In what may be the bloodiest “friendly fire” incident involving US troops in 13 years of war and occupation in Afghanistan, five special operations soldiers were killed Monday in an air strike they themselves had called in against Afghan insurgents who ambushed their patrol. The incident took place in a remote area of southern Zabul province, which borders Kandahar and is a center of armed opposition to the US-backed regime in Kabul. The deaths came just days before the June 14 second round of Afghan presidential elections and in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s announcement of plans for a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, now numbering approximately 33,000 out of a total of nearly 50,000 US, NATO and other foreign forces that occupy the country.
● In the 72 hours since he was released by the Taliban in exchange for five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has come under increasingly vitriolic attack from right-wing US political circles and the media, which have denounced him as a deserter and traitor. There have been calls for him to be tried and even shot. Media outlets from CNN to NBC and the other major broadcasters have repeatedly run interviews with soldiers who served with Bergdahl accusing him of deserting his post. Some of them have placed the blame on Bergdahl for the death of six US troops who, they claim, were killed during a six-month intensive search for the missing soldier. The media has also made a great deal of recent Twitter posts from Bob Bergdahl expressing sympathy for Afghans killed in the war and their families and calling for the release of all detainees being held at Guantanamo. ● Prior to his disappearance, Bowe Bergdahl made clear in letters to his family and discussions with fellow soldiers his revulsion over the US war in Afghanistan and his sympathy for the Afghan people. There is little doubt that the primary factor behind the vitriol against the Bergdahls is their antiwar sentiment and the fear in ruling class circles that it will further fuel already broad popular opposition to the war in Afghanistan and the general warmongering policy of the Obama administration.
Rolling Stone: 13 Things You Need to Know About Bowe Bergdahl
Outside the Beltway: Lone American P.O,W. From Afghan War Freed In Prisoner Swap With Taliban
Key facts from the late Michael Hastings' profile of the freed Taliban POW. ● The late Michael Hastings wrote the definitive magazine profile of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Rolling Stone in June 2012. Now that America's Last Prisoner of War has been released, in a prisoner exchange for five high-ranking Taliban officials, Hastings' piece continues to offer crucial context – about why Bergdahl volunteered for service in the first place, about how this intense, moral young man became so horrified by America's "good war" that he walked away from his unit's remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan in 2009, and about the abortive negotiations that could have secured Bergdahls release years ago. Here 13 things you need to know about the American POW who is coming finally home, in the words of Hastings' 2012 feature.
In a brief appearance in the White House Rose Garden Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the US would maintain nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan next year despite an official declaration of an end to combat operations. Obama said his plan to keep thousands of US military forces in the country for the next two years was dependent on the reaching of a military cooperation agreement with the incoming president of Afghanistan.
Stephen Lendman: Obama in Afghanistan
The name of a CIA station chief overseas normally is a deep secret, most especially in a war zone like Afghanistan. Yet the brand of “smart diplomacy” practiced in the Obama administration resulted in outing the CIA’s top man in Kabul in the course of publicizing President Obama’s surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan over the weekend.
'Country X': WikiLeaks reveals NSA recording 'nearly all' phone calls in Afghanistan ● The NSA records all domestic and international phone calls in Afghanistan, similar to what it does in the Bahamas, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange said. Reports in the Washington Post and The Intercept had previously reported that domestic and international phone calls from two or more target states had been recorded and stored in mass as of 2013. Both publications censored the name of one victim country at the request of the US government, which the Intercept referred to as country "X". Assange says he cannot disclose how Wikileaks confirmed the identity of the victim state for the sake of source protection, though the claim can be "independently verified" via means of "forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs."
Wikileaks: WikiLeaks statement on the mass recording of Afghan telephone calls by the NSA || We know from previous reporting that the National Security Agency’s mass interception system is a key component in the United States’ drone targeting program. The US drone targeting program has killed thousands of people and hundreds of women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in violation of international law. The censorship of a victim state’s identity directly assists the killing of innocent people. Although, for reasons of source protection we cannot disclose how, WikiLeaks has confirmed that the identity of victim state is Afghanistan. This can also be independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs (see http://freesnowden.is). We do not believe it is the place of media to "aid and abet" a state in escaping detection and prosecution for a serious crime against a population. Consequently WikiLeaks cannot be complicit in the censorship of victim state X. The country in question is Afghanistan.
Afghan police say at least 11 people have lost their lives in an air raid conducted by US-led forces in the troubled eastern Ghazni Province. ● Local officials said the fatalities were all Taliban members who came under attack somewhere near the Andar district. Authorities added that the group was gearing up to carry out an attack when it was targeted. The Taliban militants have yet to comment on the incident. The United States regularly uses drones for airstrikes and spying missions in Afghanistan among other places. Washington claims that the airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks over the years.
Opium production has reached high levels, showing signs of US failure in battling the problem despite spending billions of dollars. ● With an increase of 36 percent, over 200 thousand hectares is currently used to grow opium in Afghanistan, according to a US report. The report, which was commissioned by SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction makes grim reading, with opium poppy cultivation increasing by over a third, while the country now has about 1.3 million heroin users. This is a ten-fold increase compared to 2005, when around 130,000 people were using the drug. Afghanistan is responsible for about three-quarters of the world’s heroin production, with much of it being cultivated in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south of the country.
More than Two-Thirds of Afghanistan Reconstruction Money has Gone to One Company: DynCorp International
If not for the federal government, contractor DynCorp International wouldn’t be in business. Virtually all of its revenue (96%) comes from government contracts. That includes the vast majority of the taxpayer dollars that the State Department has awarded to companies to help rebuild Afghanistan. ● The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says that of the $4 billion allotted by the State Department from 2002 to 2013, 69.3% went to DynCorp. In terms of actual dollars, DynCorp took in $2.8 billion. Giving so much to one company might not have been a good idea, given DynCorp’s record. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) notes the contractor’s “colorful history” includes “instances of labor smuggling, weak performance and overpayments on a base support services contract, botched construction work on an Afghan Army garrison, and lawsuits filed by disgruntled subcontractors.” Most of DynCorp’s contracts have been to train and equip the Afghan National Police and counternarcotics forces, SIGAR reports. It was during this work that the company was accused by a top Afghan official of hiring “dancing boys” in 2009 to entertain DynCorp trainers. A diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks quoted Interior Minister Hanif Atmar as having “deep concerns that lives could be in danger if news leaked that foreign police trainers working for U.S. commercial contractor DynCorp hired ‘dancing boys’ to perform for them.”
A report from The Washington Post, which highlights the increasing number of Afghan children who are being killed by unexploded ordnance on abandoned NATO/ISAF firing ranges. The report says that ‘of the casualties recorded by the United Nations, 88 percent were children’, with ‘most of the victims . . . taking their animals to graze, collecting firewood or searching for scrap metal’. A bare minimum of 77 people have been killed in this fashion since 2012, but the number is likely higher.
Scandal in Europe over NATO Officers Wearing Nazi Symbols in Afghanistan (November 2009)
The head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service has blamed the US-led NATO forces for the surge in Afghanistan's drug production. On Wednesday, Russia’s drugs tsar accused the US and its NATO allies of helping a surge in Afghanistan's heroin production. Viktor Ivanov from the Russian Drug Control Service says NATO forces are directly responsible for a boost in narcotic cultivations in Afghanistan. He also noted that US-led troops have in fact helped create a catastrophic surge, while refusing to check on farmers there.
Alfred W. McCoy: Can Anyone Pacify the World's Number One Narco-State?
The United Nations says the number of children killed and injured in the US-led war on Afghanistan increased by 34 percent in 2013. The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its annual report released on Saturday that 2,959 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year — including 561 children and 235 women. UNAMA added that more than 5,600 others, including 1,195 children and 511 women, were also wounded in 2013. “
It is the awful reality that most women and children were killed and injured in their daily lives — at home, on their way to school, working in the fields or traveling to a social event,” said Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the UN mission.
The Karzai government has repeatedly taken the US military to task for killing large numbers of civilians in the occupation, but they may just be the tip of the iceberg, as Afghan officials say a case is being made suggesting the US has also engaged in “insurgent-style” attacks which were blamed on the Taliban. The officials didn’t discuss the evidence in much detail, but the belief is that many of the attacks were timed to undermine the Karzai government, or in some cases to immediately follow up civilian deaths with a story to distract attention. There is a fairly substantial list of “suspected” incidents, and incredibly enough it even includes the recent attack on a Kabul restaurant in the diplomatic district, though officials conceded there was no concrete evidence of that one yet, and its inclusion is based on timing.
The following are psychological operations (PSYOP) leaflets dropped over Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The leaflets are taken from a booklet released commercially by Giovanni Carmine and Christoph Büchel in 2006. The leaflets are written in Arabic, Dari and Pashto. Accurate translations are welcome.
Peter Hart: Erasing Obama's Record on the Afghan War
At least nine people have been killed in a US assassination drone attack in eastern Afghanistan, Press TV reports. ● Local sources said on Saturday that the airstrike hit an area in the province of Nuristan. The victims were members of the Taliban militant group, the sources said. The Taliban, however, have made no comments on the fatal incident so far. On January 14, a similar US airstrike in Parwan Province killed seven children and one woman. Many people have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and operations in various parts of Afghanistan since the invasion of the country in 2001, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged at the deadly assaults. The United States claims the airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims.
Rick Rozoff/John Robles ■ In a review of NATO and US military activity for the year 2013, Voice of Russia regular Rick Rozoff stated that 2013 saw a slowing of, if not the beginning of a reversal of a 22 year US/NATO/Western drive to assert global dominance economically, politically, culturally and militarily. Among the most important events of the last year, if not the last 20, was the stopping of the invasion of Syria by Russia. According to Mr. Rozoff as US/NATO “slinks away with its tail between its legs” from Afghanistan, the only accomplishment they can claim after 13 years of occupation is that opium cultivation has increased by 40 fold. The military monolith of NATO is having a bad time of late and no matter what they say, the fact of the matter is, they have failed. This is part one of a much longer year end interview with Mr. Rozoff. [IM]
16 Others to Remain Pending Further Review ● Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed that 72 of the 88 detainees the Obama Administration is trying to keep in Bagram are now entirely cleared for release, with 45 of them totally cleared of any wrongdoing and 27 others lacking sufficient evidence to hold them. The other 16 aren’t facing trial either, with officials saying there’s not enough to prosecute, but they have enough evidence that they will continue to be held pending further review. That 88 were initially slated for release by the Afghan Review Board, which sparked US complaints that the board was never meant to have the power to release anybody, but was only meant to decide between prosecution and indefinite detention.
The Guardian: Afghanistan orders release of 72 Bagram jail prisoners
US troops in Afghanistan have shot and killed a young child in Helmand province, leading to a fresh rebuke from President Karzai just as America is trying to persuade him to allow Western forces to stay in the country after the end of this year. As the stand-off over a long-term security pact continues, The Times has learnt that the boy, aged about 4, was killed in an incident involving US Marines in Nad-e Ali district on Tuesday.
An appeals court in the United States has approved the indefinite detention without trial of prisoners held by the US military in Afghanistan. ● The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 44-page decision on Christmas Eve that habeas corpus petitions filed by five prisoners who are held by the US military at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan are “beyond the reach” of the US Constitution. The petitions invoked the prisoners’ right to challenge unlawful detention. While the right is not fully implemented in practice, it is recognized by the US Supreme Court for prisoners held at the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba. However, the US appeals court rejected on Tuesday Bagram prisoners’ petition citing administration claims that there are differences between Guantanamo and Bagram, which is also known as “Afghanistan’s Guantanamo.”
Washington’s Blog — It is well-documented that the U.S. government has – at least at some times in some parts of the world – protected drug operations. (Big American banks also launder money for drug cartels. See this, this, this and this. Indeed, drug dealers kept the banking system afloat during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. And the U.S. drug money laundering is continuing to this day.)
USAID and CIA “Ghost Money” program to install West-backed technocrats in Afghanistan. ● The chief of staff to Afghanistan’s president drew a salary from two U.S. government contractors in 2002 and early 2003 as he was managing President Hamid Karzai’s office, serving as his spokesman and advising him on foreign affairs, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast and subsequent interviews. The contractor salary provided to Said Jawad was part of a U.S. initiative to directly pay high salaries to Western-educated Afghans who helped rebuild a government from scratch in the midst of an ongoing civil war and foreign occupation. While some current and former U.S. officials say these measures were necessary in the first months and years of the Afghan reconstruction to attract top talent to a daunting project, other experts say it’s no different from the kind of corruption the Bush and Obama administration have publicly criticized inside the Afghan government.
Nearly 20 people have been killed in several US airstrikes, including drone attacks, across Afghanistan in the past 48 hours, Press TV reports. ● On Saturday seven people were killed in a US assassination drone attack in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province while four lost their lives in a similar assault in southeastern province of Logar. On Friday, an air raid in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar Province claimed one life, while another airstrike in Kandahar's Shah Wali Kot district left seven people dead, according to local officials. Afghan authorities said the victims of the airstrikes were all members of the Taliban militant group. The Taliban have not yet commented on the reports.
The lifeless bodies of Afghan children lay on the ground
before their funeral ceremony, Kunar, eastern Afghanistan.
Last week’s civilian deaths in a drone strike in southern Afghanistan have added new immediacy to the public opposition to allowing the US to continue to use drones in the country, but civilian deaths have been a problem for a long time. Miya Jan, an Afghan farmer, detailed his own drone calamity, when a September attack on his village hit multiple targets, including the pickup trick carrying his brother, his sister-in-law, and their 18-month-old son. “There were pieces of my family all over the road,” noted Jan, saying the strikes killed 14 across the village, all civilians and in similar situations. NATO would admit to only three civilian casualties in the incident, saying that they counted 11 dead overall, and that eight are “suspected insurgents.” Maj. Gen. Ken Wilsbach blamed the Taliban for the civilian deaths, accusing them of living “intermixed with the civilian population.”
VoR: Obama depicted as messiah in book for young schoolchildren ● A book for young schoolchildren, titled "Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" is now widely discussed on the Web, although the book was written as early as before the November 2008 election that brought Obama to power for the first time.
At least six people are killed in the latest US assassination drone strike in the central eastern part of Afghanistan, Press TV reports. ● According to Afghan officials, the airstrike was conducted in Maidan Wardak Province, late on Tuesday. The identity of the victims have yet to be revealed, though Taliban militants are said to be among the dead. Three other Afghans were also killed in the US-led airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nuristan, on Tuesday. Washington has repeatedly claimed that its drone strikes target militants, but reports on the ground suggest that civilians are the main victims of such attacks. The unrelenting US air raids across the`2 war-torn country come as the pressure is mounting on Washington over the assassination drone attacks in several Muslim countries, mainly Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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