The South Asia Channel

New information about possible U.S. abuses in Afghanistan

New information about possible U.S. abuses in Afghanistan

More accusations

Human Rights Watch released a statement on Wednesday that called upon the U.S. government to undertake a "thorough and impartial investigation" into new allegations regarding the role of U.S. soldiers in the killing of 18 men in Afghanistan in late 2012 and early 2013 (HRW). The statement was prompted by a Rolling Stone article published earlier in the day that contained new information about the role of U.S. Special Forces unit ODA 3124 in the deaths (Rolling Stone).  According to the article, residents in Afghanistan’s Nerkh province became suspicious of U.S. abuses in November 2012 when they alleged that 10 civilians had been arrested and then disappeared. In February 2013, the body of a man who had been arrested by U.S. forces was found with its throat slit. ODA 3124 withdrew from Nerkh in April, following local protests and pressure from Afghan President Hamid Karzai about their presence there. Soon after, a local shepherd found human remains near the unit’s former base. In the next two months, human remains were found in five other locations around the base – amounting to 18 individuals in total.

The U.S. military has repeatedly denied any involvement in the crimes. Col. Jane Crichton, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force spokeswoman, told the Wall Street Journal in July that there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by coalition or U.S. forces after a thorough investigation (WSJ). Human Rights Watch argued that the incidents, which could amount to the greatest war crimes by U.S. forces since 2001, should be investigated in light of the new information so that U.S. authorities can establish exactly what happened and who is responsible.

That’s commitment

Just about a week after saying that Australia’s combat mission in Afghanistan would end before Christmas, the country’s officials have offered to keep up to 400 troops in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw at the end of next year (RFE/RL). Jon Philip, the Australian ambassador to Afghanistan, said Australia is willing to keep between 100 and 400 troops in Afghanistan "into 2015 and onwards," but that it is at the discretion of Afghan officials. Australia currently has around 1,200 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of which are based in Uruzgan province.  

As the November 11 registration deadline for the April 2014 elections approaches, less than a quarter of Afghanistan’s eligible voters have signed up to vote (AJE). Approximately 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote, but barely 2.7 million have registered, according to the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials. They added that almost one million of those registered so far are women. The IEC has deployed mobile registration units across the country in hopes of reaching more of the eligible voters, but violence in southern and eastern regions has kept the turnout low (Pajhwok).

Drone shooting?

Pakistani lawmakers urged the federal government on Wednesday to shoot down U.S. drones if the aircrafts continue to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty (ET, Pajhwok). On the floor of the National Assembly, Dr. Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party said the targeting should be used as a last resort to "convey a louder message to the United States that drones are counterproductive and not acceptable to us." While other lawmakers endorsed her view, most agreed that the Pakistani government should avoid direct confrontation with the United States and pursue the proposed peace plan with the Taliban instead.

Pakistani police detained at least 98 suspects, five of them Afghan nationals, on Wednesday during raids on houses and businesses throughout Peshawar (Dawn). The operation was a joint effort between the police, army, and Frontier Corps to find suspected terrorists operating in the region. Peshawar is situated on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal areas, which the United States has labeled a hot bed for al-Qaeda and Taliban activity. The city has been victim to many militant attacks in recent years, and this sting operation was an effort to maintain the peace. 

It was revealed on Thursday that at least 1,500 people have been arrested in Karachi as the first phase of a similar security operation comes to a close (ET). Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the Pakistani Senate that the security operation, which began on September 7, was over and that preparation for the next phase was beginning. One high profile case from the operation was the arrest of NAME?, the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a liberal political party in Pakistan, which caused some to criticize the operation as being politically motivated (ET). 

The band plays on

In the Pakistani megacity of Karachi, Shakeel "Cassette Wallah" is a security guard by day, and a passionate dhol drummer by night.  Like many artists, Shakeel has held a number of menial jobs over the years as dhol playing is not a lucrative business, but according to him, he’s "addicted to playing the dhol [traditional drums]. Nothing else can quench my thirst" (ET).  While dhol players used to be regularly booked for weddings, birthdays, and other celebratory functions, they are now competing with DJs and electronic sound systems.  But despite the fact that they can go days or weeks without a paying gig, Shakeel and others like him regularly check their local dhol offices to see if there is a chance for them to play, determined to bring the traditional art form back to
its "glory days."


— Emily Schneider