Levent Basturk - World Bulletin
On November 6, 2012, a 39-year-old Afghan farmer named Mohammad Qasim disappeared after being arrested by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. No one has seen him since then.
Months later, a decaying body was found just outside a base used by a team of U.S. Special Forces known as "the A-Team." The body was found just weeks after the Afghan government asked U.S. Special Forces to leave the base in the middle of allegations of torture and murder.
More and more bodies were soon found just outside the base located in Wardak province, west of Kabul. Afghan officials report that they have uncovered the bodies of 10 Afghan men who had disappeared after being arrested by U.S. Special Forces. Eight other Afghans were killed by these Special Forces during operations in the area.
A new article, “The A-Team Killings”, published by Rolling Stone magazine, reports the disappearances and killings that could amount to some of the most horrible war crimes perpetrated by U.S. forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
On Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch expressed its firm convinction that any U.S. personnel who participated in or were responsible for the abuses should be criminally prosecuted. Till now, only one person has been arrested: an Afghan translator who had been working for the American team. The Afghan authorities arrested him in July. According to the Rolling Stone report, the U.S. military said they opened a criminal investigation into the killings in July. Nevertheless, none of the witnesses and family members who were interviewed by Rolling Stone in Afghanistan during five months of reporting say they’ve ever been contacted by U.S. military investigators.
WHO IS THE “A-TEAM”?
The interesting thing is that no one really knew who this mysterious killing machine was. The American military had, until the time they opened this criminal investigation, categorically denied any responsibility for the killings in the region.
The A-team is the American Special Forces deployed in Nerkh, a district of Wardak province, Afghanistan, which lies just west of Kabul and oversights a vital highway. They were U.S. Army Green Berets, trained to wage unconventional warfare. After the main Army units, installed during the surge, left Afghanistan, small groups of American elite operators who would stay behind to annihilate the enemy and strenghten the resilience of Afghan government forces in the fight against Taliban took their place.
But the team would be forced out of Nerkh by the Afghan government six months after its arrival amid allegations of torture and murder against the local people.
THE ROLLING STONE INVESTIGATION
The Rolling Stone team discovered the unit who abducted these disappeared Afghans. It is clear now that American forces, often in mass roundups in villages in broad daylight, picked up Afghan men who have never returned home.
Long before the American military launched its investigation, this had become a major issue in Afghanistan. The President Karzai demanded that the U.S. troops on that base be removed.
When a body of a student named Nasratullah was found in February with his throat slit under a bridge, tension between the Afghan government and the U.S. started to build up. His family claimed that he had been picked up by the Special Forces. Then mass demonstrations erupted in Wardak. President Karzai, who had previously ordered an investigation into the previous allegations, demanded that the Special Forces leave the Wardak province. Thus, the relationship between U.S. and Afghan governments reached a crisis point.
THE U.S. MILITARY’S REACTION
Nevertheless, the troops pulled out in April from that base, but it wasn’t until July that the United States actually began a formal investigation of the charges. The allegations were first reported to a U.S. Army officer by the victims’ relatives in November at the beginning of all these killings. However, the mounted allegations, investigations done by the U.N., the Red Cross and the Afghan government found that the witnesses’ testimonies are credible and reliable. Despite the fact that there were war crimes being committed by this U.S. unit, the U.S. military continued to deny any role was played, saying there had been three investigations that had cleared them of all wrongdoing, even as bodies were still being discovered buried in the soil in April and May. In July, Col. Jane Crichton told The Wall Street Journal “after thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF or U.S. forces.”
However, In July, a U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan issued a warning: “The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture, if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict, may amount to war crimes.”
Matthieu Aikins, who wrote the Rolling Stone piece on these war crimes in Afghanistan, asks these questions in his Democracy Now interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales: “Who else knew about these incidents beforehand? How is it possible that at least one level in the chain of command above this unit could not have known that there were war crimes?”
It is clear and obvious that there was serious evidence of war crimes in Wardak province. And if the U.S. military authorities weren’t involved in a cover-up, then they must have at least been willfully blind. The Rolling Stone investigation and gathering of all the key evidence with their own sources raises the question of whether the investigation by the U.S. army is being taken seriously.
One of the Afghans who died after being detained by U.S. Special Forces was a university student named Nasratullah. In February, Americans soldiers burst into his family’s home. Two days later, villagers found Nasratullah’s corpse, half eaten by village dogs, under a nearby bridge. His mother Bibi Shereen talked to Democracy Now on his son’s abduction:
“My son was taken, and his body was dropped under a bridge in the river. One of his fingers was cut off. He was beaten very badly. His body was swollen from torture, and his throat was slit. Why is the government not listening to our voices? Why are they not stopping the Americans from doing such things? While I wanted to stand up to talk with the Americans, they pulled me back and hit me in my chest with the butt of a gun. I still feel pain here since I have been beaten. I cannot breathe. You can still see the marks of the beating on my chest.”
In November 10 of last year, a 38-year-old farmer - Matthieu Aikins calls him Omar - was standing with his neighbor, a 28-year-old shopkeeper and father of three named Gul Rahim, when they heard a bomb blast followed by gunfire. The two had been trying to dig out a tree stump in front of Omar’s house. Then they saw Americans Special Forces team coming down the road toward them, so they went inside. Two translators and an American soldier entered their house without asking permission. They first beat them up and later dragged them out to the orchard where they had found a command wire for the bomb. It was the next-door orchard, which didn’t belong to either of the men.
As one of the Americans held Omar and beat him, one of the translators shot Gul Rahim in the back of his head. Omar was beaten more and taken away to the U.S. Special Forces base. He was held for several days. He was suspended, whipped with cables, and interrogated by the Americans and the translators.Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Kasım 2013, 16:42