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Center Column Archives
Tue Mar 1 2005 Torture in Afghanistan
Read More | Taliban Country: Afghanistan 3 1/2 Years After the U.S. Invasion
2/17/2005 Evidence has emerged that "US forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking 'trophy photographs' of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation" The UK's Guardian newspaper has obtained documents that "contain evidence that such abuses took place in the main detention centre at Bagram, near the capital Kabul, as well as at a smaller US installation near the southern city of Kandahar." Photographs taken in southern Afghanistan "show US soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion posing in mock executions of blindfolded and bound detainees." In addition, several American soldiers are under investigation in the shooting deaths of two Afghan villagers outside a U.S. base in western Afghanistan. Witnesses and local officials said the on the afternoon of February 11th, two villagers were shot while they fled across a field. Two witnesses said in an interview that two American soldiers then approached one of the Afghans, who was wounded, and shot him dead at close range.
The US is also accused of spraying toxic chemicals on Afghan fields causing serious health problems for the population. Afghanistan has become the world's largest opium producer (producing 90% of the heroin sold in Britain) and its likely the spayings were part of a US attempt to destroy opium fields. WHile the US has denied carrying out such sprayings, “They are the ones with the planes,” said Abdul Ahmad who lost, together with his brother Abdullah, 200 animals from symptoms that suggested poisoning. Abdullah told an American daily that one night in early February he was watching over his animals when suddenly a plane flew overhead three time. In the morning, the animals “went mad, their eyes went blue and they could not eat,” said his brother Abdul Ahmad. “Water was coming from their mouths, they were trying to eat their droppings and they were shivering,” he added. The February 3 incident also left villagers, particularly children, complaining of fevers, skin rashes and bloody diarrhea.
UK attempt to eradicate Afghan opium fails | US Troops Slaughter Afghan villagers | Abu Ghraib-style abuse by the US in Afghanistan
Sat Oct 9 2004 Afghan election ends in controversy
sworn into office as President of Afghanistan despite clear evidence of stuffed ballot boxes and irregularities at many polling places. While Afghanistan has dropped out of the news and is virtually ignored by the Western press, things are not very different from how they were a few years ago when it was the top story in every US newspaper. Bin Laden is still reported to be hiding in the North, Mulla Omar and Hekmatyar continues to make threats, the Taliban continues to engage in attacks on both Afghan and US forces, warlords continue to control most of the country (with Karzai ruling mainly over Kabul) and opium sales continue to rise keeping Afghanistan the word's largest producer of heroin.
Afghan Recovery Report: Daughters Sold to Settle Debts | Detritus of War Keeps Claiming New Victims
On Saturday October 9th, Afghanistan held its first "election" under US occupation. The election ended in controversy after most presidential candidates called for a boycott half-way through voting due to fears of fraud resulting from problems in the method used to prevent people from voting more than once. Without basic infrastructure, the election faced credibility problems from the start and the competition between warlords is likely to make ethnic tensions worse. The Bush administration's role in the October timing of the Afghan election seems primarily designed for the benefit of Bush's own re-election, but the booming opium trade and recent surge in violence make it hard to use Afghanistan as an example of success.
Women and Elections in Afghanistan | Common Dreams | Democracy Now | Credibility at stake after Karzai’s rivals boycott polls
Fri Oct 1 2004 Opium Production In Afghanistan
Los Angeles Times Afganistan's "opium poppy crop this year is set to break all records, surging past the peak levels reported under the Taliban". Officials in the US State Department warn that there are record levels of poppy cultivation in areas not previously used for this purpose.
With increased warlordism and a collapsed economy, many Afghans find growing opium one of the few ways to support themselves. "The yields farmers can make on opium compared with wheat or rice are stratospheric. There is little incentive to grow anything else as law enforcement is poor and hundreds of senior officials are allegedly involved in the multi-billion-dollar drug business themselves.... farmers stand to make only 5,000 Afghanis (35 dollars) from planting half an acre with wheat or rice, but 10 times that amount for harvesting opium."
The role of US forces in Afghan's drug trade is unclear. Many of the warlords the US is working with to fight the Taliban are among the country's largest opium producers. Vladimir Putin has accused the US and NATO of looking the other way as occupied Afghanistan floods Europe with over 70% of the world's opium.
Opium production spreading in Afghanistan | Disinfopedia | The Politics Of Afghan Opium
Sat Apr 24 2004 latest afghan news
Hamid Karzai has little power outside of Kabul. In March fighting broke out between the Afghan army and forces loyal to warlord Ismail Khan. In early April, between 2,000 and 3,000 soldiers loyal to Rashid Dostum invaded and took control of several Afghan cities . General Abdul Rashid Dostum is officially an adviser to Karzai, but in reality Dostum has more real military power and Karzai's role is effectively that of a US ambassador to the various warlords.
The Afghanistan government's problems are not restricted to former warlords from the Northern Alliance. While the US government says the "spring offensive by Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas in Afghanistan's restive south is the weakest in two years", a look the attacks in just the past few days reveals the extent of Afghanistan's problems. On Thursday April 22th, fighting between US forces and Taliban fighters resulted in the death of former football star Pat Tillman. Also on Thursday, a bomb targeting the provincial governor exploded in Kandahar province. On Friday April 23rd, "Suspected Taliban rebels fired rockets and machine-guns at a checkpoint in a remote southwestern region, killing eight Afghan soldiers in a nighttime attack." Also on the 23rd, a US Patrol was ambushed in Khost province sparking a one-hour firefight and "a group of 50 armed men attacked aid workers" in Kandahar, "setting fire to eight vehicles." Taliban leader Mulla Dadullah claims that his fighters are now in control of 26 rural districts in southern and south-western Afghanistan and even Mullah Omar is now talking to the media, giving one of his first interviews since he was forced out of power in 2001.
A recent Human Rights Watch report has detailed how US backed warlords in Afghanistan are threatening women's rights and freedom of expression. Last November, thousands of Afghan women were expelled from school simply for being married, there are reports that a growing number of women in Herat Province have been killing themselves through self-immolation, and on April 17th, Nangahar province declared female entertainers un-Islamic and "banned them from performing on television and radio.
In 2002 Afghanistan became the world's largest opium producer. In 2003, Afghanistan was thought to be producing 76 percent of the world's opium, and this year's harvest could be "twice as large as last year's near-record crop".
In January, retired Army Colonel Hy Rothstein concluded in a Pentagon commissioned report that the US has failed to adapt to new conditions created by the Taliban's collapse and created conditions that have given "warlordism, banditry and opium production a new lease on life."
The New Yorker: The Other War | A Look At the Role of Women in Post-9/11 Afghanistan
Fri Sep 7 2001 911
On September 11th 2001 two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York and one plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington DC. Within days the US government and media were blaming Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network. Bin Laden was thought to have moved to Afghanistan in May 1996 after being expelled from Sudan. When two US embassies in Africa were blown up on August 7th 1998. Clinton had responded on August 20th by launching missles at Sudan and supposed terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Immediately after 9/11, ">international aid agencies in Afghanistan feared feared a massive US attack and left the country. On September 17th, a Pakistani delegation arrived in Afghanistan to try to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden, but the Taliban denied that Bin Laden took part in the WTC attacks. Afghanistan's neighbors all feared for the worst as the US "dismissed as inadequate a ruling by Afghanistan's senior clerics that Bin Laden would be asked to leave the country". On September 24th the Taliban claimed to have mobilized 300,000 troops in preparation for U.S. strikes on the country and in response the Pakistan foreign ministry pulled out all of its diplomatic staff from Kabul. On September 25th Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with the Taliban. As the world waited for the US attacks to begin, US Special forces had already deployed in Afghanistan. The official US line on September 29th was that the US would offer aid to opponents of the Taliban, but wouldn't try to choose the countries next rulers. On October 5th US Troops deployed to Uzbekistan. On October 6th, the Taliban claimed that its forces shot anti-aircraft fire at an American plane and on October 7th the US air war had begun.
US Governments Official Timeline | Center for Cooperative Research Timeline | AP Post-Sept. 11 Chronology
Wed Nov 12 2003 ground war
US and British deaths in the Afghan War were low because it wasn't really a US or British war. The US and British provided air cover for forces of the Northern Alliance who fought long and bloody battles over a period of two months to capture the major cities.
The first major ground battle started in November 9th 2001 when the Northern Alliance started their seige of Mazar-I-Sharif. When the Taliban tried to take Mazar in 1997, 2,000 Taliban fighters who were captured were later sumarilly executed. In revenge when the Taliban finally took the city in 1998, they engaged in what Human Rights Watch has described as "the single worst examples of killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s twenty-year war", with thousands of ethnic Hazaras rounded up and summarilly executed. While its not known how many were killed in the US backed siege, reports from soon after the Northern Alliance entered the city showed a level of factional killings that resembled the previous times that the city fell. RAWA has ducumented the mass slaughter of Pakistani nationals who were trapped in the city. 10 UNICEF trucks were also captured by the Northern Alliance and some of the drivers were executed.
The seige of Kabul started almost immediately after the fall of Mazar and by November 12th, Kabul had fallen to the Northern Alliance. The corporate media showed glowing pictures of Afghan men now free to shave their beards and Afghan women no longer required to wear burkas. Many Afghans worried about the past human rights abuses of the Northern Alliance forces which now controlled the city. Farooq Tariq of the Pakistan Labour Party wrote that "in order to force the Taliban out of Kabul, Washington had to rely on supporting one group of Afghan religious fundamentalists against another. The NA might make some changes in its outlook initially, but it will not change its fundamental aim of maintaining an Islamic state in Afghanistan."
Sun Dec 15 2002 Massacre at Mazar
On November 26 2001, the Northern Alliance, backed by US airpower captured the city of Kunduz from the Taliban. The mainstream press gloated at the fall of the last Taliban stronghold in Northern Afghanistan. But, soon reports came in of possible widespread killing of prisoners who surrendered when the city fell. In December, the UK Guardian reported that following the capture of Kunduz, "dozens of Taliban prisoners died after surrendering to Northern Alliance forces, asphyxiated in the shipping containers used to transport them to prison". In 2001 the ICRC found a mass grave near Mazar-e-Sharif containing over 600 bodies thought to be of prisoners from Konduz. The UN briefly attempted to investigate reports of mass graves, but in August 2002 the U.N. special representative in Afghanistan stated that "the weakness of the Afghan government and the risk to investigators or witnesses make it almost impossible to investigate reports that there are mass graves in northern Afghanistan." In November 2002, the UN found evidence that General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leading Afghan warlord and strong US ally, "tortured witnesses to stop them from testifying against him in a war crimes inquiry" surrounding the mass graves. Scottish filmmaker Jamie Doran released a movie in late 2002 titled "Massacre at Mazar" offering eyewitness testimony and footage of the US backed war crimes in Afghanistan.