By Christopher Rice
Close observers of Afghanistan are not likely to be surprised by recent allegations contained in a United Nations report that the Afghan National Security Directorate, the CIA’s leading counterterrorism partner in South Asia, used whips and electric shocks to squeeze confessions out of suspected insurgent detainees. There are many ways to describe the directorate, or NDS as it is locally known, but a model of modern intelligence gathering and investigative efficiency is not one of them.
Growing concerns among NDS leaders about increased infiltration of insurgents and Iranian and Pakistani double agents within their ranks has resulted in the reported arrests of a little more than a dozen NDS officials in the last year.
Petraeus did not institute his COIN strategy only in Iraq. He put it into place in Afghanistan as well, and the fact that it lead to widespread allegations of torture and murder there demonstrates that the atrocities committed by these militias is a feature of the funding and training provided to them and not an unfortunate outgrowth, because this practice has now produced death squads in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. Recall that less than two weeks ago, Hamid Karzai called for the expulsion of US Special Operations forces from Maidan Wardak province due to allegations of abuse by the Afghan Local Police there. The Afghan Local Police are in reality groups of local militias trained and funded by US Special Operations forces and operating separately from the Karzai government. The ALP became one of the primary features of Petraeus’ COIN strategy when he moved it to Afghanistan.
From NEWSWEEK 2005: “THE PENTAGON MAY PUT SPECIAL-FORCES-LED ASSASSINATION OR KIDNAPPING TEAMS IN IRAQ”
“What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called “the Salvador option”–and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking “the back” of the insurgency–as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time–than in spreading it out.
Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government-funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success–despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.”
The Guardian analyzed a number of documents from Wikileaks and assembled a huge number of reports of torture carried out by the militias the US trained and supported under this program. Most devastating within this cache of information, however, is that the US issued an order to ignore reports of torture carried out by these Iraqi groups. From a 2010 report by the Guardian:
This is the impact of Frago 242. A frago is a “fragmentary order” which summarises a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ”.
Frago 242, ordering US forces to ignore torture by Iraqi militias, was issued the same month as when Petraeus was sent to Iraq to institute his training program.
In case you think that Petraeus’ COIN strategy exited the US government with Petraeus’ resignation after it was learned he was boinking his biographer, think again. Yes, his primary aide in instituting the policy (and overseeing US torture), Stanley McChrystal, also has resigned in disgrace, but key aides William McRaven and Michael Flynn have advanced their careers on the basis of these war crimes. McRaven now heads Special Operations Command, and so he would be in charge of training the death squads in the next country where the US decides to institute them. Where will it be? Libya? Syria? Mali? And Michael Flynn heads the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was responsible for turning the “intelligence” gained by torture, whether it was carried out by the US or Iraq, into actions such as night raids, thereby producing more insurgents and fueling the cycle of violence.
Civilian Killings, disappearances, torture, and abuse by joint U.S. Special Forces/Afghan militia operations
“His fingers were cut off, he was badly beaten. His hands were swollen, his throat was slit,” she told Reuters in her small mud brick house.
“Why is the government not listening to our voices – why are they not stopping Americans from doing such things.”
Repeated complaints to the government, about the abuse by the joint U.S./Afghan operations, went nowhere.
In 2002, the United States had set up joint CIA/Special Forces/Afghan militias at Mullah Omar’s old house in Kandahar, called Camp Gecko. On the Afghan side, Ahmed Wali Karzai, current National Directorate of Security head Asadullah Khalid, and our “mad dog on a leash“, Abdul Raziq Achakzai, operated there. The joint operations out of Camp Gecko have been the source of the frequent torture allegations, from 2002 up to now.
At the center of the Afghans’ accusations is an American Special Forces A Team that had been based in the Nerkh district until recently. An A Team is an elite unit of 12 American soldiers who work with extra resources that the military calls “enablers,” making it possible for the team to have the effect of a much larger unit. Those resources can include specialized equipment, air support and Afghan partner troops or interpreters. Mr. Kandahari had been an interpreter working for the team in the Nerkh district.
Hamid Karzai sacked five of the most American-connected Governors, and replaced them with Governors more friendly to himself. The American-picked Governor of Wardak, with the shadow war connections, was among the sacked. Complaints about U.S. connected abuse in Wardak were now less likely to be ignored.
There’s a videotape in Afghan government hands showing a man named Zakaria Kandahari presiding over the torture of an Afghan civilian who, along with 15 others, recently disappeared from Wardak Province.
Afghan officials said they had tried for weeks to get the coalition to cooperate with an investigation into claims that civilians had been killed, abducted or tortured by Afghans working for American Special Operations forces in Maidan Wardak. But the coalition was not responsive.
Mr. Kandahari, was arrested on charges of murder, torture and abuse of prisoners, was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Manan Farahi, the head of intelligence for the Afghan Defense Ministry. He said Mr. Kandahari, who escaped from an American base in January after President Hamid Karzai demanded his arrest, was captured in Kandahar by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service.
A U.S. defence official in Washington said a review in recent months in cooperation with Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry and NDS intelligence agency found no involvement of Western forces in any abuse.
“No coalition forces have been involved in the alleged misconduct in Wardak province,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (also a war criminal) said the complaints against Afghans working for U.S. special forces would be investigated.
Reuters interviewed dozens of residents of Wardak and Afghan government officials who allege that Afghan men working with a small unit of U.S. special forces illegally detained, tortured and killed suspected insurgents.
“People complain of being beaten, tortured by U.S. special forces on a daily basis,” Jalala told Reuters in his Kabul office.
Reuters spoke to the families of four of the nine missing men, and all said their men folk were taken to the special forces outpost by Afghan men identified as translators, often in the presence of U.S. soldiers.
“My brother, Aziz-ul Rahman, was on his way to bring firewood to the mosque, when the Americans and Afghans forced him to stop, dragged him out of his car and started beating and kicking him,” Zabihullah, 22, from Nerkh village, told Reuters.
“Eventually they tossed him in an irrigation ditch near the village. He was badly injured, so we took him to the hospital and later to Kabul, but despite that he died,” said Zabihullah, who said his brother had three children.
THE TORTURE VIDEO
The video was described to Reuters by Afghanistan’s most senior general, army chief of staff Sher Mohammad Karimi, during an interview.
A Western military official said the beating occurred at the offices of the country’s NDS intelligence agency in Wardak’s Nerkh district, not far from the special forces outpost.
“There was a clip in which he was beating some civilian, he was in uniform and he was speaking Pashto,” Karimi said.
“There was a guy, you can’t see him, but he is speaking in good English, that clearly shows that someone was there from the international forces.”
He said the English voice sounded to be that of a native speaker, most likely that of a North American.
ISAF said a review of the video determined that no coalition forces were present or involved in the incident.
American policy is to outsource the torture to the militias once the heat is on regarding the US role in torture. Deniability is key and continues to this day.
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