Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Human-rights Travesty of US Night Raids in Afghanistan

Gareth Porter at IPS on recent findings regarding US night raids to round up Afghan civilians:

The report suggests that it is dangerous to detain family members in particular in order to exploit their knowledge of relatives in the insurgency, because it further inflames an already angry population across the country.

"If that is the criteria, they might as well arrest all southerners," said one Afghan journalist living in Kandahar. "The person who is an active Taliban is either my uncle, cousin (or) nephew…"

Based on interviews with residents in villages where raids have taken place in the past several months, the report concludes that communities "see raids as deliberately targeting and harassing civilians, in order to discourage communities from providing food and shelter to insurgents, or to pressure them to supply intelligence on the insurgency."

Most of those civilians targeted or swept up in night raids are released within a few days, according to the report. That assessment is consistent with the revelation, reported by IPS in September 2010, that roughly 90 percent of the individuals who were said by ISAF in August 2010 to have been "captured insurgents" were in fact released either within two weeks of initial detention or within a few months after being sent to Parwan detention facility.

The authors of the report conclude that deliberately targeting and rounding up civilians who are not suspected of being insurgents merely to exploit possible intelligence value "may constitute an arbitrary deprivation of liberty" and thus "inhumane treatment" in violation of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Porter makes another observation that suggests a rather cynical underpinning for the recent ramping up of these raids: the Special Operations Forces who conduct them have been rather successful in forcing Taliban leaders to flee from Afghanistan into Pakistan, which means that it would seem less urgent to increase the night raids.  However, the night raids are a chief raison d'etre for the SOF to remain in Afghanistan.  So . . . instead of focusing on killing Taliban commanders who may no longer be there to be killed, round up villagers to press them for information.  Result: SOF get to hang around, Army brass gets to showcase them and keep the money flow coming to those units.

And speaking of Taliban commanders and fighters heading across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan, the US now says that it has arrogated to itself the prerogative of intervening unilaterally against the Haqqani network - i.e., sending its forces inside Pakistan itslelf if necessary - if the Pakistanis won't do so themselves.

Our arrogance is breath-taking . . . and the possibilities of provoking the military of what is, in fact, a nuclear-armed power, have increased exponentially.

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