Afghan Local Police

In War That Didn’t End, UN Finds Afghan Civilian Deaths Up 25% Over Previous Year

Washington has tried its very best to sweep the war in Afghanistan under the rug. Most of the press dutifully went along with the fiction of declaring the war to have ended in December. The military joined in, trying to classify virtually all information coming out of Afghanistan. That classification move has been backtracked somewhat, but we still haven’t seen a revised quarterly report from SIGAR with the newly released data.

For those who care about the truth of what is really taking place in Afghanistan as a result of the misguided US action, it is a good thing that Washington cannot stifle information flowing out of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. UNAMA has been tracking civilian casualties in Afghanistan since 2009, and their latest report was released today (press release is here and full report in pdf form is here). The news is not good at all. Deaths jumped by 25% from 2013, going from 2969 to 3699. Injuries also showed a sharp increase, from 5668 to 6849. These numbers simply do not comport with the rosy statements coming out of the Pentagon on what our troops in Afghanistan “accomplished”, how the Taliban are being defeated and how the ANSF are now “hugely capable”. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have shown a relentless rise since the UN started collecting data:

UNAMA Civilian casualties 2014

It is harder to find data for the years leading up to 2009, but here is one report (pdf) in tabular form from Costs of War:

costs of war afghanistan 2001-2010

The figures from this report include only a subset of the types of death tracked by UN, accounting for the slight discrepancy in the years of overlapping data.

US military operations and continued presence in Afghanistan has been a disaster for civilians there. The insurgency which has arisen in response to the US presence is responsible for most of the casualties, but it is hard to see how these numbers would be as high if the US had simply left after deposing the Taliban in the first few weeks of the operation.

In addition to tracking casualties, the UN collects information on war crimes. Units of the Afghan Local Police are notorious in this regard (ALP most often are comprised of private militias that have been given a brief bit of training by US death squad trainers from JSOC and/or CIA). From the report:

For example, on 11 July, an ALP member shot and killed a local shopkeeper after an argument over ice. On 7 July, an ALP commander and four of his men assaulted (and injured) four civilians in Jorum district, Badakhshan province, during a wedding party. The reason for the beating was reportedly that the family had failed to provide food to the ALP as demanded.

UNAMA documented multiple examples of ALP intimidating and ordering the displacement of families from their communities. For example, on 12 October, ALP forcibly displaced 150-200 families from Khak-e-Safed district, Farah province. The ALP had warned the local population not to allow the Taliban to launch attacks from the village. The Taliban had also threatened the local population not to cooperate with the ALP. After Taliban fighters established positions in the area, the ALP ordered the 150-200 families to leave the area, resulting in displacement of an entire village, mainly to Farah city.

I would imagine that someone in Washington is busy today trying to find a way to prevent UNAMA from releasing its next report.

Cuts to CIA Militias in Afghanistan Tiny Fraction of Force Available to Them

Somehow I had missed Kimberly Dozier’s recent move from AP to The Daily Beast. In an article that she published last night, it appears that she is trying to move in on Eli Lake’s territory there as chief CIA mouthpiece. From the breathless opening, it appears that we are to wring our hands over the CIA being forced to dismantle key forces in its counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan:

The CIA is dismantling its frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan leaving a security vacuum that U.S. commanders fear the Taliban and al-Qaeda will fill—and leaving the Pakistan border open to a possible deluge of fighters and weapons.

“The CIA has started to end the contracts of some of those militias who were working for them,” said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a longtime critic of the CIA’s Afghan operatives. “Some of them were in very important locations, so we deployed our troops there.”

U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast that Afghan forces are stretched too thin to replace many of those departing CIA paramilitaries. Thousands more CIA-trained operatives are about to get the boot ahead of what already promises to be a bloody summer fighting season. That could mean spectacular attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets just as the White House is weighing its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And it could give the now-small al-Qaeda movement inside the country more freedom to grow and eventually hatch new plots more than a decade after the invasion meant to wipe out the perpetrators of the Sept. 11th attacks. 

Note this very interesting Twitter conversation between Arif Rafiq and Blake Hounshell regarding the purpose of this article as most likely the CIA leaking the information in order to get some of the changes reversed. But there is another aspect to this story that needs to be considered. As we get further into the story, we get details on the numbers involved:

The forces now facing the chopping block are 750 members of the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams in the Kunar region — home to the elusive Afghan al-Qaeda leader Farouq al-Qahtani al-Qatari — and the entire 3,500-strong Khost Protection Force.

Completely missing from the article is any mention of another network of small militias that also operate within Afghanistan with CIA and/or JSOC handlers “advising” them: the Afghan Local Police.  I had already noted over a year ago that with the impending pullout of US troops, control of these death squads would transition exclusively to the CIA (note Dozier’s statement that the CIA is not affected by the Bilateral Security Agreement–meaning that they have no intention of leaving even if the military is forced into the “zero option”), even as they are forced to withdraw to fewer bases.

If we look at the latest quarterly report (pdf) from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, we see that the ALP now sits at a force size of 26,647 with all but a little fewer than 900 of them fully trained. That is still a very formidable number of operatives for the CIA to control, and as seen in this post from about a year ago, they have good distribution across the country. These are ruthless forces that are not well-regarded by local residents, as we see in SIGAR’s report: Continue reading

Afghanistan: New Green on Blue, Green on Green and a Politicized Memorial Service

With so much attention focused on Syria, it is important that we don’t lose sight of just how badly the situation in Afghanistan is limping toward a final resolution. There is a report ToloNews website this morning on a memorial service that was held yesterday in Kabul. It’s not clear why the service was held yesterday (the anniversary of the US invasion isn’t until early October), but the service was described as honoring both foreign and Afghan soldiers who have fallen in the war. While the words attributed to Dunford were simple enough in deploring terrorism, the quotes attributed to Afghan figures were appalling in their attempts to use a solemn occasion to shill for what their US military handlers want in the coming months:

Highlighting on the importance of support from the international community post-2014, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) requested the international community to continue assisting the Afghan forces by providing equipment and proper training post-2014.

The battle of Afghanistan against terrorism has seen some big sacrifices in terms of military and civilian casualties. Over the past 12 years, since the beginning of the Afghan war, over 3,000 foreign soldiers and over 10,000 Afghan soldiers have lost their lives.

The foreign forces’ combat mission is scheduled to end in the next few months, but a greater question looms large with regard to how effective has the fight against terrorism been over the past 12 years?

In light of this, Bismillah Mohammadi, the Minister of Defence expressed concerns over the training and equipping of the Afghan Security Forces post-2014. Mr. Mohammadi urged the international community to continue assisting the Afghan forces beyond 2014.

“We urge the international community to equip and train the Afghan Security Forces post- 2014,” said Mr. Mohammadi.

And how well is all that “training” going? Pretty much as we saw before. Despite massive efforts by the US to re-screen Afghan personnel in the military and to decrease the number of interaction points between Afghan recruits and their trainers, there was another green on blue killing on Saturday. From ToloNews:

“Three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died when an individual wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform shot them in eastern Afghanistan today,” a statement from the coalition said.

A US defence official confirmed to AFP that the three victims were from the United States.

An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the attack happened during a training session in the insurgency-hit province of Paktia.

The Afghan soldier opened fire on US soldiers, killing two on the spot, he said. A third later died of his wounds.

The attacker was killed when Americans and Afghan soldiers returned fire.

The article, which originally comes from AFP, lists the various programs the US has put into place in response to green on blue killings. By listing these programs in such proximity, we can see how they are self-contradictory:

There have been seven “insider attacks” this year against coalition forces, compared with 48 in 2012. ISAF officials say the decline has been due to better vetting, counter-intelligence and cultural awareness.

Foreign soldiers working with Afghan forces are regularly watched over by so-called “guardian angel” troops to provide protection from their supposed allies.

The military really wants us to believe that they have finally learned cultural awareness and that they have put into place appropriate screening and counterintelligence processes that will eliminate threats. And those programs are working so well that the military now assigns soldiers to act as armed guards during training sessions.

Hidden in a Khaama Press article today about a Taliban attack that killed eleven Afghan border police, we learn that there was an insider killing in an Afghan Local Police unit: Continue reading

Program US Heralds as Key to Afghan Stability Continues to Rely on Gang Rapes to Intimidate Locals

On Tuesday, I wrote about the disappearances, torture and murder for which the Afghan Local Police are known, comparing them to other death squad programs that the US has backed over the years in various military engagements. Sadly, there is another class of war crimes that US-trained death squads have engaged in. Rape, especially gang rape, also is a key tool employed by these groups in their efforts to intimidate local populations. (For one example, here are details of the brutal rape and murder of a group of US nuns in El Salvador in 1980, carried out by a US-trained death squad.)

Writing in the Daily Beast yesterday, Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau provided excruciating details on two victims of gang rapes carried out by groups in Afghan Local Police uniforms. From one of the accounts:

Seventeen-year-old Chaman Gul suffered a similar fate to that of Monizha. Relatives describe her as being a “healthy and attractive” young woman. In a phone interview with Newsweek/The Daily Beast, she described the ordeal she suffered two months ago in Aqsaee village, Darzab district, in the northern province of Jowzjan. As she, her relatives and other villagers tell it, she was brutally raped by seven men, including the local militia’s powerful commander, Murad Bai. “They broke down the door of our home and did to me, a number of times, horrible things that I can’t tell anyone or put into plain words,” she says from an undisclosed hiding place.

Other relatives and villagers confirm her account. One 60-year-old villager, who does not wish to be named for security reasons, says he watched as Bai and his men broke into Gul’s house. He says they were wearing the khaki-colored uniforms of the ALP. “They came just after noon and collectively raped her,” the villager says. “The village was so frightened no one could raise a voice against the ALP.”

Adds a close relative, who also wishes to remain anonymous: “The girl was raped for hours and was in such a terrible condition that we thought she would die.”

The family of Monizha, the victim of another attack described earlier in the article, chose to move to a refugee camp in Pakistan. In many respects, this is one of the ways that ALP “stabilize” villages in their vaunted Village Stability Operations: they strike so much fear into the local population that they remain silent or even leave the area. But the Gul family reacted differently:

Rather than quietly hiding her suffering, as most victims and their families do, Gul took her case to the district and provincial authorities—but to no avail. “I complained to everyone in the concerned departments, but no one heard my voice,” she says.

The Darzab district police chief even threw her father out of his office. “The district police chief never offered any help or sympathy,” she says. “Another senior policeman told us the commander (Murad Bai) is the darling of the Americans and no one can touch him.”

And that is the key to how these atrocities are carried out. The heads of the militias, whether they are officially within the Afghan Local Police, or supposedly unsanctioned, but wearing ALP uniforms (and I suspect in that case, these groups are more likely to be CIA-affiliated “A-teams” like the one headed by Zakarai Kandahari in my post from Tuesday), are working with the blessings of, and under the protection of, the US. The groups know that they will not be held accountable for anything they do and this unlimited power can lead to the atrocities that we have seen.

The US can not claim ignorance of these types of atrocities. In December of 2011, Human Rights Watch begged the US not to expand the Afghan Local Police program: Continue reading

Body of Zakaria Kandahari’s Videotaped Torture Victim Surfaces, 200 Yards from US Nerkh Base

When last we left the saga of the US role relating to the “rogue” Afghan death squad in the Nerkh District of Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan, the New York Times was studiously transcribing denials from various US government officials of any US involvement  in the torture, disappearances and murders that are both the touchstone of US-trained death squad operations dating back at least to Central America in the 1980’s (if not all the way back to Vietnam) and the atrocities that prompted Hamid Karzai to announce that he was expelling US Special Forces from the province. Although Karzai eventually relented somewhat and agreed to only expel US Special Forces from the Nerkh District instead of the entire province, as I pointed out in my post on the Times’ transcription of US denials, evidence continues to accumulate that CIA paramilitary operations personnel almost certainly seem to have been involved in the training and deployment of the “rogue” Afghan Local Police unit based in Nerkh. With today’s new development, it seems very likely that these CIA paramilitary personnel (and their Afghan trainees) are still operating, with impunity, at the Nerkh base.

What we learn today is stunning and looks like a calculated move intended to strike fear into the local population around the Nerkh base (which is, of course, the aim of US-trained death squads organized under the COIN rubric). From the New York Times:

Family members on Tuesday found the body of a man missing since last November near the American Special Forces base to which he was last seen being taken, according to Afghan officials and victims’ representatives.

Afghan investigators said that after his disappearance, the man, Sayid Mohammad, was seen in a video undergoing torture at the hands of an Afghan-American named Zakaria Kandahari, who was the chief translator for an American Army Special Forces A Team stationed at the base in the Nerkh district of Wardak Province.

Mr. Mohammad’s body was found about 200 yards outside the perimeter of the Nerkh base, which is now occupied by Afghan special forces after the American unit was removed following protests by Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai.

Relatives of Mr. Mohammad said his body was largely intact but both of his feet had been cut off. They took his remains to the Nerkh district government center in protest. The partial remains of another missing person were also found near the base, family members and Afghan officials have said.

The article is silent on the question of how long the victim appeared to have been dead. Note that the Times reminds us that the Nerkh base no longer has US Special Operations Forces. I find it very hard to believe that a group of Afghan Local Police and Afghan Special Forces, after having drawn so much local anger and international attention to themselves through prompting Karzai’s outburst and expulsion of US Special Forces, would carry out such a brazen and brutal move on their own. However, if CIA paramilitary operatives are still present at the base and still directing (and protecting) the Afghan team, the move seems less surprising.

We also learn in today’s article that at least 17 people are now known to have been disappeared by this death squad. Nine of those victims have been found dead and eight are still missing. Afghan investigators are considerably less credulous of US denials of involvement than the Times is:

“There is no question that Zakaria directly tortured and murdered,” the investigator said. “But who is Zakaria? Who recruited him, gave him his salary, his weapons? Who kept him under their protection? He worked for Special Forces. That a member of their team was committing such crimes and they didn’t know it is just not credible.”

The description of the videotape of the torture session conducted by Kandahari (which still has not been released) has changed in one respect. Today’s article informs us that the Afghan investigator who was interviewed now says there were no voices with American accents on the tape.

Not that it really needs pointing out, but involvement of CIA paramilitary personnel at the Nerkh base would by definition be a covert mission covered by false, but official US government denials.

Oh, and there’s one last question I would have added to the Afghan investigator’s list above: Who helped Zakaria Kandahari to escape without a trace?

The answers to those questions would go a long way toward confirming or denying my speculation on CIA paramilitary personnel (including contractors) being central to these awful events.

Agreement Announced on Special Operations Forces in Wardak Province, Explanations Vary Widely

NATO is claiming that there now is an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai regarding the withdrawal of US Special Operations Forces from Maidan Wardak province in the wake of Karzai’s insistence last month that the troops leave immediately. Despite the presence of an agreement, however, there appear to be many different explanations for just what the agreement means for how long US SOF will be present in the province. Given the history of the US bargaining with Afghanistan in bad faith (see, for example, this post on the Parwan Prison handover and work backwards in time through the links and this post for a description of US reliance on semantics in making these sham agreements), it is not at all surprising to me that these initial reports on the agreement would cite a lack of specificity and that different news organizations would come up with widely differing descriptions of its expected effects.

Reuters puts its doubts about the meaning of the agreement right up front in its report:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO-led forces have reached an agreement on the departure of foreign troops from a strategically key province near the capital, coalition forces said, but it was unclear if U.S. special forces would leave.

An Afghan defense ministry spokesman told reporters in Kabul that the elite American force would quit Wardak within a few days, despite earlier U.S. concerns that their departure would leave a security vacuum.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said in a statement Afghan security forces would take over security from coalition forces in Wardak, but did specifically mention the withdrawal of U.S. special forces.

Note that Reuters knows that ISAF statements must be parsed carefully and they do a good job here of warning us that ISAF did not state outright that US SOF would leave the province.

Writing for AP, Kimberly Dozier provides less analysis of the statements received, and so her report provides conflicting information from ISAF and from an Afghan spokesman. The article opens:

The U.S. military and the Afghan government reached a deal Wednesday on a gradual pullout of American special forces and their Afghan counterparts from a contentious eastern province, officials said.

President Hamid Karzai has blamed the troops for egregious human rights abuses in Wardak province, allegations which U.S. military officials have steadfastly denied.

However, NATO forces said in a statement that commander Gen. Joseph Dunford agreed with Karzai to remove American troops first from Wardak’s Nerkh district and then later from other parts of the province.

But then the information from an Afghan spokesman presented next appears to conflict with the ISAF information:

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi confirmed there has been a deal in a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday.

“The international forces are ready to withdraw the special forces from Nirkh district of Maidan Wardak province and Afghan army units are going to replace them in the coming days,” Azimi said, adding that there are no other U.S. commando units in the rest of the province.

A U.S. military official explained that a small, mostly U.S. army special operations team would withdraw from Nerkh, as would the Afghan local police force that works alongside the Americans.

Azimi states outright that the only US Special Operations Forces in Wardak are in the Nerkh district and that these will be withdrawn. Dozier misses the point that Reuters parsed out, namely, that it appears that ISAF speaks of US forces withdrawing from the province while being silent on whether SOF also would withdraw.

There is a larger problem with Dozier accepting Azimi’s statement at face value, though. In this post, I addressed what is known (unfortunately, September, 2012 is the latest information from this map) about Afghan Local Police presence in Wardak: Continue reading

No SOFA? Then Transition Death Squad Control from Special Operations to CIA

A little over a year ago, Greg Miller outlined what he said would be the CIA’s roles in Iraq and Afghanistan in the near future.  It appears now that he was only half right:

The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones, U.S. officials said.


The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in December has moved the CIA’s emphasis there toward more traditional espionage — monitoring developments in the increasingly antagonistic government, seeking to suppress al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country and countering the influence of Iran.

In Afghanistan, the CIA is expected to have a more aggressively operational role. U.S. officials said the agency’s paramilitary capabilities are seen as tools for keeping the Taliban off balance, protecting the government in Kabul and preserving access to Afghan airstrips that enable armed CIA drones to hunt al-Qaeda remnants in Pakistan.

Note that bit about the US withdrawing all of its troops from Iraq in December of 2011. The full withdrawal of course wasn’t what the US intended, but was a result of the botched negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement that would confer immunity to US troops who remained behind in Iraq after the official “withdrawal”. A significant portion of those troops that would have been left behind would have been Special Operations Forces to train and control counterinsurgency militia groups. We were reminded just last week that these groups in Iraq were responsible for so many atrocities that they became known as death squads. As I pointed out, Petraeus’ counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan was built in the same way.

We have a report today in the Wall Street Journal that shows Miller’s prediction of “espionage only” for the CIA’s role in Iraq was wrong, as militias formerly trained and run by Special Operations Forces are now under CIA control (h/t to Joanne Leon for tweeting me a link to this article):

In a series of secret decisions from 2011 to late 2012, the White House directed the CIA to provide support to Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service, or CTS, a force that reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, officials said.

The CIA has since ramped up its work with the CTS—taking control of a mission long run by the U.S. military, according to administration and defense officials. For years, U.S. special-operations forces worked with CTS against al Qaeda in Iraq. But the military’s role has dwindled since U.S. troops pulled out of the country at the end of 2011.

In Afghanistan, it turns out that the CIA trained its own secret militia very soon after arriving there. Kimberly Dozier and Adam Goldman described the CIA’s Afghan militia back in 2010: Continue reading

Iran, Pakistan Break Ground on Gas Pipeline, Capping Horrible Week for US in Region

Headline and photo from Pakistan's Express Tribune announcing the pipeline groundbreaking ceremony.

Headline and photo from Pakistan’s Express Tribune announcing the pipeline groundbreaking ceremony. The image could be an old one, since that is Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the left.

On Saturday, the ceremony to transfer final control of the Detention Facility in Parwan to Afghanistan was canceled at the last minute as the US once again tried to maintain veto power over Afghan decisions on which prisoners to free. This occurred amid a backdrop of a range of other events demonstrating how the US is trapped in a quagmire in Afghanistan and yesterday was no better, as Karzai ratcheted up his rhetoric even further, prompting cancellation of the joint press appearance featuring Karzai and Chuck Hagel, who was making his first trip to Afghanistan as the new US Secretary of Defense.

Today caps the shitstorm in the region, as we have yet another green on blue attack, and although it is very early in sorting out details, it appears to involve US Special Forces in Maidan Wardak province, where Karzai had made today the deadline for SOF to withdraw from the province over allegations of widespread atrocities at the hands of groups claiming to be affiliated with and/or trained by US SOF. But US pain and embarrassment spread further out into the region immediately surrounding Afghanistan today, as Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a joint appearance to commemorate the official ground-breaking for construction of Pakistan’s side of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. From the PressTV account of the event, we get some background:

The 1,600-kilometer pipeline, projected to cost USD 1.2-1.5 billion, would enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan on a daily basis.

Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its soil.

Tehran-based Tadbir Energy Development Group will reportedly undertake all engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project, which starts from the Iran-Pakistan border and costs around USD 250 million.

The Iranian firm will also carry out the second segment of the project, and extend the financing later to USD 500 million.

The Express Tribune relates the history of the US trying to prevent the pipeline being built:

The two sides hope the pipeline will be complete in time to start delivery of 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan by December 2014.

The US has issued warnings to invoke economic sanctions already in place against Iran if Pakistan went ahead with its plans to import natural gas from the Islamic republic.

The United States has steadfastly opposed Pakistani and Indian involvement, saying the project could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over nuclear activities that Washington suspects are aimed at developing a weapons capability. Iran denies this.

India quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues, a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington.

Isn’t that interesting? The pipeline could come online the same month that NATO troops are scheduled to end their involvement in Afghanistan. That could well be why we see this paragraph in the Fars News story on the pipeline:

During the meeting at the international airport of the Southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar today, Ahmadinejad and Zardari said that the gas pipeline will further strengthen the economic, political and security relations between Tehran and Islamabad and other regional states.

US presence in the region clearly has been a destabilizing force. Iran and Pakistan appear to be taking steps toward what they hope will be improved stability once we are gone.

Guardian Lays Out Details of How Petraeus Organized Death Squads in Iraq

Petraeus salutes the death squads that advanced his career

Petraeus salutes the death squads that advanced his career

Yesterday, the Guardian published an article detailing how the US turned to the use of death squads in Iraq to quell the rise of Sunni militias. The article provides convincing evidence that this was an intentional policy and was in fact a central tenet of David Petraeus’ often-praised counterinsurgency, or COIN, strategy. The key person in the Guardian’s reporting is James Steele, who was a veteran in organizing Central American death squads on behalf of the US during the Reagan years.

In reading the material from the Guardian, however, it should be kept in mind that Petraeus did not institute his COIN strategy only in Iraq. He put it into place in Afghanistan as well, and the fact that it lead to widespread allegations of torture and murder there demonstrates that the atrocities committed by these militias is a feature of the funding and training provided to them and not an unfortunate outgrowth, because this practice has now produced death squads in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. Recall that less than two weeks ago, Hamid Karzai called for the expulsion of US Special Operations forces from Maidan Wardak province due to allegations of abuse by the Afghan Local Police there. The Afghan Local Police are in reality groups of local militias trained and funded by US Special Operations forces and operating separately from the Karzai government. The ALP became one of the primary features of Petraeus’ COIN strategy when he moved it to Afghanistan.

Here’s the opening of the Guardian article:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

Via email, my friend Kirk pointed out this report from Newsweek back in early 2005 where the concept of the Salvador option was floated openly by the Bush administration:

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called “the Salvador option”–and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking “the back” of the insurgency–as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time–than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success–despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report “utterly gratuitous.”)

The most disgusting aspect of this apparent “trial balloon” floated by the Bush administration is that the program quite possibly was already underway when the Newsweek article came out. The Guardian article reminds us that Petraeus, the architect of this program,  was sent to Iraq in June of 2004 (this was his second deployment to Iraq) to begin training Iraqis, and the Newsweek article wasn’t published until January of 2005. Steele, who was reporting directly to Rumsfeld, first went to Iraq in 2003 (Rumsfeld delighted in running his own people separately from the chain of command; he did this at times with McChrystal as well).

More evidence that the program was entirely intentional comes from the role of torture in the program and the moves the US made to ignore torture just as the program was put into place. Continue reading

Insider Attack Kills Seventeen at Afghan Local Police Post Staffed Under New Screening Program

Detail from CIA map of Afghanistan.

Detail from CIA map of Afghanistan. Click on map for a larger view.

The Afghan Local Police program was a centerpiece of David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency (COIN) program in Afghanistan when he took over command after Stanley McChyrstal was fired. The program came under extreme scrutiny this week when Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for the expulsion of US Special Operations forces from the province of Maidan Wardak after repeated reports of atrocities carried out by forces claiming to be allied with ALP forces trained by SOF. Today, there is further bad news for the ALP program, as seventeen people have been killed at an ALP post in what appears to be an insider attack. Since the attack occurred early this morning, it should be kept in mind that information is still coming in regarding the details of what took place. Today’s attack was in Ghazni province, which is adjacent to Wardak, as seen in the map here.

Back in September, training of ALP was the first program suspended due to insider attacks. The (delayed by the elections from October) December 2012 “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” (pdf) informed us that the re-screening of ALP was already moving quickly by then:

To mitigate the risk of insider threats, SOJTF-A has taken active measures to re-validate all 16,474 ALP personnel. This revalidation process is currently 52 percent complete, with less than one percent removed due to nefarious activities or counter-intelligence concerns. This process, which is currently ongoing, is very similar in design to our initial screening/validation methodology. It begins at the local level by conducting shuras and intimately involving local elders, who must vouch for each ALP member, ensuring he remains in good standing. Each member’s application paperwork is re-reviewed by various personnel from the Coalition, MoI, NDS, and the DCOPs. If any ALP member “flags” as suspicious, additional counter-intelligence (both Afghan and Coalition) measures are taken. If it is determined that an ALP member is unfit, he is removed from the program. These processes are non-negotiable. In addition, NDS plans to embed three agents per 100 ALP to identify possible infiltration by the enemy. The prevention/elimination of Insider Threats will remain COMISAF’s top force protection priorities.

So Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan claimed in December that they had already revalidated just over half the ALP force and that less than one percent of the force had been removed due to potential nefarious connections. And yet, almost two months later, we now have a major attack on ALP that has the hallmarks of an insider attack. From the New York Times:

A group of 17 Afghan policemen were drugged by their comrades while on duty and then shot to death in their sleep in what appears to be the single worst incident in a string of similar attacks, according to Afghan officials.

The attack took place at a remote Afghan Local Police post in Ghazni Province, south of the capital, early Wednesday morning, according to General Zrawar Zahid, the Ghazni police chief.

Other Afghan officials said authorities had already arrested two policemen who they said were Taliban infiltrators who had carried out the attack.

The AP report carried by the Washington Post suggests that not all the dead were ALP:

The dead included 10 members of the government-backed Afghan local police, and seven of their civilian friends, said Provincial Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. He says there was a conspiracy of some sort but declined to confirm if poison was involved.

The previously mentioned December report from DoD has a remarkable level of detail on the status of the ALP, with a snapshot as of September 26, 2012: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV Today's Nobel Prize announcement is giving me flashbacks to my grad school and postdoc days researching DNA repair.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM actually not what DoD said. Plus they claim investigation ongoing. Also ignores public comments fr Afghans.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM Bc DOD has SPECIFICALLY SAID this wasn't US SOF taking fire. You're inventing facts now.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM Bullshit. I said, "Don't call this an accident when we don't know." I'm DOING what you claim to want to do.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM Thanks. Clean up your own house, then! You are doing precisely what you complain about and still don't understand that!
emptywheel @EveningStarNM Ok. Thanks. That apply to MSF too? Or it's okay to suggest they were shielding Taliban?
emptywheel @EveningStarNM But we DO have evidence of 2 things: Afghans raided this hospital in July, Afghans initially said they struck on purpose.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM Yes. Like you just did. This convo started w/me complaining that journos were reporting as *fact* something, that = accident.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM No. You're exhibiting prejudice, but don't realize it! It's actually sort of cute.
emptywheel Can think of few worse people to ask this Q than McCain. Esp since he's making big push to keep troops in Afg.
emptywheel @EveningStarNM In other words, after saying we have to wait, you're not only not doing so but collapsing 2 levels of involvement. Congrats!
emptywheel @EveningStarNM And part of that is not calling it an accident when the available evidence says it probably wasn't.
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