The Reason behind Karsai's Wardak Ban: US Attacks on Hospitals
February 26, 2013
AntiWar.com & Reuters & Swedish Committee on Afghanistan
US officials continue to feign shock at the decision to ban special forces from the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, but as details of their behavior in the province continue to emerge, the only wonder is that they managed to operate for so long without such a ban. Outrages include: occupying hospitals, blindfolding staff, barring the provision of medical care, placing staff and patients in detention, breaking windows and equipment, and damaging supplies of medicines.
US Troops Attacked Afghan Hospital Before Provincial Banning
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 26, 2013) -- US officials continue to feign shock at the decision to ban special forces from the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, but as details of their behavior in the province continue to emerge, the only wonder is that they managed to operate for so long without such a banning.
The latest information comes from the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), which has reported that US troops once again attacked one of their hospitals earlier this month, in the Wardak Province, damaging the site and breaking equipment before eventually leaving.
This was the second time that clinic had been attacked by the US in recent months, and the exact same facility was the site of a two and a half day siege in October in which US troops inexplicably occupied the facility and took every patient and civilian within prisoner, before eventually releasing them all and leaving.
The US has an extremely poor history with respect to the Geneva Convention protections of remote hospitals, and had attacked a different SCA hospital in 2009, smashing the site up and ordering the doctors not to treat anybody else until they had reported their names to the NATO occupation forces.
NATO confirmed the most recent attack on the hospital, insisting it was carried out “in conjunction with Afghan forces” and that they had “compensated” the owners of the building for any damage caused.
Afghan Health Organizations Demand Stop
To Intrusions into Medical Facilities
The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan
(February 26, 2013) -- The Alliance of Health Organizations demands an immediate stop to intrusions into medical facilities by armed forces in Afghanistan, both foreign and national. The urge comes after the latest incident when ISAF troops searched, occupied and damaged a clinic in Saydabad district of Wardak province, supported by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. SCA is one of 26 significant implementing agencies of the Alliance of Health Organizations.
We are very concerned. From all across the country, we are receiving reports about armed intrusions into health facilities, says Dr. Sayed Ashrafuddin Aini, chairman of the Alliance of Health Organizations (AHO).
It was early morning on 11th of February that two ISAF military helicopters landed in Dandokai village, Saydabad district. Foreign soldiers entered the SCA-supported health facility by force, tied up and blindfolded the guard on duty, and occupied the facility for a few hours. The clinic was left in a mess, with windows and doors broken, equipment destroyed and medicines lying on the floor.
This is totally unacceptable. The clinic was clearly marked by a signboard and it is obvious for anyone who enters that it indeed is a medical facility, states Andreas Stefansson, Country Director of SCA. We are very disappointed, Stefansson adds, as we were given guarantees by ISAF after we protested against their three-day occupation of our clinic in Chack district in October last year.
Most health implementers within the Alliance of Health Organizations have similar experiences. We see violations against the Geneva Convention by all armed groups, foreign and national. This makes us very concerned for the future and our ability to deliver health services, states Dr Sayed Ashrafuddin Aini, chairman of AHO.
On Monday the 25th of February, representatives of the AHO met with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to discuss the problem.
We are glad to note that MoPH takes the problem seriously and is willing to support us. If Afghans are to access health services, it is very important that doctors and midwives feel safe at work and the health facilities provide uninterrupted services to the people, Dr Sayed Ashrafuddin Aini says.
Afghans Hold Anti-US Rally
Following Abuse Claims
(February 26, 2013) -- More than five hundred men marched through the capital of Afghanistan's restive Wardak province on Tuesday in an outburst of anger against US special forces accused of overseeing torture and killings in the area.
Shouting "Death to America", "Death to Obama" and "Death to Special Forces", the protesters called for the immediate withdrawal of the American soldiers and threatened to join the Taliban if their demand was not met.
A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Sunday that all US Special Forces must leave Wardak province within two weeks following the accusations that Afghans working for them had tortured and killed innocent people.
Karzai's demand could further complicate talks between the United States and Afghanistan over the presence of American troops once most NATO forces leave the country by the end of 2014.
Reuters interviewed dozens of residents of Wardak and Afghan government officials who alleged that Afghan men working with a small unit of US special forces had illegally detained, tortured and killed suspected insurgents.
A US defense official in Washington said a review in recent months in cooperation with Afghanistan's Defense Ministry and National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency found no involvement of Western forces in any abuse.
The peaceful two-hour protest began on Tuesday at the offices of the Wardak provincial council shortly after it held a meeting.
"If the situation remains like this, this province will collapse very soon," said protester Haji Abdul Qadim. "People will join the insurgency very soon because of the abuses of these forces."
In another incident that could feed local hostility to the American forces in Wardak, a Swedish organization which runs health clinics across Afghanistan accused the US military on Tuesday of occupying and damaging one of its facilities.
The incident occurred before dawn on February 11, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) said in a statement.
"Foreign soldiers entered the … health facility by force, tied up and blindfolded the guard on duty, and occupied the facility," the statement said. Doors and windows were broken and medical equipment was destroyed, SCA director Andreas Stefansson said.
It was the second time one of SCA's clinics had been occupied by foreign forces since October, when soldiers spent three days in another Wardak clinic. After the October incident, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had told them it would ensure it did not happen again, Stefansson said. "What we are seeking is that they actually live up to what they say," Stefansson said.
A spokesman for ISAF said the latest operation was carried out in conjunction with Afghan forces and aimed at detaining an insurgent leader who had taken refuge inside the clinic. ISAF said the building was not marked as a medical facility and they had compensated residents for the damage.
Stefansson also said a group of Afghan special forces had bullied and threatened the lives of health workers at the Maidan Shar hospital several days earlier.
(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)
Outrage as US Forces Attack Afghan Hospital in 2009
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 6, 2009) -- The charity group Swedish Committee for Afghanistan expressed outrage today in reporting a US attack on a remote hospital being operated by the group. The troops burst in to the hospital without explanation and conducted a full and rather violent search of the facility.
The troops reportedly tied up several employees and the family of some of the patients, ordered the bed-ridden patients out of their rooms and smashed down several doors, including the door to the malnutrition ward. They did not arrest anybody, but upon leaving ordered the staff to report anybody coming to the hospital to seek treatment before the treatment was provided.
NATO spokesmen confirmed the raid, but said they had no information about why it was done and refused to speculate. The United Nations cautioned that the raid was a potential violation of the Geneva Conventions, which insist that military personnel avoid operating inside medical facilities.
The charity says that the same hospital was involved in an incident in July, when private contractors escorting a supply convoy forced their way in and used the hospital to hide from insurgents. A US helicopter also attacked a small medical clinic in Paktika Province last week on the basis of a report that a wounded insurgent might be inside.
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