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Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

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Written by Alexander Rubinstein; Originally appeared at Mint Press

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of Americans.

Elite CIA-backed special forces in Afghanistan are leaving a trail of carnage in the country. As such units do not operate under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, they have been given near-impunity despite standing accused of war crimes.

Last month, the New York Times cited “senior Afghan and international officials” who said that while most strike forces in Afghanistan have been put under the purview of Afghan intelligence since 2012, two of the most “ruthless” units are “still sponsored mainly by the CIA.”

On Friday, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that at least one of these units has the capability of calling in air strikes.

Of the two special forces units that remain primarily influenced by the CIA, the name of only one was revealed: a group called “02” in the Nangarhar Province. The name of the unit in the Khost Province was not revealed. The units are trained and equipped by CIA agents and CIA contractors, and their fighters make three times the salary of a regular Afghan soldier. The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong.

A former senior Afghan security official told the Times that the strike forces were guilty of war crimes, while the United Nations has “expressed concern” about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses.” The unnamed unit in Khost was even singled out by the UN, which said it operates “with an absence of transparency and ongoing impunity.”

Brutality worthy of ISIS

In September, elders from the three Nangarhar districts gathered for a press conference in which they claimed that 100 civilians were killed by 02 in August. Elders are putting the number of civilians slain by 02 in the following two months, September and October, at 260.

One man who spoke at the conference said he and his two brothers were detained for three months as 02 tried to force video confessions of Taliban affiliation from him with threats of driving over him with a tank. He said he was placed in handcuffs and that they used needles to puncture holes in his veins.

In one case investigated by the Times, two brothers were killed as they watered their fields. In another case, a unit pursuing an alleged Taliban member entered the wrong home and killed a dozen civilians. In yet another case, 02 placed two brothers in handcuffs and spit hoods and interrogated them in front of their wives and children. After they were done being questioned, 02 dragged the brothers away and executed them in the corner of a bedroom, and then detonated the building.

According to “several current and former Afghan officials,” Americans help the unit find targets and guide operations. Those detained by such units frequently claim they have been tortured and Afghan officials say that Americans have been present at bases during such abuses. In the Nangarhar province alone, human-rights workers registered 15 complaints of torture by 02, according to the Times.

One medical worker who lives in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar said he initially mistook 02 for ISIS when they showed up at his village surrounded by orange orchards.

“I ran and got my weapon — I thought it was the caliphate people. I didn’t know it was the government,” Khoshal Khan said. “Then they started firing, and I heard the gate blown up. They were speaking English, also.”

First, one man in the village, Mohamed Taher, was shot. According to his 16-year-old grandson, Sekander, one of Taher’s sons was also shot while following orders to come out of the building with his hands up. Then, 02 shot one of the grandsons in the head. And then another one of Taher’s sons.

“The women started crying. They called to be quiet, then they blew up the gates and came in,” Sekandar told the Times.

As his father bled to death in the yard after being shot while following orders, Adel, Taher’s 10-year-old grandson, was forced to take shelter inside. “They said, ‘Don’t come out — if the airstrikes hit you, then don’t complain.’” Adel still has shrapnel wounds on his face from the raid.

A relative of some of the people killed in the raid, Mohibullah, said that he sees little difference between the Islamic State and 02, since they both attack civilians without warning.

More killing power than the Caliphate

But, as it turns out, the 02 group is far better equipped than the Caliphate ever was. That’s because they have something Daesh lacked: air support. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found instances in which 02 raids were quickly followed by airstrikes. One man they spoke to said 16 civilians were killed in an 02 raid on his village, five of whom were family members.

“When my family members heard shots being fired outside, they went out to see what was going on and were hit by an airstrike that killed the five of them. The airstrike also destroyed part of our house,” he said. The outlet claims that 02 called in the strike.

“Numerous residents and relatives” said that one month later 02 killed 13 civilians, including four children, in a raid that included airstrikes. The Interior Ministry claimed that Islamic State fighters were killed, not civilians.

“First, they attacked us with bombs. Then they entered the living room and started to shoot around,” said one witness. “They didn’t care about who they were killing. They killed my uncle and his 9-year-old son. His wife and his other child were injured.” Another man told the outlet he lost seven family members in the raid.

Bombing and death squads a strange approach to nation-building

The CIA’s training, equipping, and support of 02 is reportedly stoking resentment of America’s 18-year occupation of the country, which has little to show in regard to net gains against the Taliban. Near the end of 2018 the Afghan government controlled the smallest amount of territory since a U.S. military watchdog — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — started keeping track in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. dropped more bombs in 2018 on Afghanistan than during any other year on SIGAR record, which goes back to 2009.

Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

The number of weapons released between 2013 and 2019 by the United States Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center.

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

“When the U.S. also takes on the mission of state-building, then the contradictions between the two approaches — stealth, black ops, and non-transparency vs. institution building, rule of law, and accountability — become extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and our standing as a nation suffers,” bemoaned Karl Eikenberry, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan who later became a diplomat to the country.

Already, Afghans are beginning to suspect that the U.S. sought to prolong its occupation of their country as means of securing a position to spy on Russia, China and Iran.

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons, and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

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  • Pave Way IV

    “…The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong…”

    OK, maybe I’m just nitpicking… but 1000 homicidal thugs is not a ‘Death Squad’. More like a Death Batallion and damn near a Death Brigade.

    This CIA clownfuckery is getting way out of hand. Regime change and death squads are pretty far removed from gathering intelligence. I realize the Deep State has no other way of skirting the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws to engage in ‘secret’ armed conflict. I understand WHY they do it. What I don’t understand is why the U.S. military sits on it’s ass and lets this happen.

    It might not be their job to enforce the law, but it IS their fucking job to defend the U.S. Constitution.
    I’m not interested in their valor and heroics for defending Israel and making the U.S. the most hated nation on earth.
    I AM interested why the U.S. active duty branches ‘took over’ and neutered the individual state’s National Guards for foreign war cannon fodder.
    I AM interested in why Pentagon eternally aids the Deep State in repeatedly ass-raping the Constitution

    VOTING and US LAW are both useless in their current form. Fuck Q – I know what ‘the plan’ is. Whistleblowers and Yellow Vests are all the little people got left.

    • badgery

      I’d guess it’s because CIA clownfuckery has heavily infiltrated the Pentagon (as well as just about every government agency with a significant budget). There was an old story about South Vietnamese President Diem complaining to his CIA handler about not being able to distinguish between CIA officers in uniform and the actual military officers working for him. If it was that bad in the 1960s I bet it’s even worse in the Pentagon today.

      • Pave Way IV

        Let’s not forget Pentagon clownfuckery for getting around limits on the deployment of soldiers. In Syria, half of the U.S. soldiers were there classified as intelligence assets working directly for the CIA or some other intelligence agency, not soldiers working under their military command. They’re still US soldiers doing the same job – this only has to do with the authorization for them being there and the Pentagon’s desire and ability to deceive U.S. citizens on illegal deployment. They can do that because CENTCOMs job is to protect Israel, not follow the US Constitution. Those God damn nosy little people citizens can’t object to what they’re not allowed to know, unless they’re some kind of conspiracy nut.. like me, I guess

      • Tommy Jensen

        Its even worse than worse. Deep State is today inside International corporations and business too.
        As their presence in all foreign NGO´s, Red Cross, USAID, etc., became too known, they shifted to shadow positions in International business.

    • You can call me Al

      Just a question. What if the CIA do not abide the US laws, nor take orders from them ?, but another party that I believe is still in charge of them……….that would be the British, how ever ludicrous that sounds.

      • Pave Way IV

        The CIA abides by all laws and the U.S. Constitution – as interpreted by israeli-firster neocon lawyers and their globalist masters. Who is going to enforce the law on them? The treasonous Israeli-firster neocon Attorney General or administration? The treasonous Israeli-firster neocon Justice Department? A bought-and-paid for US Congress?

        The law is for little people, not them.

        The CIA does not need to take orders from “the US” because that’s only a marketing entity – it exists to give the little people a sense of tribe and security. The CIA takes orders from other people that have worked for years to make sure that ‘their’ people are the ones giving CIA the orders (or requesting intelligence). Some of ‘them’ are in the CIA itself, some in the U.S. government, but most just rich oligarchs that always need to control those they exploit. The ‘Deep State’ is a nice euphemism for referring to that power structure, but it is not a real thing. It’s the end state psychopaths desire for total control via the government and they’re never quite done.

  • Barba_Papa

    I see that the CIA is up to its old tricks again. Why am I not surprised? After every period in which some president tried to curb the CIA there always comes another who claims that in order to fight the bad guys all bets should be off. And then we get murder, torture and regime change again. Until things get so bad again that the whole cycle starts anew.

    I do wonder how much of this is actual CIA work, or that the CIA just gets attributed to that as it is the most well known of the various alphabet agencies. But its sure as hell isn’t the only one and I can’t imagine that the rest are on their best boy scout behavior.