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Afghanistan: more bad news

You know things are not going well when even the puppet government installed by the occupying US forces criticises its masters. In January, President Hamid Karzai publicly accused the American military of torture and arbitrary detention at Bagram Air Base, the largest US-run prison in Afghanistan.

While the allegations of beatings, sensory deprivation and exposure to freezing conditions are entirely credible, Karzai’s professed concern seems highly cynical, given his regime’s appalling human rights abuses. In fact, his outburst may be a response to the fear of being sidelined, as the Obama Administration looks to pursue peace negotiations directly with sections of the Taliban. This in itself is an admission of how far the occupying forces are from achieving their goals in the country.

Video evidence of US soldiers urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans won’t have helped the US win hearts and minds. Despite the usual damage limitation from the US Defense Department, these scenes are part of a broader policy of systematic humiliation of captives. It led to the piling up and abuse of naked detainees in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and the smearing of menstrual blood on a Guantanamo detainee.

The headlines alone from Afghanistan make grim reading:

  • US-led forces kill five Afghan civilians – January 18.
  • Two British soldiers arrested over allegations of sex abuse with 10-year-old children – January 19.
  • NATO bombing kills eight Afghan children – February 11.

The number of civilians casualties in Afghanistan rose in 2011 for the fifth year in a row. Over one sixth of these – 410 deaths – were at the hands of US-led forces and nearly half of these were by NATO air strikes.

The Obama Administration’s surge in Afghanistan has failed on virtually every front,” reports the US-based website Antiwar.com. It is difficult to disagree. In February, Reuters reported that only 1% of Afghan police and soldiers are capable of operating independently, according to a leading US commander.

The US may have plans to reduce their forces in Afghanistan to a “mere” quarter of a million, but they are currently adding to their 450 military bases. Much of the new construction is for special operations forces and hi-tech bases that can expand the use of Predator Drones, one of the major causes of civilian death.

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