United States soldiers kill Afghan four-year-old

This video says about itself:

10 Jan 2014

A four-year-old boy has been shot dead by US soldiers in Afghanistan. The troops opened fire on the toddler, after mistaking him for an enemy due to poor visibility. The latest incident comes amid the further straining of ties between the US and Afghanistan. For more on what awaits Afghanistan after foreign troops leave in 2014 we’re now joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, former commander of the Special Air Service.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US troops kill Afghan four-year-old

11 January 2014

Afghan officials Friday condemned the killing of a four-year-old child by US Marines in the country’s southern Helmand province after he was reportedly mistaken for the “enemy.”

“We have called…for an absolute end to ISAF/NATO military operations on homes and villages in order to avoid such killings where innocent children or civilians are the victims,” President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi told the media in commenting on the child’s death

Authorities in Helmand province told the Reuters news agency that the shooting took place on Wednesday. The Marines “thought he was an enemy and opened fire,” a spokesman for the governor reported. The grievously wounded child was taken to a hospital where he died.

On Friday, NBC News quoted Assistant Police Chief Abdullah Chopan from the Nadali District of Helmand Province as saying the shooting was “likely to have happened because visibility was not good, it was raining and cloudy.” Chopan also said that the child was a girl, not a boy as had initially been reported.

The tragic slaying of the toddler has come amid deepening tensions between Washington and the Kabul government over a bilateral security agreement that would allow some 12,000 US troops to remain in the country indefinitely after the official end of the US-led occupation at the end of this year.

Civilian casualties have provoked broad popular hostility to the more than decade-old US-led occupation, and the Karzai government has repeatedly demanded an end to night raids and attacks on Afghan villages by foreign troops as a condition for reaching the security agreement.

The Obama administration has issued ultimatums as recently as Monday demanding that the pact be concluded “within weeks, not months,” or the US could pull out all its forces and cut off aid to Kabul. The US ambassador to Afghanistan, however, warned in a secret cable obtained by the Washington Post that Karzai has no intention of having the agreement signed until after the election of a new president in a vote set for April.

Further aggravating friction between Washington and Kabul, the Karzai government ordered the release of 72 prisoners held at the formerly US-run detention facility near Bagram air base, declaring that some of them had been held for seven years without charges or any verifiable evidence against them.

The prison formally passed from US to Afghan control last March, but US officials claim that there had been agreement to consult Washington on any prisoner releases. A State Department spokeswoman Thursday labeled those being set free as “dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes.”

The Afghan government, however, insists that the decision was made by an independent commission formed to review the cases of those held. The commission had already freed 540 prisoners previously held by US occupation authorities, while sending 114 for trial on various charges.

The controversy has provoked a nationalist reaction in Afghanistan, with the Pashto daily Sarnawesht publishing a January 7 editorial entitled “America’s demand or Afghanistan’s laws?” The editorial stated: “In order to justify the crimes they have committed and in order to prevent the innocent prisoners from claiming in the courts in Afghanistan, the US and the world that they were imprisoned illegally and that they should be reimbursed the sustained losses, the American officials try to prove them as criminals.”

“This is an internal matter of our own sovereignty. This not about our relationship with the United States,” Karzai’s spokesman said. He went further and accused the US authorities of continuing to run secret “black” prisons where Afghans are held without charges and subjected to torture.

Also likely to aggravate tensions between Washington and Kabul, Robert Gates, in his memoir Duty, writes that the US government attempted to oust Karzai during the 2009 presidential election in what the former US defense secretary characterized as a “clumsy and failed putsch.”

“It was ugly: our partner, the president of Afghanistan, was tainted, and our hands were dirty as well,” Foreign Policy magazine quoted Gates as writing in the new book.

Karzai has repeatedly charged that the US had interfered in the last election—which was rife with fraud—and has justified postponing the signing of the security agreement until after the next election on the grounds of professed concerns that it will do so again.

While the Obama administration has threatened to resort to a “zero option,” withdrawing all troops and cutting off military aid, unless Karzai signs the bilateral deal soon, the Afghan president appears to be confident that American strategic interests will compel Washington to accept his terms. The Pentagon and the US intelligence complex are loathe to give up bases in Afghanistan, which provide a forward operating platform in relation to China, Iran, South Asia and the energy-rich former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

A National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan, representing the consensus view of the 16 US intelligence agencies, was presented to the White House at the end of last year. It warned, according to the Washington Post, that if all US forces are withdrawn, the country will “descend into chaos quickly,” with large territories falling under the control of the Taliban and other anti-government forces and increasing challenges to its control over the capital of Kabul. The newspaper said that the report indicated that whatever gains had been made by the Obama administration’s military “surge” in Afghanistan would be “significantly eroded by 2017,” even if the residual US force remains.

While the Obama administration is anxious to get an agreement to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2024 and beyond, the American people are overwhelmingly against it. A CNN poll made public two weeks ago showed nearly three quarters of the population opposing any US troops remaining in Afghanistan after 2014. More than half indicated that troops still in the country should be pulled out sooner than next December.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has concluded that the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter last month in which six US troops were killed was the result of armed action by the Taliban, CNN reported. It was the single deadliest incident in all of 2013 and the worst casualty incident since another helicopter crash killed seven Americans and four Afghans in August 2012.

At least 2,164 US troops have been killed in the Afghanistan war, two thirds of them since February 2009, when President Barack Obama announced the initiation of his military “surge.”

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Afghan civilian German war crime survivors not compensated

This video is called Germany: Hundreds demand justice for Kunduz massacre victims.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

German court rejects compensation claim from victims of Kunduz massacre

4 January 2014

Four years after the worst massacre by German troops since World War II—in the Afghan [province] of Kunduz where over 140 people died, including women and children—a Bonn state court has rejected an application for compensation from two of the victims’ families.

Qureisha Rauf

The court ruled on December 11 that there was no “culpable breach of official responsibility” by the German commanding officer at the time, Colonel Klein. It also found that he did not breach international humanitarian law, which calls for the protection of civilians and which had led the claimants to pursue compensation. As a result, the German government could not be held retrospectively liable, the court stated.

Abdul Hannan

To the surprise of the victims’ lawyers, the collection of evidence was thereby halted, and witness statements, including from Klein, were not even recorded, although the court had approved the application in March.

Abdul Hannan, an agricultural worker, had claimed compensation for his two sons, aged 8 and 12, who were killed during the bombing. Another claimant was the widow Qureisha Rauf, whose husband died, leaving her with six children. Together they demanded €90,000 of compensation and damages. A further 77 families had lodged compensation claims. Their legal representatives in Bremen, Karim Popal and Dr. Peter Derlider, are now appealing to the upper state court in Cologne.

On the evening of September 4, 2009, Colonel Klein ordered NATO fighter jets to bomb two tankers that had been captured by the Taliban. After the lorries became stuck in a river bed, however, dozens of villagers gathered round the tankers to siphon off petrol. The bombing produced a horrific bloodbath, costing the lives of 140 people, mainly civilians, and severely wounding many more according to NATO figures.

Unlike NATO, which transferred their pilots after opening disciplinary procedures, the German government and defence ministry initially sought to deny the massacre, before going on the offensive to declare Klein innocent.

There was a parliamentary investigatory commission, as well as an investigation by the federal prosecutor, which was abandoned before criminal proceedings were launched. The German army did not even introduce disciplinary measures. In all these investigations, the official version of events was that Klein could not have known that civilians were in the area.

The final report of the federal prosecutor after the halting of the investigation in April 2010, which was kept secret, went a step further, making clear how much control the military leadership has over the decisions of the government and judiciary. The federal prosecutor’s office reportedly denied any breach of international law due to Klein’s “excesses.” It says, even the “killing of several dozen civilians protected [by international law]” had to be justified “out of tactical military considerations in anticipation of military advantages.”

To make clear that the military leadership would take no notice of the horrified response of the population, former Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union) demonstratively promoted Klein early in 2013 to the rank of brigadier general.

The ruling of the Bonn court must be evaluated against this background. Presiding Judge Heinz Sonnenberger declared at the announcement of the ruling that he had not reached his decision easily. The course of the proceedings indicated that the army exerted extreme pressure behind the scenes.

First, the chamber for matters of state liability stated at the opening of the proceedings on March 20 that the claim was “not obviously without foundation.” It opposed the call of government representative Dr. Mark Zimmer to immediately throw out the charges and announced a review of whether official responsibilities or the Geneva Convention had been breached. This would have provided the basis for individual compensation claims against the federal republic.

Zimmer, the government’s lawyer and a former major in the German army, opposed the judge sharply from the outset. Zimmer challenged the authority of the court, claiming Klein had not exercised “national sovereign power” and had been involved in the structures of the NATO ISAF mission. He also claimed that Germany could not be liable in the exceptional situation of a war—an argument which Berlin had not publicly used at the time of the massacre.

If Germany had to be concerned about liability claims for its role in every NATO mission, Zimmer said, this would be “a very burdensome situation for the soldiers.”

The defence ministry strictly rejected a settlement until the end. When judge Sonnenberger attempted in the first court hearing to reach a settlement and estimated that €3 million for 79 families was not a huge sum, an undersecretary of the defence ministry present heavily shook his head no. In fact, particularly given the estimated €26 to €47 billion spent on the German army’s mission in Afghanistan, such a settlement figure is ridiculously low.

Instead, Zimmer provocatively demanded that the claimants first prove that their relatives had died in the bombing. At the same time, Berlin recognised in the winter of 2009-10 that there had been 90 families of victims; each were paid $5,000 (€3,800) in a bid to bury the matter. According to the Bremen-based lawyers, this money only partly reached the victims’ families, because the German government used Afghan channels which distributed the money exclusively to men. Women who had lost their husbands got nothing, including claimant Qureisha Rauf.

On April 17, the court decided upon gathering of evidence. It called on the German government to provide videos from the US fighter pilots at the scene and the radio recording of communications between the pilots and the German commanding officer. In addition, the court planned to take witness statements in August.

Why the proceedings only commenced with the video and radio recordings on October 31 is not clear. Apparently, a months-long tug of war over the release of the evidence took place. In fact, the requested videos and radio recordings reached the court in unedited form, without translations and partially in the wrong order, the office of Karim Popal reported.

Finally, the December 11 ruling, which rejected the claim, unmistakably reflected the views of the defence ministry and the army leadership. It claimed that Klein had correctly identified the two bombarded tankers as military objects; that the trucks could have been useful for Taliban logistics and could be used in a possible attack; and that Klein had confirmed on a total of seven occasions with a military informant that there were only combatants and no civilians around the tankers.

It also claimed that infrared footage from the American fighter jets had only shown indistinct points; that one could neither determine the size or age of the people from these points nor identify if weapons were being carried; and that a “show of force” flight, suggested by NATO pilots in order to warn potential civilians, was not necessary, as Klein did not have to assume that civilians were in the area.

These are clearly the arguments of the army leadership. Even the commander of the ISAF operation at the time, US General Stanley McChrystal, criticised Klein for abandoning the regular “show of force” flight and demanded his dismissal. However this failed due to the opposition of the German defence ministry.

The fact that Klein explicitly rejected the low flyover to warn civilians was used by the claimants as evidence of a gross breach of international law.

Finally, the court fell into line with the defence ministry over whether individuals could sue on the basis of international law. While the court had in March called into question the defence ministry’s position, now judge Sonnenberger declared that international law could only be the basis of claims between states. This had been established by a unanimous ruling of the German Constitutional Court on August 13, on a complaint brought by victims of the NATO bombardment of the “bridge of Varvarin” during the Kosovo war.

In May 1999, the German government led by the Social Democrat-Green Party coalition ordered for the first time the direct participation of the German army in a NATO intervention. German reconnaissance planes helped provide lists of targets in Serbia, including the bridge near the town of Varvarin, and allegedly provided cover for the bombing on the day of the attack. Ten civilians were killed in the bombardment, and many more injured. Relatives later also lodged claims for compensation against the German government, which they lost at all levels, including first at the same chamber of the Bonn state court as the Kunduz victims.

The Bonn court ruling provoked controversy within legal circles. On Legal Tribune Online, an expert on crimes under international law, Denis Basak, stated that it was problematic that the court “had adopted the questionable view of the federal prosecutor in its decision to halt criminal prosecutions and only partially reviewed international humanitarian law.”

The real question, he said, was “whether General Klein should have been allowed to rely on an informant as a source, who was not even in the area at the time of the attack but only passed on messages he had heard, without any further review.”

The state court had to apply a higher standard than the federal prosecutor, “since public liability does not depend upon a paragraph; an objective breach of duty is sufficient.”

Basak also asked why the court did not deal with General Klein’s “deliberately false reports” to the US pilots. Klein had called for the fighter jets on the grounds that there were “troops in contact,” which according to the rules of engagement was the precondition for an air attack.

Basak continues: “The ruling fits to a situation of drone attacks and targeted killings which shows that international humanitarian law is applied to the so called ‘good’ nations in the ‘war against terror’ only in a very limited way.”

If the Bonn ruling is confirmed at the upper state court in Cologne, this will be a further step in the emergence of German militarism. It gives the army leadership a free hand to inflict civilian casualties in the course of a military mission with complete disregard for international law. It also makes clear how the military now sets the tone for the judiciary and is trying to turn the courts into instruments to assist them in their operations.

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Cameron’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ gaffe, like Bush

This video from the USA says about itself:

Ten Years After ‘Mission (NOT) Accomplished’

2 May 2013

Thom Hartmann looks at the results of the Iraq war on this the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ stunt.

This video says about itself:

Cameron‘s ‘mission accomplished’ = Afghan war was a waste”

17 Dec 2013

The military mission in Afghanistan is accomplished – at least that’s what the UK Prime Minister told soldiers there in a pre-Christmas visit. His cheering words come as drug trafficking in the country reaches record levels, and the Afghan national army surrenders key checkpoints in Southern Afghanistan to Taliban – in return for an end to attacks. RT spoke to an Iraq war veteran who believes that Cameron is trying to put a brave face on a sorry business.

From AFP news agency:

Cameron under fire for Afghan mission remark

December 18, 2013 – 7:13:26 am

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron faced criticism yesterday for saying that foreign troops had accomplished their mission of providing security in Afghanistan, in an echo of former US president George W Bush’s much-derided comments on Iraq in 2003.

During an annual Christmas visit to British troops in Afghanistan on Monday, Cameron was asked about the ongoing unrest ahead of the scheduled end of international combat operations in a year’s time. Asked if British soldiers will be coming home with “mission accomplished”, Cameron told British media: “Yes, I think they do.” …

Opposition politicians and British newspapers criticised Conservative leader Cameron’s comments. Vernon Coaker, defence spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said Cameron “should have chosen his words more carefully.”

See also here.

Indeed, Cameron‘s words are as much empty war propaganda as Bush’s ten years ago. Coaker should have gone further, and should have criticized the whole Afghan war; including the role of his own party leaders Tony Blair and George Brown in it.

US war drone kills Afghan child

This video is called NATO airstrike kills Afghan children.

Reuters reports:

Afghan president condemns U.S. airstrike that killed a child, wounded two women

KABUL Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:14pm GMT

Afghanistan‘s president Hamid Karzai said U.S. forces had bombed a home in Helmand killing a small child and wounding two women on Thursday and condemned the attack as another sign of disregard for civilian life, his spokesman said.

The strike could not have come at a worse time, as Karzai is engaged in a stand-off with the American government over a bilateral security agreement that will help shape the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

“It shows that U.S. forces have no respect for the decisions of the Loya Jirga and life of civilians in Afghanistan,” said Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi.

Karzai says U.S. drone strike killed child, won’t sign security deal if similar attacks continue: here.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American military commander called President Hamid Karzai to apologize for a drone strike in southern Helmand Province, which the military conceded had killed and wounded civilians, a coalition official said on Friday: here.

Despite strong objections from President Hamid Karzai, the United States insists that Afghanistan must sign, as written, a Bilateral Security Agreement that sets the framework for another decade of US occupation of that war-torn nation. According to the terms of the proposed accord, the United States will be able to maintain up to nine military bases, along with 8,000–12,000 troops (and a smaller contingent of European and other forces), through 2024. Over Afghan opposition, the agreement states that US troops will not be subject to Afghan law for criminal acts – even war crimes. Among the sensible points raised at the eleventh hour by Karzai: that US forces be prohibited from conducting night raids of Afghan homes and that Washington start peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban: here.

Civilian drone deaths triple in Afghanistan, UN agency finds: here.

When most U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, contractors may stay: here.

Afghans’ Planned Prisoner Releases Anger U.S.: here.