Weekly Update into Afghanistan Situation – March 26, 2010

-A night raid carried out by US and Afghani gunmen led to the deaths of two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials and is an atrocity which NATO then tried to cover up, survivors have told The London Times in England.

The assault by NATO was carried out before dawn on the morning of February 12, 2010 in Pakita Province, Eastern Afghanistan; Despite the fact that two weeks earlier NATO had promised to eliminate night-time raids specifically because of the high rate of civilian casualties caused by these raids.  NATO issued a statement after the raid which claimed that the victims were already dead and had been found “tied up, gagged and killed”.

Investigations by the London Times however, which included interviews with more than a dozen survivors of the NATO assault, officials, police officers and a religious leader at and around the scene of the attack “suggest that NATO’s claims are either willfully false or, at best, misleading.”

NATO’s original statement said: “Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a firefight and were killed.” The family, who were celebrating the wedding of one of the women who was killed, maintain that no one threw so much as a stone. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, NATO’s director of communications in Kabul, denied that there had been any attempt at a cover-up, but did not respond to the allegations that laws and rules of conduct requiring Afghan-International and NATO units to identify themselves by leaving leaflets of identification were not respected. In fact, local US forces denied any involvement.

NATO’s director of communications did admit that the original statement had been “poorly worded” but said “to people who see a lot of dead bodies” the women had appeared to have been dead for several hours.

Although the family of the victims were offered 2000$ US dollars for each of the victims by the Afghani government, a family member said “There’s no value on human life. They killed our family, then they came and brought us money. Money won’t bring our family back.”

-Last week we reported that the UK-based group “Save the Children” had stressed the importance of separating humanitarian aid from military strategy and attack. In fact, the UN has withdrawn from Afghanistan for precisely that call not being heeded by NATO and its allies. Now, over the past week more NGOs trying to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan have joined in the call.

Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontiers issued a press release strongly objecting to a recent statement by NATO’s Secretary General which implied that aid groups should be the “soft power” component to NATO’s military strategy  in Afghanistan.

The NGO press release re-inforced the points made on the Friday Morning After last week: that the international military coalition has also co-opted the aid system – at times with the aid community’s complicity – to the point where it is difficult for Afghani Civilians and taxpayers at home to distinguish between assistance and political or military action.

To quote Doctors Without Borders reps from the US and Afghanistan –

“When confusion is sown about the intentions of aid workers, it can raise suspicions in affected communities or even lead armed groups to consider health centres and medical personnel as legitimate targets.

This draws humanitarian aid into the battlefield, with populations subsequently denied health care. After eight years of war, emergency medical care for Afghanis should not depend upon the parties waging it.”

In Brief:

-Afghani President Karzai signed several economic agreements with Chinese leaders which indicate that it is possible to develop a prosperous economic partnership within Afghanistan without having to resort to military force. Canadians should try to find out how China did it.

-Afghanistan will need another 500 million US dollars to clear the country of mines, according to Afghan Technical Consultants, a private de-mining company.

-The government of Afghanistan made two announcements this week, that may undermine American plans for the country:
1/The transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan will violate the national sovereignty of Afghanistan and is therefore unacceptable.
2/Members of the Taliban are ready and willing to open discussion and join Karzai’s government but only when the foreign troops leave the country.



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Filed under Canadian Politics, Community Rights, Human Rights, International Politics, Media Coverage, Middle East, Political Accountability, United States Politics

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