Afghan officials have reportedly found the footless body of a local man who went missing a half-year ago. The corpse was unearthed near the former A-Team US Special Forces base – where detainees were tortured and killed, locals claim.
Authorities alleged that the grisly discovery is directly connected to Zakaria Kandahari, a notorious wartime collaborator who Afghan officials believe has US citizenship.
Kandahari reportedly led a death squad that terrorized locals in Wardak Province, using the A-Team base in Nerkh District, a one-hour drive from Kabul, as a permanent residence.
The mutilated body was discovered by ditch diggers about 200 yards from the perimeter of Nerkh base in Wardak Province, the New York Times reported. The base was previously occupied by the A-Team US Special Forces unit, which withdrew in March. Rhe Nerkh base compound is currently occupied by Afghan Special Forces.
According to district governor Mohammad Hanif Hanafi, the corpse was found packed in a military-style black body bag. The victim was identified as Sayid Mohammad, a local resident who was allegedly seen being taken to an US base in November 2012.
This is not the first time that the partial remains and clothing of a missing person have been found near Nerkh base, Afghan officials said. A dismembered body was previously found in a garbage container just outside the US base.
An anonymous Afghan investigator for the Defense Ministry told the NYT that he has a list of names of 17 people who went missing in Nerkh District in Wardak Province between November and December 2012, when Kandahari’s squad conducted operations such as detaining suspects and bringing them to the US Special Forces base.
The seized persons were reportedly never seen alive again. Nine of their bodies, including that of Sayid Mohammad, were found; the other eight remain missing.
The torture squad
The recently unearthed victim was the same man previously seen in a classified video recording made last year. US officials familiar with the matter said it depicts Mohammad being repeatedly kicked by the chief interpreter at the Nerkh base – Kandahari.
Kandahari is on Afghanistan’s most-wanted list for prisoner abuse, torture and murder. Kabul claimed the US sheltered Kandahari; the US Army has denied the accusations.
The US Army has not denied that Kandahari was previously on their payroll, but maintains that the torture video was made after he parted with the A-Team to operate a rogue Afghan unit, and that he is not a US citizen. The US Military described Kandahari as a “freelance interpreter” who joined the American Special Forces voluntarily and lived at their base out of gratitude.
Over the past year, Kandahari and his henchmen have been seen throughout Wardak Province wearing NATO uniforms while riding on quad bikes in search of alleged insurgents.
Last March, hundreds of Afghans – watched by a considerable number of armed riot police – marched to parliament in Kabul, demanding the withdrawal of US Special Forces from Wardak Province. The demonstrators were infuriated by reports of civilians being tortured and killed; Kandahari’s name first went public amid these demonstrations.
APTN video still
Following the protests, Afghan authorities demanded the US deliver the alleged criminal to Kabul. The US refused to turn over Kandahari to Afghan authorities.
US Military authorities claimed that Kandahari had escaped, and that they knew nothing about his whereabouts. In response, an infuriated President Hamid Karzai demanded that the US Special Operations forces leave Wardak. A compromise was later reached, and only the infamous A-Team base was removed.
An unidentified Afghan investigator told the New York Times that “there is no question” that Kandahari was directly involved in torture and murder, but asks, “Who recruited him, gave him his salary, his weapons? Who kept him under their protection?”
The official also expressed doubts that Kandahari could have left the base on his own, since “He was such a criminal that he could not stay one hour outside the base by himself.”
US Military officials reported that they conducted thorough investigations into the disappearances and murders “of at least 15 people” in Wardak Province, none of which revealed evidence that American soldiers were involved in such crimes. However, the results of these investigations have not been made public.
The treatment of Afghans by US troops and their collaborators has been a perpetual stumbling block for US-Afghan relations; the ‘steal and kill’ case of Kandahari could well be the final straw in the 11-plus years of the Afghan War.
‘Afghan govt can’t be trusted, pursuing own interest in any situation’
The governments in both Washington and Kabul should be answerable to the Afghan people over the alleged torture, believes Daoud Sultanzoy, political analyst and former Afghan MP. He described the incident involving the mutilated body of a man as “gruesome.”
However, “the history behind this that goes as far as back to 2002 or even late 2001,” he told RT. At that time, the “then Interior Minister of the Afghan interim government was keeping a private prison run by a former special forces guy, working as a freelancer for the minister.”
“There is more than one side to all these stories and they have to be investigated,” believes Sultanzoy.
Human rights organizations are staying pretty quiet on all this, which is “very suspicious.”
The Afghan government though is taking advantage of the situation, pursuing their own interests, the analyst stated. Therefore, their position on the issue “cannot be trusted,” he believes.
“We have to rely on independent sources. The Afghan justice system has to be so reliable that they can do an investigation independent from any political influence and the influence of the military as well,” Sultanzoy pointed out.
“The US military has to show it is transparent at least in cases of human rights abuses,” the expert added. They will eventually have to act and provide answers to questions regarding the allegations of torture, he concluded.
There’s a contradiction built into every campaign promise about transparent government beyond the failure to keep the promises. Our government is, in significant portion, made up of secret operations, operations that include war-making, kidnapping, torture, assassination, and infiltrating and overthrowing governments. A growing movement is ready to see that end.
The Central Intelligence Agency is central to our foreign policy, but there is nothing intelligent about it, and there is no good news to be found regarding it. Its drone wars are humanitarian and strategic disasters. The piles of cash it keeps delivering to Hamid Karzai fuel corruption, not democracy. Whose idea was it that secret piles of cash could create democracy? (Nobody’s, of course, democracy being the furthest thing from U.S. goals.) Lavishing money on potential Russian spies and getting caught helps no one, and not getting caught would have helped no one. Even scandals that avoid mentioning the CIA, like Benghazigate, are CIA blowback and worse than we’re being told.
We’ve moved from the war on Iraq, about which the CIA lied, and its accompanying atrocities serving as the primary recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists, to the drone wars filling that role. We’ve moved from kidnapping and torture to kidnapping and torture under a president who, we like to fantasize, doesn’t really mean it. But the slave-owners who founded this country knew very well what virtually anyone would do if you gave them power, and framed the Constitution so as not to give presidents powers like these.
There are shelves full in your local bookstore of books pointing out the CIA’s outrageous incompetence. The brilliant idea to give Iran plans for a nuclear bomb in order to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear bomb is one of my favorites.
But books that examine the illegality, immorality, and anti-democratic nature of even what the CIA so ham-handedly intends to do are rarer. A new book called Dirty Wars, also coming out as a film in June, does a superb job. I wrote a review a while back. Another book, decades old now, might be re-titled “Dirty Wars The Prequel.” I’m thinking of Douglas Valentine’s The Phoenix Program.
It you read The Phoenix Program about our (the CIA’s and “special” forces’) secret crimes in Eastern Asia and Dirty Wars about our secret crimes in Western Asia, and remember that similar efforts were focused on making life hell for millions of people in Latin America in between these twin catastrophes, and that some of those running Phoenix were brought away from similar sadistic pursuits in the Philippines, it becomes hard to play along with the continual pretense that each uncovered outrage is an aberration, that the ongoing focus of our government’s foreign policy “isn’t who we are.”
Targeted murders with knives in Vietnam were justified with the same rhetoric that now justifies drone murders. The similarities include the failure of primary goals, the counterproductive blowback results, the breeding of corruption abroad and at home, the moral and political degradation, the erosion of democratic ways of thinking, and — of course — the racist arrogance and cultural ignorance that shape the programs and blind their participants to what they are engaged in. The primary difference between Phoenix and drone kills is that the drones don’t suffer PTSD. The same, however, cannot be said for the drone pilots.
“The problem,” wrote Valentine, “was one of using means which were antithetical to the desired end, of denying due process in order to create a democracy, of using terror and repression to foster freedom. When put into practice by soldiers taught to think in conventional military and moral terms, Contre Coup engendered transgressions on a massive scale. However, for those pressing the attack on VCI, the bloodbath was constructive, for indiscriminate air raids and artillery barrages obscured the shadow war being fought in urban back alleys and anonymous rural hamlets. The military shield allowed a CIA officer to sit behind a steel door in a room in the U.S. Embassy, insulated from human concern, skimming the Phoenix blacklist, selecting targets for assassination, distilling power from tragedy.”
At some point, enough of us will recognize that government conducted behind a steel door can lead only to ever greater tragedy.
In an email that Valentine wrote for RootsAction.org on Monday, he wrote: “Through its bottomless black bag of unaccounted-for money, much of it generated by off-the-books proprietary companies and illegal activities like drug smuggling, the CIA spreads corruption around the world. This corruption undermines our own government and public officials. And the drone killings of innocent men, women, and children generate fierce resentment.. . .Tell your representative and senators right now that the CIA is the antithesis of democracy and needs to be abolished.“
The US Defense Department is pushing for a compromise plan to maintain nearly 8,000 American troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled 2014 drawdown of US-led forces in the war-torn nation.
The plan further intends to significantly reduce American troop presence in Afghanistan over the following two years after the “phased” drawdown scheme, calling for slashing the number of troops in the country to between 3,500 and 6,000 by 2016, The Washington Post reports, citing senior US government and military authorities.
The plan, according to the report, represents a bid to “strike a compromise” between senior Pentagon commanders, who called for 10,000 US soldiers to remain in the country after 2014, and several top civilian advisers to President Barack Obama, who have advocated a much smaller long-term troop presence.
Another option under serious consideration called for even greater reduction of US troops in the country to below 1,000 by early 2017, “with most of the personnel operating from the giant US Embassy in Kabul.”
Under the option, according to senior military authorities cited in the report, elite Special Operations commandos would not be based in Afghanistan after 2016. Instead, they would be flown into the country from US warships in the area or bases in nearby countries “to conduct counterterrorism missions.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, has expressed his support for a continued US military presence in his country although the decision “and the provision of immunity to American forces” may require the approval of the nation’s legislators.
Nearly 66,000 US soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan, but the Obama administration is expected to announce soon the number of troops that will be brought back this year as part of its phased drawdown approach.
There’s got to be some symbolism—if not irony–in the fact that just as the last of the 33,000 troops surged by Obama two years ago supposedly to pacify Afghanistan pulled out, the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Afghanistan in almost half a century pulled in—arriving in Kabul for a secret round of meetings with top Afghan officials.
Question: How will China deal with the country that proved such an expensive and bloody disaster for both the U.S., its NATO allies–and the U.S.S.R before them?
In a brief visit, unreported until he had left Kabul, Zhou Younkang, China’s chief of domestic security, met with Afghani leaders, including President Hamid Karzai. They talked about drugs, international crime, terrorism, and developing Afghanistan’s huge natural resources—just as visiting Americans have done for years.
The result, a cluster of agreements, among them an announcement that 300 Afghan police officers will be sent to China for training over the next four years.
Which is another irony of sorts—coming at the same time as news that the U.S. and its allies have been obliged to scale back joint operations with the Afghan military and police, because they can no longer trust the men they’ve trained. American troops in the field with their Afghan allies now keep weapons ready and wear body armor even when they’re eating goat meat and yoghurt.
So far this year 51 American and NATO troops have been gunned down by Afghan military or police: a startling 20% of all NATO casualties this year.
The off-the-wall video from California ridiculing the prophet Mohammed has only further fueled anti-American hatred.
As the New York Times quoted one 20 year old Afghan soldier, NATO casualties could even be higher.
“We would have killed many of them already,” he said, “but our commanders are cowards and don’t let us.”
There are still some 68,000 American troops based in Afghanistan, but the plans are for them all to be out by the end of 2014. Which means that China will be confronting serious security problems of its own in Afghanistan. They already have direct investments of more than $200 million in copper mining and oil exploration, and have promised to build a major railroad east to Pakistan or north to Turkestan.
But they could pour in billions more if Afghanistan were a secure, well-ordered country, free from the Taliban, free from kleptocratic war lords and venal government bureaucrats, patrolled by well-trained Afghan soldiers and police: in other words, exactly the kind of country the U.S. would like to have left behind—and didn’t.
Instead, of course, despite America’s huge sacrifice in men and treasure –more than half a trillion dollars since 2001–things haven’t worked out that way. [For a dramatic, running count of the enormous hemorrhage that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still represent to the U.S. economy check out costofwar.com.]
Meanwhile, corruption is rampant, and it’s by no means certain that Afghanistan has—or ever will have–a national army and police force worthy of the name.
The U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, peered into the Pentagon’ s 1.1 billion dollars fuel program to supply the Afghan Army, and concluded that there was no way to be ascertain how much if any of that fuel is really being used by Afghan security forces for their missions. There was also no way to know how much was stolen, lost or diverted to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Almost half a billion dollars worth of receipts detailing with fuel payments over the past four years have been shredded.
With the Americans heading for the exits, the challenge facing the Chinese—and anyone else, like India–interested in investing in the country–is how to navigate this imbroglio.
Indeed, the Chinese have apparently already run into problems in Afghanistan. Work at the Mes Aynak copper mine in Logar Province is already behind schedule, and no work has begun on the promised Chinese-built railroad yet. Various impediments have turned up, like recalcitrant bureaucrats, tensions provoked by the need to displace local populations, the discovery of Buddhist ruins, as well as ramshackle Soviet-era mines that first had to be cleared.
And then there’s the rival, rapacious warlords, who see the country’s resources as a way of fueling their own ambitions—like General Abdul Rashid Dotsum, who the government has accused of attempting to extort illegal payoffs from the Chinese oil company.
However, in their dealings throughout the developing world, from despots to democracies, the Chinese have shown themselves adept at navigating such quagmires. There’s no talk from Beijing of Chinese “exceptionalism”. They’ve been taking on the world as it is—not as someone in a Chinese think tank would want to remake it.
They’ve generally turned a blind eye to considerations of human rights, opted to pay off or work with the powers that be, and used offers of huge new infrastructure projects as bait, steadily increasing their share of the globe’s resources.
Many potential investors still shy away from Afghanistan. They have no idea what lies on the other side of the political abyss after 2014 when the U.S. completes its withdrawal.
China is also wary, but they’re also seriously planning their Afghan strategy for the post-American future.
As Wang Lian, a professor with the School of International Studies at the Paking University in Beijing, put it, ”Almost every great power in history, when they were rising, was deeply involved in Afghanistan, and China will not be an exception.”
Unmentioned, of course, was what an unmitigated disaster that involvement turned out to be for the USSR, the US–and Afghanistan.
We’ll see how China fares.
- Did Afghanistan’s Surge Fail? (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Is the Afghan Surge Really Over? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Afghanistan surge achieved its mission, Dempsey says (nation.com.pk)
Iran’s foreign ministry on Sunday denounced a new strategic pact signed between Afghanistan and the United States, saying it would give rise to instability in the neighboring country.
“Iran is concerned about the strategic pact signed between Afghanistan and the US,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.
“Not only will the strategic pact not resolve Afghanistan’s security problems, but it will intensify insecurity and instability in Afghanistan,” he said.
His remarks came after US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a deal with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, guaranteeing that occupying US forces will remain in the country after the majority withdraw in 2014.
However the deal, reached after months of painstaking negotiations, states that the US does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan as it has in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.
Mehmanparast said on Sunday the solution to establishing security in Afghanistan was for foreign forces to leave.
He also said the pact was a source of “concern” for Iran as “the status of US military bases in Afghanistan is unclear and the security duties of US forces lack transparency.”
Iran regularly criticizes the presence of Western forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Arab Gulf countries, calling for their immediate departure.
- US creates Afghan insecurity to keep military presence: Iran lawmaker (alethonews.wordpress.com)