Sunday, March 25, 2012

Afghanistan Update

This is the third editorial I have written on Afghanistan. You can read the first here and the second here. I also wrote about Afghanistan in my editorial on reducing the deficit.

Coalition forces stopped transferring detainees to the NDS Kandahar prison in July due to torture concerns. The facility is run by the Afghan intelligence service. Coalition forces stopped transferring detainees to 15 other Afghan-run prisons shortly before a UN report documenting torture at those facilities. The UN report also documented torture at NDS Kandahar. Since then NATO has instituted inspections and training at Afghan prisons in an attempt to stop the torture there. A recent report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Open Society Institute documents what it calls 11, “recent, credible cases” of coalition transfers of detainees to NDS Kandahar. The report details several instances of torture at Afghan prisons before the NATO reforms were instituted. It also found that, “Monitors received 10 credible allegations of abuse in NDS Kandahar as recently as January 2012.”

In November 2010 negotiations with an Afghan claiming to be a senior-level Taliban leader ended after coalition officials determined he was an imposter. NATO had given him a lot of money before the round of talks was over.

In September 2011, another round of peace talks came to an end after the Taliban assassinated the chairman of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

On January 3, 2012 the Taliban announced that they were opening an office in Qatar that would be the site of another round of negotiations with NATO. On February 27, the Taliban took credit for the poisoning of food at NATO’s Forward Operating Base in Torkham. Traces of bleach were found in coffee and fruit at the base. No coalition troops were killed or sickened from the attempted poisoning. In March the Taliban called off negotiations. The Obama administration insists that it is still committed to negotiation with the Taliban.

Negotiations with the Taliban are futile. It always ends with them trying to kill whoever they are negotiating with, if in fact they are even Taliban at all. If this is how they act while they are in negotiations, there is no way they will abide by any agreement afterward.

In 2010 a group of US soldiers formed what they called a “kill team,” that intentionally murdered Afghan civilians for sport. They cut off body parts from murdered Afghan civilians as trophies. Soldiers involved were charged and tried by the military.

In January 2012 a video surfaced showing American troops urinating on the dead corpses of Taliban fighters.

In February 2012 US commanders at an Afghan detention center in Parwan worried that Afghan prisoners were organizing an uprising by writing messages to each other in library books. Two Afghan-American interpreters sifted through the books to determine which of them contained writing that might constitute a security risk. They chose 1,652 books they thought should be removed. American military officials then decided that the books should be burned because they felt they didn’t have the space to store them. US soldiers then transported the books to an incinerator and began to burn them. Afghan laborers working nearby extinguished the flames once they realized Korans were among the books being burned and retrieved them from the pile.

To Muslims the Koran is not just the word of god, it is god. It is sad that after 10 years of occupying a foreign country our military officers understand so little about Afghan culture. Afghan leaders are now calling for those involved in the burning to be tried in Afghanistan. By all accounts this was an accidental, unintentional act. Those involved will not be tried in Afghan courts, nor should they. Afghan courts would sentence those involved to death. I do not believe that anyone should be given a serious punishment for this accident and at the end of the day, the Koran is just a book.

6 US troops have been killed in retaliatory attacks in response to the Koran burning. Two US troops were killed by an Afghan soldier at a base in Eastern Afghanistan. Two US officers were killed in the Afghan Interior ministry, one of the most heavily guarded places in Afghanistan. A ministry worker is believed to be behind the deaths. Two more US soldiers were killed at their base in Kandahar by an Afghan soldier and an Afghan hired to help teach Afghan soldiers to read. None of the US soldiers killed were involved in the Koran burnings. These deplorable murders were done because the assailants merely wanted to kill Americans.

These are merely the latest attacks on NATO forces carried out by Afghan soldiers. Nearly one in five coalition deaths that have occurred since the start of the year have been carried out by Afghan soldiers who are part of the military we are training to take over after we leave.

Over 40 Afghans were killed in riots that resulted from the Koran burnings.

On March 11, a US soldier went from house to house in Kandahar and systematically massacred 17 Afghan civilians. Three were women. Nine were children. These Afghans had committed no crime. The soldier merely wanted to kill Afghans. The soldier suspected of the murders has been transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

In light of these incidents, it is hard to argue that we are making the situation in Afghanistan better by our presence there.

It is important we don’t view the massacre in Kandahar and the kill team as the inevitable results of PTSD. Many of our troops leave the battlefield with PTSD and similar conditions and would never commit murder. The overwhelming majority of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have served admirably, and we must recognize that.

51 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year. 36 Non-US coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan during the same time. Not only are we asking our sons and daughters to be killed in a hopeless war in Afghanistan, we are asking our allies to do the same.

It is time for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

How many more of our young men and women are going to die fighting a hopeless war in Afghanistan before our politicians realize that it is a war we cannot win?

Far too many, I am afraid.

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