Pentagon defends killing pregnant Afghan women


This video from the USA says about itself:

Pentagon: Killing Pregnant Afghan Women Is ‘Appropriate’ Use Of Force

2 June 2016

An internal Defense Department investigation into one of the most notorious night raids conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan — in which seven civilians were killed, including two pregnant women — determined that all the U.S. soldiers involved had followed the rules of engagement.

Read more here.

In an open letter to the White House published June 3 by The National Interest magazine, 13 retired American generals and diplomats demanded the suspension of all further US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan: here.

The war we forgot to end: Why are we still in Afghanistan?. President Obama just announced he’s keeping 8,400 troops in Afghanistan – but it’s time for the U.S. to withdraw fully: here.

Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital bombing impunity update


Kunduz hospital after the bombing, AFP photo

From Doctors Without Borders/MSF:

Kunduz: Initial reaction to public release of U.S. military investigative report on the attack on MSF trauma hospital

29 April 2016

NEW YORK, APRIL 29, 2016 — The United States military today released its investigative report on the attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on 3 October 2015. The attack killed 42 people, including 14 MSF staff members, and wounded dozens more. …

MSF acknowledges the U.S. military’s efforts to conduct an investigation into the incident. Today, MSF and other medical care providers on the front lines of armed conflicts continually experience attacks on health facilities that go un-investigated by parties to the conflict. However, MSF has said consistently that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation into the Kunduz attack. MSF’s request for an independent and impartial investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission has so far gone unanswered.

“Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which U.S. forces failed to follow the basic laws of war,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF President. “It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the U.S., the attack was not called off.”

The hospital was fully functioning at the time of the airstrikes. The U.S. investigation acknowledges that there were no armed combatants within – and no fire from – the hospital compound.

“The threshold that must be crossed for this deadly incident to amount to a grave breach of international humanitarian law is not whether it was intentional or not,” said Nicolai. “With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today, whether in Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen, armed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital.”

The nature of the deadly bombing of the MSF Kunduz Trauma Centre, and the recurring attacks on medical facilities in Afghanistan, demand from all parties to the conflict a clear reaffirmation of the protected status of medical care in the country. MSF must obtain these necessary assurances in Afghanistan before making any decision on if it is safe to re-start medical activities in Kunduz.

“We can’t put our teams – including our colleagues who survived the traumatic attack – back to work in Kunduz without first having strong and unambiguous assurances from all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan that this will not happen again,” said Nicolai. “We need explicit agreement from all parties to the conflict, including the Afghan authorities and the U.S. military, that there will be no military interference or use of force against MSF medical facilities, personnel, patients and ambulances. Equally, we must be assured that MSF staff can safely provide medical care based solely on medical needs, without discrimination, and regardless of their religious, political or military affiliations. Every day that passes without securing these assurances adds to the death toll from the attack, given the loss of lifesaving medical services to people in the region.”

The administrative punishments announced by the U.S. today are out of proportion to the destruction of a protected medical facility, the deaths of 42 people, the wounding of dozens of others, and the total loss of vital medical services to hundreds of thousands of people. The lack of meaningful accountability sends a worrying signal to warring parties, and is unlikely to act as a deterrent against future violations of the rules of war.

At the same time, it has become clear that the victims and their families have neither the option to pursue legal action against the U.S. military, either in Afghanistan or in the US, nor to claim compensation for loss of life and livelihood. This has only compounded the devastation of the attack.

U.S. Military Investigates And Finds Itself Not Guilty Of War Crimes In Afghan Hospital Bombing: here.

NYT INVESTIGATES WHETHER AFGHAN FORCES TARGETED DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS HOSPITAL “There is evidence — both buried in the report and from interviews conducted on the front lines in Kunduz — that suggests that Afghan troops may have deliberately provided the hospital as a target.” [NYT]

OBAMA BROADENS TROOPS’ ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN “President Barack Obama has approved giving the U.S. military greater ability to accompany and enable Afghan forces battling a resilient Taliban insurgency, in a move to assist them more proactively on the battlefield, a U.S. official told Reuters.” [Reuters]

US Still Can’t Escape Calls for War Crimes Investigation into Its Bombing of MSF Hospital: here.

Impunity for Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital bombing


Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital after the bombing, photo Najim Rahim / AFP

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

No prosecution for United States attack on MSF clinic

Today, 18:28

The American soldiers who were involved in an attack on a Doctors Without Borders/MSF hospital in Afghanistan will not be prosecuted. They will only be disciplined by the military, the Pentagon announced. During the attack last October, 42 people were killed. …

Inexcusable

Injured people and relatives of killed people have reacted angrily to the US decision not to prosecute the soldiers involved. Zabibullah Neyazi, a nurse who lost his left arm, an eye and a finger of his right hand, told Associated Press he thought the attack was “inexcusable.” He said he and other victims want justice.

Only administrative penalties are insufficient according to Neyazi. “There should be a trial in Afghanistan, in our presence, in the presence of the families of the victims, to be just to them.”

Refugees’ human rights violated in deportations to Turkey


This video says about itself:

Protesting deportation to Turkey at the VIAL detention Center on Chios, Greece, April 3, 2016

18 April 2016

A video given to Human Rights Watch shows Shila Ahmadi wailing as about 15 riot police with helmets and shields approach. A group of men nearby starts chanting: “This is Europe, it’s a shame on you!” and “It’s not human rights!”

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Human rights violated by expulsions to Turkey

Today, 11:10

The first expulsion of migrants from Greece to Turkey was chaotic and violated human rights. So says Human Rights Watch after conversations with 12 friends of 19 Afghans who were returned on April 4 from the Greek island Chios to Turkey.

According to HRW, the migrants did not know they were deported, they had no idea where they were going and some were not allowed to bring personal belongings like backpacks and mobile phones.

A friend of three expelled Afghans told Human Rights Watch: “Ilias, Mohammad and Reza were told they had to register, they walked away happily and when they came out the police was waiting for them. If they had known that they would be deported, then they would have brought their bags, their papers and their money.”

Crying protest

According to HRW the group of 66 people was driven together in one building, where later that day a protest broke out. About 15 police officers with helmets and shields kept the group under control.

According to HRW policemen then tied the hands of the refugees behind their backs and they were then put into a police van. Jackets, bags, money and cell phones were not allowed to go along.

It seems that the Greek authorities were in a hurry to reach the number of deportees that had been agreed between the European Union and Turkey, HRW concludes.

According to numerous news sources, another disaster involving a refugee boat took place Monday in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian President Sergio Mattarella spoke of several hundred deaths, while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed over 300. Somalia’s ambassador in Egypt told BBC Arabic that there were 400 deaths: here.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have now confirmed that a refugee boat went down earlier this week between the Libyan port of Tobruk and the Greek island of Crete. Both organisations, based on the testimony of 41 survivors, estimate that up to 500 refugees died in the disaster: here.

Hollande sheds crocodile tears over refugees in Lebanon visit: here.

United States drones kill Afghan civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

U.S. Drone Strike Kills 17 Civilians, Including First Responders In Afghanistan

11 April 2016

American airstrikes in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders said on Thursday, differing from official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed…

Read more here and here and here.

7-year-old Afghan refugee boy saves fifteen lives


This music video from England is called The English Disco Lovers protest at M19 Refugees Welcome march central London 19th March 2016.

From Associated Press:

Boy’s trans-Atlantic text, fast police work save 15 migrants

By GREGORY KATZ

April 8, 2016 11:48 AM EDT

LONDON — The text message from a young boy, writing in broken English on a no-frills cellphone, was frightening enough to set off a frantic, trans-Atlantic search that saved the lives of 15 migrants trapped in a locked truck in England.

The message flashed on the cellphone of volunteer Liz Clegg, who was attending a conference in New York: “I ned halp darivar no stap car no oksijan in the car no signal iam in the cantenar. Iam no jokan valla.” It was written by Ahmed, an Afghan boy of about 7, trying to say: “I need help. The driver won’t stop the car. No oxygen in the car. No signal. I’m in a container. I am not joking. I swear to God.”

In March, Clegg and others volunteering at a squalid migrant camp in Calais, France, had handed out hundreds of basic cellphones to children living there, programming in a number for them to text in a crisis.

She knew Ahmed wouldn’t text something like that if he wasn’t in danger. So she called Tanya Freedman, from the Help Refugees charity in London, to tell her the boy seemed to be suffocating.

Freedman called police in southeast England to tell them of the emergency. The police response was swift and effective, she said.

“I conveyed to them that it was a life-and-death situation,” Freedman told The Associated Press on Friday. “I had Ahmed’s number and the first thing they did was find an interpreter who spoke Pashto to talk to him. They called him and immediately they realized it was an emergency, and they were able to put a trace of his cellphone and find out he was in a lorry (truck) in Leicestershire.”

Kent Police said in a statement they received a call at 2:50 p.m. Thursday reporting that migrants were believed to be in danger in a truck, and that police established the truck was in Leicestershire. The information was given to police in Leicestershire, who quickly found the truck parked at a highway service station, broke into the back and freed 15 oxygen-starved migrants.

Only then did Freedman exhale: “It was absolutely nerve-wracking waiting to see if the police could find this boy in time to save his life,” she said.

Leicestershire Police said 14 migrants were detained on suspicion of entering Britain illegally, with their cases to be handled by immigration officials, and one man was arrested on suspicion of illegal trafficking.

Police said one child was placed in protective care. None involved gave his last name because he is a minor.

“I think it’s extraordinary that a 7-year-old boy knew his life was in danger and had the presence of mind to know what to do and give the right information and save himself and the others in the truck,” Freedman said. “We hope he’s getting the right kind of care.”

Praise for little Ahmed, Ms Clegg and Ms Freedman for helping to save human lives.

And praise for the British police for helping to save human lives. However, no praise at all for the British Cameron government, ordering police to arrest fourteen humans who fled the bloody war in Afghanistan, to which the British government contributed. Arresting them like they were murderers or rapists, instead of refugees from bloodshed.

European Union mass deportation of Afghan refugees: here.

US Afghan hospital bombing, six months later


This video from the USA says about itself:

White House Fighting Independent Investigation Of Hospital Bombing

7 October 2015

It’s been four days now since the US bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and the calls for an independent investigation have only grown louder and more insistent in that time. Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola (Think Tank), hosts of the The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

By Sophia Jones:

Afghans Haunted By U.S. Strikes On MSF Hospital Want The Truth, Not Money And Apologies

Six months after the attack that killed 42 men, women and children, the U.S. military’s lack of transparency is still hurting Afghans.

03/31/2016 03:24 pm ET | Updated 14 hours ago

ARWAN, Afghanistan — A bullet through the head didn’t kill 9-year-old Amina. Her father, Abdel Qadir, had managed to carry her limp body to the trauma hospital in Kunduz, praying that she would live.

But on Oct. 3, less than a week after surviving a firefight between Afghan forces and Taliban insurgents that had surrounded her home, Amina burned to death in a hospital bed as her father watched helplessly. Her last words were screamed in terrified pain.

“Father! Father!” she wailed as flames consumed her body, Abdel Qadir recalled, weeping.

It’s been nearly six months since a U.S. attack aircraft bombed the Médecins Sans Frontières trauma clinic where Amina was staying. Time has not yielded clarity — there still seem to be more questions than answers. And the U.S. military’s lack of transparency has only compounded people’s mistrust.

According to Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan at the time, what happened in Kunduz was a “tragic but avoidable accident.” MSF, the international medical aid organization that ran the hospital, has described the assault as a potential war crime.

Amina and at least 41 other men, women and children perished in the attack on the clinic, which had been the only hospital of its kind providing free trauma care in northern Afghanistan. And while the bombing happened six months ago, the murky circumstances under which it occurred are still having a chilling effect on medical care in the area.

MSF has said it cannot make a decision about re-opening the trauma hospital until all parties to the conflict can ensure the safety of MSF staff, patients and medical facilities.

“We need assurances that we can work according to our core principles and to international law,” an MSF spokesperson told The WorldPost on Thursday. “Namely, that we can safely treat all people in need, no matter who they are, or for which side they fight.”

As of now, the clinic can only treat a small number of patients, many of them victims wounded in the Kunduz attack. This leaves many Afghans with no choice but to travel to the capital — a trip that can take hours, often via dangerous roads — to find free, high-quality emergency medical care.

Survivors of the Oct. 3 bombing describe a nightmarish scene. The first strike hit the intensive care unit. Doctors, some with severed limbs, bled out in front of colleagues. Others were gunned down as they ran for their lives. Patients died on the operating table mid-surgery. Those who were unable to run — like young Amina, a clever girl who loved computers — were incinerated.

The U.S. military has reportedly responded by reviewing its targeting process, re-training its forces on rules of engagement and disciplining more than a dozen service members — including officers and enlisted personnel, but not generals — who took part in the attack. The service members will not, however, face any criminal charges.

U.S. Central Command has not yet published its investigation into the attack, which is reported to be 3,000 pages or more. The investigation cannot go public until certain material has been redacted, according to Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who spoke to The WorldPost in Kabul in late January.

The military has ignored multiple calls by MSF and other parties for a truly independent investigation by an outside group, arguing instead that fact-finding efforts carried out by military officers outside the chain of command in Afghanistan would be “thorough and unbiased.”

Basic details are still up for debate. The U.S. military insists the strikes went on for 29 minutes. MSF and survivors say the targeted assault dragged on for at least an hour.

And larger questions remain. …

According to U.S. military statements on the incident, a U.S. Special Forces commander called in the strike, carried out by a powerful AC-130 gunship, at the request of Afghan forces on the ground. U.S. forces did not have eyes on the target before calling in the strikes, the Associated Press reported in November.

They instead placed trust in their Afghan allies who had, just three months earlier, violated international law by raiding that same clinic, shooting in the air and attacking three staff members while allegedly searching for an unarmed, highly ranked al Qaeda patient.

The U.S. military has repeatedly insisted it would not knowingly target the MSF’s clinic, and has said it did not know it was shelling a hospital, even though the trauma center was on the military’s no-strike list and its exact coordinates were no mystery. MSF had sent the coordinates to U.S. forces and NATO allies as recently as Sept. 29 — four days before the bombing.

Frantic calls and texts during the attack from MSF to the Operation Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul proved futile. Thirty minutes after MSF’s initial call for help, at 2:19 a.m., someone at the NATO mission texted back, saying: “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened.” When MSF warned that the death toll was growing, the person responded: “I’ll do my best, praying for you all.”

Campbell, the army general, has blamed a deadly combination of unfortunate events for the strike. U.S. forces misidentified the target and launched 69 minutes early without verifying whether the target was on a no-strike list. Technical glitches onboard the AC-130 meant troops could not send or receive electronic messages or video. The aircraft, forced beyond its normal orbit by a missile, could not accurately strike a target.

“Why did nobody take the decision to hold off and say that they weren’t sure?” said Guilhem Molinie, MSF’s representative in Afghanistan. “It questions the capacity of NATO in this country and many other armies to be indiscriminate in the way they conduct warfare and respect the Geneva Conventions.”

Afghan officials, including the acting governor of Kunduz, Hamdullah Danishi, insisted in the days after the bombing that the Taliban had used the compound to launch attacks on Afghan forces, a claim MSF fiercely rejects. …

A dozen MSF staff, surviving civilians, Kunduz residents and family members of patients told The WorldPost they saw no armed gunmen on the hospital grounds at any time before or during the strikes. The clinic had a strict no-weapons policy.

“It’s completely untrue that there were Taliban inside the hospital,” said Dr. Mohammad Omar, an MSF emergency room supervisor who survived the attack.

Just two days before the strikes, Carter Malkasian, a top adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reached out to MSF, asking whether there were Taliban “holed up” in the hospital. He was told that while there were no armed combatants inside the compound, there were indeed Taliban patients being treated. Malkasian declined a request by The WorldPost for more information.

MSF staff have, for years, treated people on all sides of the conflict, including patients believed to be high-ranking insurgents.

That leaves many Afghans and medical professionals wondering whether the presence of wounded but unarmed Taliban patients inside the clinic may have prompted the Oct. 3 strike.

The attack has raised concerns over the current U.S. role in Afghanistan, and questions about the presence of special forces now that the United States’ combat mission is formally over. American forces are primary in a “train, advise and assist” capacity, though it seems troops are still finding themselves in active combat situations.

The Kunduz attack is also yet another stain on the U.S. military’s reputation in Afghanistan. Survivors and family of people killed in the bombing still have no closure, no real explanation as to why the attack occurred. And there’s very little confidence among Afghans that such an “accident” won’t happen again.

“The Americans have access to good information,” Abdel Qadir said, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a guesthouse in Parwan, an Afghan city between Kabul and Kunduz, as rain pitter-pattered outside. “Why would they make this mistake?”

As with past combat incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to civilian deaths, the U.S. military has made more than 100 condolence payments to family members of Kunduz victims, according to Shoffner. Some recipients say they’ve received around $6,000 or $7,000 each — the U.S.-determined price of life for a daughter, brother or father wrongfully killed.

A brother of one of the slain MSF doctors told The WorldPost that he refused the money, instead giving it to other families who needed it more. He said he learned of his brother’s death via Facebook, after someone posted a photo of ashes with the caption, “Here is the body of Dr. Osmani.”

But despite the U.S. military’s efforts to remedy the horrific event, Afghans whose lives have been torn apart by the attack demand something far more difficult to come by than scripted apologies and condolence payments — namely, the full truth.

“They killed so many civilians,” said one male Kunduz resident who lives close to the MSF compound. “Most of the people here, their ideas changed of the American people. The people are angry. The Americans have the technology and the information. They can see if there are armed people or not.”

“An apology is not enough,” continued the young man, who asked that his name not be published for security reasons. “I lost four friends — two doctors, one nurse and one student.”

An apology also means nothing to Omar, the ER doctor, who now lives in terror that such an attack will happen again. He’s far from the only one. The Italian-run Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah responded to the attack by building a bunker large enough to accommodate staff and patients.

Omar said he remembers the Oct. 3 bombing like it was yesterday. As the attack aircraft unleashed hell outside, the experienced ER doctor thought there was no way he would survive. He called his wife to say goodbye.

“She was crying,” Omar said solemnly. “It was the hardest moment of my life.”

Omar survived because he was in the clinic’s basement, where MSF staff had set up makeshift trauma stations in an attempt to save those they could.

When the sound of the attack aircraft finally died out, people scrambled out from the ruins of the hospital, plumes of smoke still rising as much of the compound burned.

Patients were loaded into ambulances that had come to collect the wounded. Some staff members, including foreigners, were whisked away to the airport. Many local staff had to fend for themselves, seeking shelter in nearby homes and hitching rides with helpful strangers.

But the dead remained. Amina’s body still lay in the ICU. Her parents weren’t able to collect her remains until days later.

“I couldn’t save her,” cried Abdel Qadir, gasping for breath between sobs. “I took her ashes, her skeleton, and gave them to my wife.”

Half a year after the fatal attack, Abdel Qadir is left with a wad of cash from the U.S. military. It does nothing to fix his broken heart. He remains haunted by a simple question: Why did his daughter have to die?

All he can do is pray for Amina, the daughter he couldn’t save twice.

Naiemullah Sangen contributed reporting from Parwan and Kabul.