[pjw] DID YOU KNOW? CIA in Afghanistan 2015; Portland Rallies 1991

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Thu Jan 7 23:01:07 EST 2016

Not sure if I can keep up with once-a-day posts leading up to the Iraq War 
25 Years Later event, but today's historical tidbit can be found here:

Did you know, that 11 years before the Portland Peaceful Response 
Coalition started its Friday weekly rallies at the SW Corner of Pioneer 
Courthouse Square, that the Coalition Against US Military Intervention in 
the Middle East held similar weekly events? Now you do! (PJW was part of 
the "peace caucus" when PPRC started up and suggested the weekly events 
based on the 1991 vigils.)

Meanwhile, also in the "Did you know" category, here's an article from the 
Washington Post last month outlining how the CIA has organized clandestine 
special ops in Afghanistan, despite the ostensible end of the US war 

    "The highly secretive paramilitary unit has been implicated in civilian
    killings, torture, questionable detentions, arbitrary arrests and use
    of excessive force in controversial night raids, abuses that have
    mostly not been previously disclosed."

dan h
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

CIA runs shadow war with Afghan militia implicated in civilian killings
    By Sudarsan Raghavan December 3, 2015

    TOR GHAR, Afghanistan -- Months after the Obama administration declared
    combat operations over in Afghanistan, the CIA continues to run a
    shadow war in the eastern part of the country, overseeing an Afghan
    proxy called the Khost Protection Force, according to local officials,
    former commanders of that militia and Western advisers.

    The highly secretive paramilitary unit has been implicated in civilian
    killings, torture, questionable detentions, arbitrary arrests and use
    of excessive force in controversial night raids, abuses that have
    mostly not been previously disclosed.

    The elite Afghan fighters and their American handlers came to Tor Ghar
    one night in September. Shortly after midnight, wearing tan camouflage
    and black masks, they entered a village in this remote mountainous area
    straddling the Pakistan border in search of militants with a
    Taliban-allied group, said local officials and tribal elders who later
    spoke with the force's commanders.

    Within minutes, the armed men had arrived at Darwar Khan's house.

    "When my father opened the gate, they shot him dead," recalled Khan,
    who was inside the house at the time. "Then, they tossed a grenade into
    the compound, killing my mother."

    His father was a farmer. His mother was a homemaker. It was not the
    first time the fighters had killed civilians in this strategic region.
    And it wouldn't be the last allegation of wrongdoing.

    This article is based on interviews with witnesses of six separate
    attacks by the militia in the past year, as well as court documents in
    the only known legal case filed against the unit, after one or more of
    its men shot a 14-year-old boy to death. Three former commanders of the
    unit, known as the KPF, tribal elders, lawmakers, lawyers, activists
    and local government officials with direct knowledge of the force and
    the CIA's role were also interviewed.

    In several attacks, witnesses described hearing English being spoken by
    armed men who had interpreters with them, suggesting American
    operatives were present during assaults where extreme force was used.

    In an e-mailed statement, the agency's spokesman, Dean Boyd, said that
    "we've taken significant steps to help the Afghan National Directorate
    of Security address allegations of human rights abuse." The
    directorate, known as the NDS, ostensibly oversees the Khost force.
    Boyd declined to comment on any specific claims of abuse.

    "We take seriously any allegation of abuse involving foreign liaison
    services and routinely work with them to rectify such matters," Boyd
    said. "Our goal is always to improve the capabilities and
    professionalism of foreign counterparts."

    On Oct. 15, as President Obama announced that 5,500 U.S. troops would
    remain in Afghanistan past next year, he stressed that they would have
    just two missions: training Afghan forces and fighting al-Qaeda. Yet,
    throughout this year, there has been an aggressive American effort to
    stem Taliban territorial gains.

    And the CIA, separate from the U.S. military, enjoys looser rules of
    engagement that have enabled it to expand targets to include the
    Taliban and its allies, the Haqqani network.

    Here in this strategic eastern border province, which has long served
    as a key gateway for militants entering from Pakistan, the KPF fights
    in conjunction with the CIA out of Forward Operating Base Chapman.

    The KPF "is one of the most effective elements fighting the Taliban in
    Afghanistan, and were it not for their constant efforts, Khost would
    likely be a Haqqani-held province, and Kabul would be under far greater
    threat than it is," said a U.S. official speaking on the condition of
    anonymity. "This is a group made up of thousands of soldiers who come
    from the area and consequently have the respect and insights necessary
    to operate in a professional manner despite the constant engagement
    with the enemy."

    Afghan government officials acknowledge that the KPF has killed
    civilians and committed other abuses. But they claim that the Taliban
    and other insurgents exaggerate the civilian toll. "The KPF has played
    a very important role in security, and we are happy for their
    sacrifices," said Hukam Khan Habibi, the province's governor.

    In Khost, the KPF is more influential than the Afghan army and police,
    and is unaccountable to the provincial government, often acting outside
    normal chains of command. Locally, militias such as the KPF are called
    "campaign forces," an informal name Afghans use for pro-government
    armed groups.

    The KPF is so feared that several people interviewed spoke under the
    condition of anonymity because they worried for their lives. Others
    spoke on the record because they wanted their experiences told.
    `The real bosses'

    Reports surfaced last year that the CIA was dismantling its Afghan
    paramilitary units, especially the 4,000-strong KPF, amid the broader
    drawdown of U.S. forces. But a visit to Khost last month revealed that
    although there is coordination with the security directorate -- the NDS
    -- the CIA is still directing the KPF's operations, paying fighters'
    salaries, and training and equipping them. American personnel were
    gathering biometric data of alleged suspects, according to witnesses,
    former KPF commanders and local officials who regularly meet with the
    force and their American overseers.

    One commander, who left the force last month, said that CIA operatives
    regularly hold planning sessions and that in October he received his
    salary directly from them. "The orders came from the Americans," he
    said. They were "the real bosses."

    "Only in name is the KPF linked to the NDS," said Mohammad Qadin
    Afghan, a provincial council member and former KPF fighter who
    maintains close ties to the force. "They still work for the CIA."

    On the night they killed his parents, Khan recalled, men outside the
    compound were yelling in English. Days later, the KPF commander
    acknowledged to Khan and village elders that the deaths were a mistake,
    and handed him $11,000 in compensation, Khan and other villagers said.

    The target of the raid was Khan's uncle, who lived next door. He bought
    and sold Kalashnikov rifles, his relatives said, hardly the high-level
    type of suspect the CIA typically targets. The fighters handcuffed him,
    took him away and later handed him to the NDS.

    Today, his family does not know his whereabouts and has no contact with
    him. He has not been charged with any crime, and he does not have a

    "No one is telling us why they have taken him," said Hekmata, his
    mother, who, like many Afghans, uses one name.

    The CIA is not bound by the Bilateral Security Agreement between
    Afghanistan and Washington that, among other rules, limits the ability
    of U.S. military forces to enter Afghan homes. The night raids, for the
    most part banned in 2013 by former president Hamid Karzai, were quietly
    reinstated by the U.S.-brokered coalition government of President
    Ashraf Ghani in an effort to better combat the Taliban. But Afghans
    consider the intrusions offensive.

    The CIA is not subject to human rights vetting procedures under the
    Leahy Law, which proscribes the use of American taxpayer dollars to
    assist, train or equip any foreign military or police unit perpetrating
    gross human rights violations.

    The KPF was one of several large paramilitary forces created by the CIA
    in the months after the Taliban was ousted following the 9/11 attacks.
    Recruits were drawn from local tribes in Khost with promises of
    salaries, equipment and conditions that were better than in the Afghan

    The force largely operates along the border with North Waziristan, the
    Pakistani tribal region that is a nerve center for the Taliban, its
    ally, the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda. Fighters receive as much as
    $400 a month in salary, twice what a soldier in the Afghan security
    forces earns. Commanders earn $1,000 or more a month, as much as an
    Afghan army general. Equipped with night-vision goggles, they drive tan
    Humvees and armored trucks mounted with machine guns.

    CIA operatives often travel along on raids with the KPF in order to
    call in airstrikes, from U.S. warplanes or drones, if needed, said
    Sardar Khan Zadran, a former top KPF commander who still maintains
    close links to the force.

    "They are accountable to no one but the Americans," Zadran said.

    After the assault on his home, Khan said he and his brother were
    brought to the base, also known as Camp Chapman. (It was named after
    Sgt. Nathan Chapman, the first U.S. soldier to be killed by enemy fire
    in 2002, while he was fighting alongside CIA operatives.) Khan was
    interrogated by Afghans, but Americans fingerprinted him and scanned
    his eyes, communicating with him through an interpreter. Others who
    were detained in other attacks described the same procedure.

    "They capture anyone they want for no reason," recalled a local
    storekeeper, speaking partly in broken English, who was rounded up
    three months ago in a night raid in which he heard voices speaking
    English. A bag, he said, was placed over his head even after he
    informed his captors that he has asthma and had difficulty breathing.
    He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

    A U.N. report on detentions this year found that five detainees
    arrested in 2013 and 2014 by the KPF together with "international
    military forces," presumably American, were held at Camp Chapman and
    were "subjected to ill-treatment." Two of them later experienced
    "torture or ill-treatment" when they were transferred to the custody of
    the NDS.

    Hassan Shahidzai, the head of the NDS in Khost, declined to comment.
    `He's only a child'

    When the militia kills, justice is almost always elusive. Six months
    ago, a 17-year-old student named Javedullah was crossing a KPF
    checkpoint in Khost city while listening to his earphones. He didn't
    hear the fighter order him to stop, and he kept walking. He was shot
    dead. There was no investigation, only a swift payment of $5,000 to
    compensate the family, said his father, Sahargul, a farmer.

    "They are like the government," he said. "The only thing I could say
    was, `I pardon you.' "

    During a raid last December, 14 KPF fighters stormed into the compound
    of a man named Meerajudin and shot his 14-year-old son in the back,
    killing him, as the boy fled for cover.

    "I was begging them to stop firing," Meerajudin recalled. "I was
    yelling, `He's only a child.' "

    The house was not a Taliban redoubt. In fact, Meerajudin was a former
    mujahideen commander with powerful friends in the government, and he
    forced an investigation. The KPF, though, handed only three fighters
    over to the authorities. In an apparent effort to cover up their crime,
    the militiamen in court documents confessed they placed an AK-47 next
    to the boy's corpse, at the order of their commander, to make it seem
    as if he was armed. One was released; the other two received 10-year
    prison sentences.
    Fearing the end of the KPF

    On Nov. 7, hundreds of angry villagers took to the streets of Khost
    city. There had been another night raid in which the KPF killed two
    people, described by the protesters as civilians. The corpses were
    placed in pickup trucks, and the crowd moved toward Camp Chapman. Some
    clutched sticks and tree branches. Others carried white Taliban flags.

    "Death to Americans," they chanted. "Death to American slaves."

    It was the latest sign of a growing backlash against the CIA and its
    proxy. Habibi, the governor, publicly condemned the assault and paid
    condolences to "the families of the martyrs, as well as the Khost
    people." He promised an investigation.

    On Nov. 20, less than two weeks later, in an incident first reported by
    the New York Times, KPF fighters killed a recently discharged Afghan
    army soldier and his wife in a night raid in Zazi Maidan district,
    widely considered a pro-government area, said Mirwais Zadran, the
    district governor, in a phone interview. On Tuesday, the KPF handed the
    couple's relatives roughly $4,500 in compensation at Camp Chapman in
    front of tribal elders and local officials, added Zadran, who said he
    was at the meeting.

    The provincial council, several of its members said, has received
    thousands of complaints about the KPF, not just about the deadly night
    raids, but also about strict roadblocks that can last for hours.

    "If their problems are not solved, those people might start cooperating
    with the insurgents," said Bostan Walizai, a human rights activist.

    At the same time, he and others also worry about the future of the KPF
    -- and the province -- as the U.S. military scales down. Most of the
    fighters have known no other profession and are used to high wages. "If
    these people lose their jobs, they could join armed insurgent groups or
    form criminal gangs," Walizai said.

    Even the KPF's victims want it to continue. They have little faith in
    the ability of the regular Afghan forces to protect the province. No
    one has forgotten the Taliban's seizure of the northern city of Kunduz
    in September. "The campaign forces would be good, if they didn't kill
    innocent people," Darwan Khan said as he stood near the gate where his
    father was shot.

    Sudarsan Raghavan has been The Post's Kabul bureau chief since 2014. He
    was previously based in Nairobi and Baghdad for the Post.

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