Thursday, February 4, 2010

U.S. Conducting 'Night Raids' in Afghanistan

As President Obama's newly presented budget figures show an increase in war spending, journalist Anand Gopal has a very interesting piece that is posted over at the Nation.

The piece should be read in full and covers some troubling behavior that has become all too familiar to the discussion of the so-called "War on Terror". Gopal tells the story of how U.S. forces have been taking Afghani citizens from their homes during "night raids" and killing innocents in the process:

November 19, 2009, 3:15 am. A loud blast woke the villagers of a leafy neighborhood outside Ghazni, a city of ancient provenance in the country's south. A team of US soldiers burst through the front gate of the home of Majidullah Qarar, the spokesman for Afghanistan's agriculture minister. Qarar was in Kabul at the time, but his relatives were home, four of them sleeping in the family's one-room guesthouse. One of them, Hamidullah, who sold carrots at the local bazaar, ran toward the door of the guesthouse. He was immediately shot but managed to crawl back inside, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Then Azim, a baker, darted toward his injured cousin. He, too, was shot and crumpled to the floor.


Weeks after the raid, the family remains bitter. "Everyone in the area knew we were a family that worked for the government," Qarar said. "Rahman couldn't even leave the city, because if the Taliban caught him in the countryside they would have killed him."

Beyond the question of Rahman's guilt or innocence, it's how he was taken that has left such a residue of hatred among his family. "Did they have to kill my cousins? Did they have to destroy our house?" Qarar asked. "They knew where Rahman worked. Couldn't they have at least tried to come with a warrant in the daytime? We would have forced Rahman to comply."

"I used to go on TV and argue that people should support this government and the foreigners," he added. "But I was wrong. Why should anyone do so? I don't care if I get fired for saying it, but that's the truth."

In addition to being abducted in the middle of the night, these "night raids" are usually just the beginning of the process:

Suspects are usually sent to one of a series of prisons on US military bases around the country. There are officially nine such jails, called Field Detention Sites in military parlance. They are small holding areas, often just a clutch of cells divided by plywood, and are mainly used for prisoner interrogations.


Of the twenty-four former detainees interviewed for this article, seventeen claim to have been abused at or en route to these sites. Doctors, government officials and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, an independent Afghan body mandated by the Afghan Constitution to investigate abuse allegations, corroborate twelve of these claims.

One of these former detainees is Noor Agha Sher Khan...


The interrogators blindfolded him, taped his mouth shut and chained him to the ceiling, he alleges. Occasionally they unleashed a dog, which repeatedly bit him. At one point they removed the blindfold and forced him to kneel on a long wooden bar. "They tied my hands to a pulley [above] and pushed me back and forth as the bar rolled across my shins. I screamed and screamed." They then pushed him to the ground and forced him to swallow twelve bottles of water. "Two people held my mouth open, and they poured water down my throat until my stomach was full and I became unconscious," he said. "It was as if someone had inflated me." After he was roused, he vomited uncontrollably.

Gopal goes on to describe suspicious deaths of Afghanis who were taken in these raids as well as citizens who are still unaccounted for after being abducted from their homes. Gopal states that some are more afraid of these night raids than they are of the Taliban.

The entire article is very interesting and I again urge you to read it in full, but these are the very topics that need to be discussed in full when President Obama continues to talk about pouring more money into this war. While drone attacks often make headlines, it is these covert operations, often carried out by Special Forces, that fly under the radar. When it becomes a viable strategy to scoop up seemingly random villagers in these raids to hold them, torture them, and then potentially release them, some very real questions needs to be asked about the long-term gains from such a policy.

Anand Gopal was also on Democracy Now! earlier in the week. You can watch his discussion on this issue by clicking here.

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