Monday, January 04, 2010

More Afghan civilians killed under Obama than Bush

The United Nations released figures this week showing that civilian deaths rose 10.8 percent in the first 10 months of 2009 to 2,038, up from 1,838 for the same period of 2008.

The UN report says that the vast majority were killed by insurgents – who are trying to overthrow the current Karzai government or to throw out the foreign troops. In other words, they were often caught in the crossfire, often by homemade bombs such as IEDs. The civilian casualties for 2008 were reportedly 40% higher than for 2007, and with a 10% increase over that, well, we have a very bad trend going on here.

Afghan civilian casualties up 10% per UN

In 2008, a total of 2,118 civilians were killed in the crossfire, the highest such toll since the 2001 US-led invasion removed the Taliban from power and sparked a fierce insurgency by remnants of the regime. The war blighting Afghanistan is now into a ninth year and has escalated through 2009 as more international troops have been injected into the theatre, leading to more battles with Taliban-led militants.


And we are sending another 40,000 troops to join the 110,000 international troops already stationed there. We are also surging in the number of 'contractors' in Afghanistan.

And while the majority of civilians killed in the first ten months of the year 2009 were killed by the Taliban or insurgents, both US and NATO forces have killed civilians in several incidents. Of course, some times who is killing civilians is unknown.

Armed men gun down six civilians in East Afghanistan

Six civilians were killed as unknown armed men opened fire on a car in Nangarhar province east of Afghanistan, a private television channel reported Wednesday. Unidentified armed men sprayed bullets on a car in Pachiragam district Tuesday afternoon leaving six civilians dead, Tolo broadcast in its news bulletin. In a similar incident, unidentified armed men killed a former government employee in the neighboring Laghman province on the same day.

First, a look at a couple of the more notorious cases of killing mass numbers of civilians in Afghanistan in 2009.

RAWA’s collection of photos of massacre of 147 civilians when US dropped bombs on the villages of Gerani and Gangabad in Farah Province on May 5, 2009.

There is also a video report below in the comments.

Last September, there was a bombing by NATO of two hijacked fuel trucks. The locals were told to get some fuel out by the Taliban, and then German forces proceeded to bomb them. Up to 90 people were killed.

Germany’s highest ranking soldier ended up resigning over that incident.


On December 2, 2009, six civilians died in a NATO raid in Laghman province, at least according to President Karzai.

Foreign forces kill school children and adults in Afghanistan

Mr Karzai condemned the killing of six civilians during a NATO raid in early December as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates vowed US troop reinforcements would keep civilian deaths to a minimum. Mr Karzai's office said six civilians, including a woman, died when troops from ISAF conducted an operation in Laghman province on the night of December 2.

On December 8, 2009, the Afghan government claimed that NATO forces killed six civilians in a pre-dawn operation in eastern Afghanistan. NATO said that only militants died.

About 400 people marched on Mehtar Lam to protest the deaths, carrying bodies of some of the dead, said provincial government spokesman Said Ahead Safi. Groups of men laid the blanket-wrapped bodies on wooden cots, which they hoisted above them as they walked, footage from Associated Press Television News showed. "Whoever came onto the roof of their home, they killed them. Some were killed inside their houses," said Ismail, a villager who only gave one name and said he lost seven members of his family. "All those killed were innocent villagers, farmers. The Americans even killed our women."

NATO later admitted that there may have been civilians killed. One of the dead was a women.

On December 12, 2009, there was a report that two civilians were killed by NATO forces in Alisher district of Khost province. The bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs.

Two civilians allegedly killed by NATO forces

Police Chief Colonel Yaqub said police found two unidentified corpses at 4am this morning in the area and shifted them to Khost's civil hospital. Journalism and Human Rights Director for southeastern zone, Dr Rafiullah, who also witnessed the bodies, said the deceased's hands were tied behind their back with plastic cuffs which could only be found with US soldiers.

The next incident took place on December 18, 2009. The NATO forces claim they were targeting someone planting roadside bombs. Why, then, did they hit a minibus? They also claimed that they saw a ‘car’ besides the bomb-planters after firing. Got to wonder about their vision…. Or truth-telling ability. And this was not even a drone strike!

NATO air strike ‘kills three Afghan civilians’

A NATO air strike against suspected militants in troubled southern Afghanistan killed three civilians and wounded one other, local government and hospital officials said Friday. The civilians were in a minibus travelling just before midnight on the main southern highway when they were attacked by helicopter gunships in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, the provincial governor's office said. "Three male civilians have been killed and a woman has been wounded as a result of this attack," a statement read. Their bodies were taken back to their home province of Uruzgan, the provincial health director told AFP.

Next is the incident on December 26 or 27, 2009 which has generated some media attention, even in the US. One of December’s killings of civilians was a NATO operation in Kunar Province. NATO claims it was insurgents that were killed, but locals claim it was mainly school-age boys. President Karzai has weighed in on the situation.

Afghans say inquiry shows boys were killed in allied action

Nonetheless, on Wednesday, in a statement e-mailed to reporters, Mr. Karzai’s office left little doubt that the president believed that international forces had committed a serious crime against civilians, portraying an episode that, if substantiated, would make the deaths some of the most egregious of the war. “The delegation concluded that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village, in Narang District of the eastern province of Kunar, and took 10 people from 3 homes, 8 of them school students in grades 6, 9 and 10, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead,” said the statement from the president’s office.

The UN weighed in on this incident too.

The United Nations said Thursday that a weekend raid by foreign troops in a tense eastern Afghan province killed eight local students and warned against nighttime actions by coalition forces because they often cause civilian deaths. The Afghan government said its investigation has established that all 10 people killed Sunday in a remote village in Kunar province were civilians. Its officials said that eight of those killed were schoolchildren aged 12-14.

… A statement issued Thursday by the Afghan National Security Directorate said the government investigation showed no Afghan forces were involved and "international forces from an unknown address came to the area and without facing any armed resistance, put 10 youth in two rooms and killed them. "They conducted this operation on their own without informing any security or local authorities of Afghanistan," the statement said.

This is from Democracy Now program.

Afghan Investigators Accused Int’l Forces of Killing Schoolboys

NATO officials have denied civilians were killed, but Afghan investigators said nearly all those killed were school-age boys. In a statement released yesterday, President Hamid Karzai’s office said that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village and took ten people from three homes. Karzai’s office said all of the people detained were shot dead.

And this incident also has reports of the dead having been handcuffed before being executed.

Western Troops accused of executing 10 Afghan civilians, including children

American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead. Afghan government investigators said that eight schoolchildren were killed, all but one of them from the same family. Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed.

…..In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. “Seven students were in one room,” said Rahman Jan Ehsas. “A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building. “First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.” A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said.

On December 28, 2009, we have this short report:

Meantime, locals say that air strikes against Taliban hideouts in Balamirghab district claimed the lives of three civilians and injured four others.

The incident below happened on December 29, 2009.

Four Afghan civilians killed in Baglan air raid

Four civilians have reportedly been killed and eight others wounded in a fresh air strike by foreign forces in northern Baghlan province, residents alleged on Tuesday. The overnight attack took place in Kohna Qala area of Baghlan-i-Markazi district, residents told Pajhwok Afghan News.

The four civilians killed were reportedly a father and his three sons who were running from the bombardment. The head of the local district hospital reported that there were eight injured, with a women and a child in critical condition. A local police chief claims that the victims were Taliban fighters.

The next incident took place on December 30, 2009.

More civilians deaths claimed in Afghanistan

An airstrike by international forces in the southern Afghan province of Helmand killed seven civilians, two Taliban and wounded another civilian, an Afghan official said Friday. Dawud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack took place Wednesday after an international patrol came under fire from insurgents and called for air support. NATO said it was aware of the reports and was investigating.

Another report of the above incident (at least, I think it is the same incident).

Civilians again killed in NATO airstrike in Afghanistan

At least eight villagers were killed and two injured in an airstrike by NATO forces in Helmand province in Afghanistan, local officials reported Thursday. A spokesman for the provincial government said a house near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah was hit in the airstrike.

Killing Afghan civilians clearly did not take a Christmas vacation.

Well, needless to say, Afghans are not happy about all this bombing and shooting of civilians – or, at least people they believe are civilians, and as far as I can tell, their perceptions are correct. There have been several demonstrations during December alone. Here is a report on one of them:

In response to the attack on December 27, 2009, hundreds of Afghans protested in Jalalabad and shouted ‘death to Obama’ and burned Obama in effigy. This protest took place on December 30, 2009.

Afghans condemn ‘civilian deaths’

In Kabul, the Afghan capital, a crowd of around a hundred, mostly young men, gathered in a western district to vent their frustration at the killings. "Obama! Obama! Take your soldiers out of Afghanistan!" the protesters chanted, wearing blue headbands with the words: "Stop killing us!" Others held placards with pictures of young dead children they said were killed by foreign troops.

….. Although UN figures show far more civilians are killed by the Taliban, deaths at the hands of foreigners spark wide resentment and undermine international forces' attempts to weaken the Taliban by building trust among the peaceful population.

I have not seen those photos of the dead children, and I looked. I did find pictures of children from Yemen who were reportedly killed by US bombs in December. Of course, Americans have not seen the photos of either Afghan or Yemen children on their TVs, so for the VAST majority of them, it is like these incidents never happened. And if they are told that the dead people are Taliban or insurgents, they will accept this without even thinking.

Just the other day, there was quite the discussion about the December 26 or 27 bombing in Afghanistan here on Daily Kos. (The date is uncertain because it either happened late at night or early in the morning.) Some people who comment here felt there should be more links in the diary, because they just flat out did not believe David Swanson. Now anyone who knows David and his work knows that it is well resourced. He knows his stuff. This diary, which is well-linked and well-resourced, will likely be ignored or attacked for putting the blame on Obama.

Further, people who commented here also feel that we need to stay in Afghanistan because we some how ‘owe’ the people there our ‘protection’. Of course, just seeing how many civilians we have killed would cause reasonable people to come to the quick conclusion that we are not HELPING AT ALL. But here is a more reasoned argument to rebut the silly idea that we are there to bring freedom and democracy:

The best argument for the Afghan war – and what’s wrong with it

For those of us on the left, the best argument in favor of the Afghan war is . . . that we have an obligation to the Afghan people -- especially to the feminists, secular teachers, labor organizers, health workers, democrats, all those working to build a secular, civil society. We encouraged them to help create a real alternative to religious fundamentalism. It would be wrong now to abandon them to the Taliban.

…. If we accept the argument that we have incurred an obligation to protect democratic activists in Afghanistan, what exactly do we owe them? First of all, we owe it to them not to support an undemocratic government there. The Karzai government exists only because the United States created and sustained it, despite massive election fraud, monumental corruption, and myriad failures to win popular support.

If we accept the obligations argument, we also owe it to the Afghans to fight a different kind of war – to stop attacking and killing large numbers of civilians. The way we have been fighting the war creates more enemies than are killed. . . . That means the US military must "stop killing civilians, work locally, disown corrupt officials, emphasize social and economic reconstruction." They have not been doing this for nine years, partly because that kind of careful, close-in fighting creates more American casualties than bombing suspected enemy locations.

Some argue that we are in Afghanistan to protect women and enable girls to go to school. Here is a bit from an article about Afghan women from Al Jazeera.

Eight years after the US-led invasion that was supposed to liberate Afghanistan, women are still living without the most basic rights, vulnerable to abuse and often deprived of education. Nobody cares about women," Fatana Gailini, the chairperson of Afghanistan's women's council, told Al Jazeera.

Late last Saturday night, I was listening to the BBC news on the radio. A journalist was reporting on how poor the people of Kabul are, and how the children swarmed him to beg for change, as did a few women. He talked to one man in Kabul how was desperate for a job, because his children were hungry. That Afghan said this:

“you have been here eight years now – and what have you done?”

Of course, many Afghans are facing starvation and death from the cold this winter, especially those living in IDP camps. They are in desperate shape, and the US/NATO is not doing anything to help them. In nearly all cases, it was US/NATO actions who caused these Afghans to become refugees from their homes. There is a video clip below that shows some Afghans in an IDP camp. One of the little girls in the video died shortly after the video was made by Rethink Afghanistan.

Hat tip to IRAQ TODAY for their daily updates on what is happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

News report on civilian massacre in May 2009

Rethink Afghanistan – civilian casualties

Afghans protest against December 2009 killings by NATO

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