Environmentalists Against War
Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are

 

 

Afghan Officials: 'Significant Evidence' of US Involvement in Torture of Civilians


May 14, 2013
Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams & Rod Norland / The New York Times

Following the expulsion of US Special Operation Forces, officials report American men were behind the disappearance of locals from Wardak region. Afghan officials are pursuing the arrest of Zakaria Kandahari, a US-born member of a US Special Forces team that engaged in kidnappings, torture, and murder. Afghan authorities say they have testimony, documents and videotapes implicating Kandahari and his unit in the torture, killings or disappearances of 15 Afghans.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/13

Afghan Officials: 'Significant Evidence' of US Involvement in Torture of Civilians
Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams

(May 13, 2013) -- Confirming earlier allegations that US forces were involved in the torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians in Afghanistan's Wardak province, the New York Times reported Sunday that Afghan officials are saying they have "substantial evidence of American involvement" and are pursuing the arrest of an American-born individual who they claim was a key member of a US Special Forces team that engaged in kidnappings, torture, and murder.

The accusations against Zakaria Kandahari and the assertion by Afghan officials that he and much of his unit are American are a "new turn," writes the Times, in the allegations against US Special Forces which were behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai's earlier demandfor US troops to withdraw from the Wardak province.

The Times reports:
[Afghan officials] say they have testimony and documents implicating Kandahari and his unit in the killings or disappearances of 15 Afghans in Wardak. Kandahari is of Afghan descent, they say, but he was born and raised in the United States. Included in the evidence, the Afghan officials say, is a videotape of Kandahari torturing one of the 15 Afghans, a man they identified as Sayid Mohammad.

Mohammad was picked up by the unit in Wardak six months ago and has not been seen since, the officials said. The partial remains of Mohammad Qassim, another of the 15 Afghans, were found in a trash pit just outside the fence around the unit's base in the Nerkh district, according to Qassim's family and Afghan officials.


Afghan officials who have seen the videotape say that a person speaking English with an American accent can be heard supervising the torture session, which Kandahari is seen conducting.

According to investigators, the Special Forces team detained a total of 15 local Afghan civilians in "sweeps," despite families' claims that deny any association with rebel factions; 7 of those 15 "are known to have been killed" while the remaining 8 are still missing "and almost certainly dead."

US military officials told the Times their investigations turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by US troops, but Afghan officials told the newspaper that the video and other evidence strongly implicate the US forces' involvement.

The report continues:
At the center of the Afghans’ accusations is an American Special Forces A Team that had been based in the Nerkh district until recently. An A Team is an elite unit of 12 American soldiers who work with extra resources that the military calls “enablers,” making it possible for the team to have the effect of a much larger unit.

Those resources can include specialized equipment, air support and Afghan partner troops or interpreters. The American official said Mr. Kandahari had been an interpreter working for the team in the Nerkh district without pay in exchange for being allowed to live on the base.


Afghan officials give a different account of his role. They say he and others working with the team wore American-style military uniforms, but had long beards and often, bizarrely, rode motorized four-wheeled bikes on hunts for insurgents. The Afghan officials said Mr. Kandahari appeared to be in a leadership position in the unit.

For additional background, reporting by Gareth Porter and Shah Noori earlier this year explored what was known about US Special Operation Forces operating in Wardak, including evidence about "rogue Afghan units" that sound very similar to the "enablers" cited by the Times:

US SOF units have been responsible for recruiting, training, arming and monitoring Afghan Local Police (ALP), which have committed abuses in the past. But many people in Wardak believe the armed Afghans terrorising the villages could not be ALP, because they are not from the villages themselves and in fact appear not to be from Wardak province at all.


Abdul Rahman, who commands a police checkpoint and is a village elder and district development council member in Maidan Shar district, told IPS that the armed men behind the abuses in that district are believed to be from an Afghan task force organized and supported by SOF in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Mohammad Jan Sarwary, a tall young man working for a mobile phone company who lives in Narkh district, told IPS the armed force that entered his village in mid-February are not local police recruited by the SOF but Afghan task forces who are staying with SOF in the base.

“The people say they are Afghans who had been trained by the Special Operations Forces,” said Sarwary. “From their dialect we believe they are from Kandahar or Helmand provinces.”

Sarwary said a relative in his village told him that the militiamen had forced one of the residents to sit on an improvised explosive device with a gun pointed at his head. They threatened that if any of the members of the force were attacked by anyone in the village, they would blow up that individual.

Another possibility, which has not been raised by Afghans, is that the “counterterrorism pursuit teams” trained by the CIA and acting outside any Afghan chain of command have been carrying out operations in Wardak.

You can read the rest of the New York Times report below.

Afghans Say an American Tortured Civilians
Rod Norland / The New York Times

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan (May 12, 2013) -- The authorities in Afghanistan are seeking the arrest on murder and torture charges of a man they say is an American and part of a Special Forces unit operating in Wardak Province, three Afghan officials have confirmed.

The accusations against the man, Zakaria Kandahari, and the assertion that he and much of his unit are American are a new turn in a dispute over counterinsurgency tactics in Wardak that has strained relations between Kabul and Washington. American officials say their forces are being wrongly blamed for atrocities carried out by a rogue Afghan unit. But the Afghan officials say they have substantial evidence of American involvement.

They say they have testimony and documents implicating Mr. Kandahari and his unit in the killings or disappearances of 15 Afghans in Wardak. Mr. Kandahari is of Afghan descent but was born and raised in the United States, they say. Included in the evidence, the Afghan officials say, is a videotape of Mr. Kandahari torturing one of the 15 Afghans, a man they identified as Sayid Mohammad.

Mr. Mohammad was picked up by the unit in Wardak six months ago and has not been seen since, the officials said. The partial remains of Mohammad Qassim, another of the 15 Afghans, were found in a trash pit just outside the fence around the unit’s base in the Nerkh district, according to Mr. Qassim’s family and Afghan officials.

Afghan officials who have seen the videotape say a person speaking English with an American accent can be heard supervising the torture session, which Mr. Kandahari is seen conducting.

An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with official policy, confirmed the existence of the video showing Mr. Kandahari but denied that he was an American citizen. “Everybody in that video is Afghan; there are no American voices,” the official said.

At the center of the Afghans’ accusations is an American Special Forces A Team that had been based in the Nerkh district until recently. An A Team is an elite unit of 12 American soldiers who work with extra resources that the military calls “enablers,” making it possible for the team to have the effect of a much larger unit.

Those resources can include specialized equipment, air support and Afghan partner troops or interpreters. The American official said Mr. Kandahari had been an interpreter working for the team in the Nerkh district without pay in exchange for being allowed to live on the base.

Afghan officials give a different account of his role. They say he and others working with the team wore American-style military uniforms, but had long beards and often, bizarrely, rode motorized four-wheeled bikes on hunts for insurgents. The Afghan officials said Mr. Kandahari appeared to be in a leadership position in the unit.

Afghan investigators say the team detained the 15 Afghan civilians in sweeps, apparently on suspicion of having ties to insurgents, although their family members deny any association with either the Taliban or Hezb-i-Islami, another group fighting the government in Wardak. The investigators say that 7 of the 15 are known to have been killed and that the other 8 are still missing and almost certainly dead.

The American official said the team was not to blame. “We have done three investigations down there, and all absolve ISAF forces and Special Forces of all wrongdoing,” the official said, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “It is simply not true.”

Relatives of the victims and their supporters have staged noisy protests in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. They say the International Committee of the Red Cross has been investigating the disappearances. In keeping with standard practice, the Red Cross has made no public comment on the matter.

In February, President Hamid Karzai ordered all American Special Operations forces to leave Wardak Province, an area near the capital where insurgents have been active.

Afghan and American officials then reached a compromise under which the A Team was removed from the Nerkh district but that allowed other Special Operations units to remain in at least four locations in the province. It is not known where the team that left the Nerkh district went.

Afghan officials investigated the events in the Nerkh district, and when they concluded that the accusations of misconduct by the team were true, the head of the Afghan military, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, personally asked the American commander at the time, Gen. John R. Allen, to hand Mr. Kandahari over to the Afghan authorities.

According to a senior Afghan official, General Allen personally promised General Karimi that the American military would do so within 24 hours, but the promise was not kept, nor was a second promise a day later to hand him over the following morning. “The next morning they said he had escaped from them and they did not know where he was,” the official said.

The American official said the military was not trying to shield Mr. Kandahari. “The S.F. guys tried to pick him up, but he got wind of it and went on the lam, and we lost contact with him,” the official said. “We would have no reason to try to harbor this individual.”

And a spokesman for the American military, David E. Nevers, said General Allen “never had a conversation with General Karimi about this issue.”

The Special Forces A Team originally moved into its Nerkh district base in Wardak in the autumn of 2012, around the time that a bomb wiped out much of the provincial government center here in Maidan Shahr, the provincial capital.

The senior Afghan official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of political sensitivities about the case, said that top Afghan officials understood that the unit had been transferred from Camp Gecko in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. Afghan officials and human rights investigators say Camp Gecko, formerly the home of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, now includes a C.I.A. paramilitary base and some Special Operations facilities.

Gen. Sharafuddin Sharaf, a senior official of the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service, said that his agency has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Kandahari on charges of murder, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, but that he could not be found.

The Afghan attorney general filed a formal criminal case against him last week, General Sharaf said. Another Afghan official confirmed that those charges had been filed.

Mr. Kandahari is described by Afghans who have seen him as in his late 20s or early 30s and fluent in Pashto, which he speaks with a Kandahar accent, and English. General Sharaf said that it was not known whether Zakaria Kandahari is his real name or an alias, and that the authorities had no information about his family or original home.

A 16-year-old student named Hikmatullah, who said he was tortured by Mr. Kandahari, said his tormentor had a tattoo of a large green sword on his upper right arm.

Hikmatullah said he had been picked up with two of his brothers, Sadiqullah and Ismatullah, from the village of Amer Kheil. Whenever he denied being an insurgent, he said, Mr. Kandahari beat and kicked him until his shoulder was dislocated. He was released after three days, he said, but his brothers are missing.

Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

back

 

 

Stay Connected
Sign up to receive our weekly updates. We promise not to sell, trade or give away your email address.
Email Address:
Full Name:
 

 

Search Environmentalists Against War website

 

Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are