition led by President Hamid Karzai.

There were nearly 20 each night over the past three months, according to a senior NATO official who requested anonymity.

Petraeus says the pressure on suspected insurgents and their networks has brought a new dynamic to a near-decade-old war. Critics argue it is fuelling violence because poor intelligence means dozens of innocent people are killed or detained.

Although more than 80 percent of recent raids ended without a shot being fired, violence escalates fast when it does break out, with 600 people killed on operations in the three-month period.

Eastern Jalalabad city, which shares the Taliban’s Pashto language and culture but has traditionally been a government stronghold, is one area where raids appear to have been rising fast, although NATO declined to comment on the location of raids.

“There didn’t used to be any night search operations. It is a peaceful district, so there was no need,” said Haji Abdulwahed Ahmadzai, a member of the local shura, or council, for Surkh Rod district where Abdullah lives.

Nestled on the outskirts of the city, where streets give way to fields, it seems more a bucolic backwater than an insurgent hideout. Ahmadzai says Abdullah’s family was innocent, as do villagers who blocked the highway to Kabul to protest against the raid.

The family has been devastated economically as well as emotionally.

“I would have liked to be a translator, my father was helping me,” said Abdullah, who was top of his class for years but now works grueling days at a brick kiln.

“Night raids are probably the single biggest cause of outrage among Afghans,” said Erica Gaston, a human rights lawyer and Afghanistan expert at the Open Society Institute.

“They are usually so inflammatory that, if even one raid causes a civilian casualty, everyone in the area knows about it.”


The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) disputes Abdullah’s account of the night his relatives died.

He says the family was asleep when troops arrived on the roof, broke down the front door and killed his father. His brother grabbed a gun but was shot before he could open fire.

“Several” people in the small compound identified the dead men as Taliban, ISAF added in a statement. Abdullah said he, his brother and father were the only adult men there.

ISAF declined to say who confirmed the dead men were Taliban.

Afghans are often skeptical about how information is gathered and targets are chosen. Many who have been targeted by raids, or seen friends hit, suspect that they are being sold out by paid informers under pressure to keep a flow of information coming.

ISAF declined to say if the military buys intelligence, but it did say that a single tip-off would not spark a raid and that they are very confident they “invariably get the guy they are after.”

Yet their own data suggests some margin of error. Around 8 percent of the 472 civilians killed or wounded by foreign troops last year were caught up in night raids gone wrong, they said.

They may also be earning the enmity of wider communities by swooping on people who have some links with insurgents, but are not seen by neighbors as active participants.

This type of informal contact is common in an area where religion is an important part of life yet closely tied to militant groups. Villagers are often poor, isolated and vulnerable to pressure from armed groups, and there are strong cultural obligations of hospitality to visitors, experts say.

A local mullah who U.S. forces believe is a Taliban leader visited Abdullah’s family the day of the attack, said neighbor and former member of parliament Safia Sediq.

But he is also a senior religious figure, and the visit was to say prayers for a recently deceased aunt, she added.

“This guy, as is often the case, is a respected religious leader who has legitimate contacts with people in the area, as well as perhaps a figure in the insurgency,” said Fabrizio Foschini, from the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network, who has studied night raids in the Jalalabad area.

“He could be visiting for a religious ceremony, because he is an acquaintance or because he wants to see if they are willing or able to cooperate. And often people are strong-armed into storing weapons, giving Taliban shelter — are they then a collaborator?”


Petraeus’s predecessor in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal, was moving to scale back the raids until he was replaced last June, and that process was rapidly reversed by a commander who found night raids a successful tactic in Iraq.

His troops say they are hammering an insurgency with more territory and influence than at any time since 2001. …

Forces must knock before entering a home and treat Korans with respect.

But rules appear to be ignored as often as they are followed, testimony from raid survivors shows.

There is also no standard mechanism for Afghans to report civilian casualties, much less seek compensation, reducing both the hope of redress and any sense that justice is being done.

Rules often require even illiterate villagers to decipher which unit came to their home and then go to their main base — sometimes hundreds of kilometers away down unsafe roads.

“It is difficult for ordinary, poor people from the countryside to even register complaints, to get through all the barriers and security restrictions to the government buildings,” said Ahmadzai. “They ask, request, but no response.”

(Editing by Paul Tait and John Chalmers)

Another ‘runaway general’? Report says military used psyops against US Senators [about the Afghan war]: here.

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has ordered an investigation into charges that a US Army unit was illegally ordered to carry out “psychological operations” directed at visiting members of the US Congress, aimed at securing their support for increased funding and troops for the war: here.

The Pentagon is withdrawing its forces from the northeastern Pech Valley in Afghanistan that it had previously insisted was strategically vital to the US war, now in its tenth year: here.

2 thoughts on “NATO kills Afghan civilians

  1. UN questions surge strategy

    by Tom Mellen

    Afghanistan’s security is “at its lowest point” since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, a senior United Nations official warned on Wednesday.

    The UN secretary-general’s outgoing deputy special representative for occupied Afghanistan Robert Watkins took issue with Nato’s claim that the 150,000 US-led troops in the country have “turned a corner” in their battle against resistance forces.

    “Since the surge of Nato forces last year we have seen the insurgency move to parts of the country we’ve never seen before,” Mr Watkins said.

    “While Nato is claiming that it has turned the corner we still see very difficult security problems,” he added, pointing to “unprecedented attacks against humanitarian workers.”

    UN relief agencies now have regular access to just 30 per cent of the underdeveloped country.

    Access is mixed for another 30 per cent while access to the remaining 40 per cent is virtually non-existent.

    Mr Watkins tacitly condemned Nato’s “hearts and minds” campaign, saying that it served to conflate “political, military, developmental and humanitarian aid.

    “The way aid is dispersed in Afghanistan has contributed to perception in parts of the Afghan population that somehow humanitarian work is lumped into this political and military effort,” he said.

    Mr Watkins called on humanitarian organisations to intensify efforts to negotiate with local militant commanders to gain access to parts of the country that they control in order to deliver vaccination and other programmes.

    A senior Nato official also admitted that one-third of Afghan troops leave the army annually, blaming the high attrition rate in part on weak leadership in the Afghan army and police.

    It is not known how many newly trained Afghan troops defect to resistance forces.

    A Nato airstrike reportedly killed five civilians including two children in Kapisa province on Thursday morning.

    Mullah Mohammad Omari said that “three men were carrying hunting guns and the Nato helicopter mistook them for militants.”

    The hungry civilians had been climbing a mountain to hunt birds, Mr Omari reported, adding that the dead included a man, his 12-year-old son and 13-year-old nephew.


  2. Dear Friend,

    Lt. Gen. William Caldwell was just busted by Rolling Stone for using psychological operations (psy-ops) on U.S. senators and congresspeople visiting Afghanistan. His actions are unbelievable and illegal, and he must resign immediately. Sign our petition to have him removed from his post in Afghanistan.

    Caldwell is one of Petraeus’ most important subordinates in Afghanistan, charged with training the Afghan National Security Forces. But in this position of power, he’s abused his authority, using psychological warfare experts to seek “leverage” over U.S. officials, seeking “pressure points” to manipulate legislators into spending more money and lives on the failing Afghanistan War.

    His staff sought ways to use psychological operations to secretly influence lawmakers without their knowledge, and when confronted by a subordinate fed up with their illegal behavior, Caldwell’s spokesperson shouted, “It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!”

    Caldwell’s actions are disrespectful, dangerous and illegal. We need to alert our elected officials that tax dollars are being spent propagandizing them and let them know we support them when they take action to stop it. And, with Congress out of session for a district work week, it’s up to us to speak out while this outrage is still in the news. Please sign our petition today to demand his immediate resignation. If he will not give it, the president should fire him.

    If we get 10,000 or more signatures, we’ll deliver our petition to the White House and Congress next week. Please sign our petition today.


    Derrick Crowe, Robert Greenwald
    and the Brave New Foundation team


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