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article imageOp-Ed: Special Forces investigated for killing civilians in Afghanistan

By Ken Hanly     Nov 7, 2013 in Politics
Kabul - The US Army's Criminal Investigation Command(CID) has started a criminal probe into allegations that US troops were involved in killing civilians in Wardak province in Afghanistan during the period from November 2012 to February 2013.
The International Committee of the Red Cross provided some of the information according to Col. Jane Crichton , a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Rolling Stone also went to Afghanistan and interviewed a number of locals in the area. This resulted in a very long devastating account of the whole affair in an article that is certainly worth reading in its entirety.
In a written statement the Red Cross said it heard about the allegations and submitted its concerns to relevant authorities. A Red Cross statement said: "The ICRC's objectives are purely humanitarian,In accordance with its mandate, the ICRC works to ensure that the safety, physical integrity, dignity and rights of individuals are protected and respected. Our protection policy and activities also aim to prevent disappearances and to ascertain the fate of people whose families are without news of them." The Red Cross will not comment publicly on these issue but only in confidence and bilaterally with responsible authorities.
The CID did confirm its involvement according to a spokesperson: "CID was notified of the allegations on July 17, 2013, by the Office of the Legal Adviser, HQ, ISAF, Kabul, and then CID opened its investigation that same day," However, at the time there was no announcement that the investigation was taking place. Colonel Crichton did not know if the Afghan government was informed of the investigations. It seems the public is not to be informed of what is going on, and the Afghan government is so irrelevant that Crichton was not even briefed on whether the government knew or did not.
In February the Afghan government held a meeting at which it heard evidence of the US Special Forces activities in the area and ordered the group out of the area:
"The provincial governor and other officials from Maidan Wardak presented evidence against US forces at the national security council meeting. The presidential palace later issued a statement saying: "After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.
"A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge," the statement added. "However, Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force."
In July this year, the Afghan government arrested Zikria Kandahari, a translator who had been working with the US Special Forces from the combat outpost called Nerkh. At the time Kandahari said that US forces were involved in the killings and other crimes. The Rolling Stone interviewed Kandahari in jail. Another translator interviewed followed the official line that Kandahari alone was involved but also said that the US team knew what was happening.
The Rolling Stone interviewers created a composite photo with some of those in the photo from the accused unit and others who were not. Many of those interviewed picked out specific members of the unit as having been involved in the actions they described. In July, Col. Jane Crichton said: “After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF or U.S. forces,” However, her tune changed after the new revelations:
"U.S. forces conducted several investigations in response to specific allegations from November 2012 to February 2013, At the time, inquiries found no reliable evidence to substantiate misconduct. However, after those investigations, the ICRC provided new information that was not included in the previous investigations. Therefore, the most prudent course in consideration of that new information was to turn the matter over to professional military investigators." I expect that the earlier investigators must have discounted eyewitness testimony as simply having been manufactured by the Taliban for the victims to use to discredit the Americans. However, there was also the evidence of bodies dug up near the command post within site of the towers. Whoever buried those bodies could be seen from the camp.
The investigators came up with results that conflicted with that of the local authorities and the Karzai government which Karzai found convincing enough to order the special forces out of the area. The new investigation will not be by those serving in Afghanistan but those in an independent investigatory jurisdiction of the CID.
The Army's Special Operations Command said that it would not make any comment in order not to jeopardize the investigation. The accused translator, Kandahari, became close friends with some members of the unit accused of the crimes,
especially with Jeff Batson, one of the senior sergeants on the team, and Michael Woods a warrant officer. Kandahari served a total of three terms with the A-team alleged to be involved in the incidents. Even after the A team was kicked out of Nerkh and Wardak by the Afghan government, Woods kept in contact with Kandahari: On April 29th, a month after the A-Team had been forced out of Nerkh by the Afghan government, and several weeks after the first bodies had been unearthed near the base, Woods posted a thank-you note on his Facebook page, naming several interpreters, including Kandahari and Hanifi. “Words can’t describe how fucking proud I am of every single one of you guys!” Woods continued, “We fucked up the bad guys so bad nonstop for 7+ months that they did everything they could to get us out of Wardak Province."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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