That ‘No Torture’ Memorandum Scam Again

Those cover-your-ass pieces of worthless paper the UK use to pretend they are not outsourcing torture and in which we are a world leader, this time in Afghanistan-

RAWA:- Britain ‘hands over prisoners in Afghanistan to face torture’. British troops are handing over Taliban suspects to the Afghan security service to face “horrible abuse” and torture, the High Court has been told. By Duncan Gardham

Government denials of such abuse are the result of a “head in the sand” attitude, partly borne out of a close intelligence relationship with the Afghans, the judges were told.

They are the latest allegations of British complicity in torture following investigations into MI5 and MI6.
Human rights lawyers have assembled details of nine cases involving allegations of beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, electrocution, and whipping with rubber cables.

They are arguing that Britain has breached the Human Rights Act by handing over prisoners to a country known to participate in torture.

They say the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), the domestic security service, had a reputation for mistreating prisoners and British officers should have known what was happening.

The Ministry of Defence is opposing the application for judicial review and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, has said that detention is an important and necessary ability for British forces operating in Afghanistan, and safeguards are in place to prevent mistreatment.

But Michael Fordham QC told the court that the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office were seeking to protect their detainee transfer policy by adopting the approach “of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil”.

In legal documents put before the court he said there are many reputable reports that torture and ill-treatment is “endemic” in the NDS “even at a very high level”, which has been described as a relic from the days of Soviet occupation.

The NDS was said to have been created in the image of the KGB and allegedly still has a reputation for torturing and killing.

Mr Fordham said the British government had chosen to rely on a “manifestly unsafe” memorandum of understanding with the Afghan authorities that international human rights obligations would be observed by the NDS.

But Britain adopted a “head in the sand” because it did not want to uncover evidence of human rights abuses and therefore refused to investigate thoroughly, he said, adding that the fact the NDS supplied intelligence to the UK was no secret.

Freedom’s On The March

Prosthetic legs line a wall in Kabul, Afghanistan ©Lynsey Addario / VII Network

The Afghan Narco War

A must read, Can Anyone Pacify the World’s Number One Narco-State? The Opium Wars in Afghanistan By Alfred W. McCoy, extract-

Although this area had zero heroin production in the mid-1970s, the CIA’s covert war served as the catalyst that transformed the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands into the world’s largest heroin producing region. As mujahedeen guerrillas captured prime agricultural areas inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, they began collecting a revolutionary poppy tax from their peasant supporters.

Once the Afghan guerrillas brought the opium across the border, they sold it to hundreds of Pakistani heroin labs operating under the ISI’s protection. Between 1981 and 1990, Afghanistan’s opium production grew ten-fold — from 250 tons to 2,000 tons. After just two years of covert CIA support for the Afghan guerrillas, the U.S. Attorney General announced in 1981 that Pakistan was already the source of 60% of the American heroin supply. Across Europe and Russia, Afghan-Pakistani heroin soon captured an even larger share of local markets, while inside Pakistan itself the number of addicts soared from zero in 1979 to 1.2 million just five years later.

After investing $3 billion in Afghanistan’s destruction, Washington just walked away in 1992, leaving behind a thoroughly ravaged country with over one million dead, five million refugees, 10-20 million landmines still in place, an infrastructure in ruins, an economy in tatters, and well-armed tribal warlords prepared to fight among themselves for control of the capital. Even when Washington finally cut its covert CIA funding at the end of 1991, however, Pakistan’s ISI continued to back favored local warlords in pursuit of its long-term goal of installing a Pashtun client regime in Kabul.

Druglords, Dragon’s Teeth, and Civil Wars: the 1990s

Throughout the 1990s, ruthless local warlords mixed guns and opium in a lethal brew as part of a brutal struggle for power. It was almost as if the soil had been sown with those dragons’ teeth of ancient myth that can suddenly sprout into an army of full-grown warriors, who leap from the earth with swords drawn for war.

When northern resistance forces finally captured Kabul from the communist regime, which had outlasted the Soviet withdrawal by three years, Pakistan still backed its client Hekmatyar. He, in turn, unleashed his artillery on the besieged capital. The result: the deaths of an estimated 50,000 more Afghans. Even a slaughter of such monumental proportions, however, could not win power for this unpopular fundamentalist. So the ISI armed a new force, the Taliban and in September 1996, it succeeded in capturing Kabul, only to fight the Northern Alliance for the next five years in the valleys to the north of the capital.

During this seemingly unending civil war, rival factions leaned heavily on opium to finance the fighting, more than doubling the harvest to 4,600 tons by 1999. Throughout these two decades of warfare and a twenty-fold jump in drug production, Afghanistan itself was slowly transformed from a diverse agricultural ecosystem — with herding, orchards, and over 60 food crops — into the world’s first economy dependent on the production of a single illicit drug. In the process, a fragile human ecology was brought to ruin in an unprecedented way.

Located at the northern edge of the annual monsoon rains, where clouds arrive from the Arabian Sea already squeezed dry, Afghanistan is an arid land. Its staple food crops have historically been sustained by irrigation systems that rely on snowmelt from the region’s high mountains. To supplement staples such as wheat, Afghan tribesmen herded vast flocks of sheep and goats hundreds of miles every year to summer pasture in the central uplands. Most important of all, farmers planted perennial tree crops — walnut, pistachio, and mulberry — which thrived because they sink their roots deep into the soil and are remarkably resistant to the region’s periodic droughts, offering relief from the threat of famine in the dry years.

During these two decades of war, however, modern firepower devastated the herds, damaged snowmelt irrigation systems, and destroyed many of the orchards. While the Soviets simply blasted the landscape with firepower, the Taliban, with an unerring instinct for their society’s economic jugular, violated the unwritten rules of traditional Afghan warfare by cutting down the orchards on the vast Shamali plain north of Kabul.

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Malalai Joya In The NYT

Lacking access to broadcasters and the media within Afghanistan means that her message “for women’s rights, for human rights, against injustice and occupation,” can be spread only by telephone, by clandestine meetings in safe houses and through a poster campaign.

The United States cited the status of women among reasons for its intervention in Afghanistan. Yet Ms. Joya, who taught girls in secret basement schools during the Taliban years, argues that the situation of women has not improved.

Pointing to the 1920s, when Afghan women traveled to Turkey to study without head scarves or male relatives to accompany them, and to the 1950s, when Afghan women had professional careers, she said that the decline of women’s rights in her country was above all an issue of power.

Levels of domestic violence, rape, forced marriage and suicide make the condition of women today “worse than hell,” she says. For that she blames what she calls President Hamid Karzai’s “corrupt, misogynistic government and his circle of warlords” and on his appointments to Afghan courts.

Hamed Elmi, deputy spokesman for Mr. Karzai in Kabul, discounted Ms. Joya’s accusations. “The government is not corrupt, but we have some corrupt people in government — we try to identify and tackle the issue,” Mr. Elmi said by telephone.

He added that Afghanistan had made progress in involving women at all levels of government and that it could not be ascertained that there were warlords in Parliament since the courts had not proven them guilty. “We have an independent judiciary system,” he said. As for whether the government was misogynistic, he said simply: “She is wrong.”

Back in her homeland, Ms. Joya said, the NATO forces were perpetuating the repression of women by propping up warlords she described as interchangeable with the Taliban.

She called for the immediate departure of foreign troops, even if it would lead to more violence in the civil war. “It is better to leave us alone,” she said. “We will know what to do with our destiny.”

Surging On

(AFP) – The United States plans a major offensive this year in the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, a senior official said Friday, calling a hard-fought ongoing operation a mere prelude. The remarks were the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s administration plans to step up the fight against the Taliban as part of its strategy of pouring thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

PS.

Kabul – The United Nations said Wednesday that 346 children were killed in Afghanistan last year, more than half of them by NATO forces, mostly in airstrikes. “In 2009, 346 children were killed,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special representative of the UN secretary general for children and armed conflict, said in Kabul after a seven-day visit the country. She said 131 children were killed in airstrikes, while 22 were killed in nighttime raids by international special forces. Taliban militants were responsible for the deaths of 128 children last year, with seven of the children used by militants as suicide bombers, she said. In 38 cases, it was not possible to determine who had killed the children. More than 2,400 civilians were killed last year, the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, according to the UN.

Coomaraswamy said she met with NATO commander in Afghanistan US General Stanley McChrystal, who assured her that troops “will work with the UN to ensure better protection for children.” But she noted that “recent events in the past months are cause of concern.” About 50 civilians have been killed since the NATO forces began their biggest-ever operation in the southern province of Helmand nearly two weeks ago. At least 27 of the casualties were caused by a NATO airstrike, and 12 others were killed by NATO rockets. McChrystal said he has put protecting civilians at centre of his war strategy and has ordered the 113,000 international troops to limit the use of airstrikes. Attacks by Taliban on schools reached their highest level in 2009, with more than 600 incidents recorded, Coomaraswamy said.

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The Loan Sharks of War

I guess this is inflation, the Friedman unit is played out, it’s time for the McChrystal unit, c’mon just another 12-18 months-

The general overseeing the US military campaign in Afghanistan has warned that the offensive against the Taliban in southern Helmand province’s Marjah town is just the start of an operation that could last 18 months. General David Petraeus, the commander of US Central Command, said on Sunday that the months ahead will be “tough”.

Petraeus said the campaign, which started on February 13, would not stop with Marjah and nearby Nad Ali.  “This is just the initial operation of what will be a 12 to 18-month campaign as General [Stanley] McChrystal [the head of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan] and his team mapped it out,”

Operation Moshtarak Propaganda

Back in Afghanistan, McClatchy’s Saeed Shah reports that only about 1200 residents have fled the Afghan city of Marjah in Nad Ali district, ahead of a major NATO/ Afghan invasion planned for later this week. The city of 80,000 is controlled by some 2000 Taliban fighters and there are many heroin labs, the profits of which help to support the Taliban.

The lucrative poppy crops grown in this region are all that is left of a 1950s & 1960s US irrigation scheme that went bad, and Marjah and environs were nicknamed “Little America.”

The refusal of locals to leave in any large numbers may be what prompted US commanders to begin telling the people of Marjah to ‘stay inside their homes’ and stay out of the way of the fighting. This message is a 180 degree reversal of the earlier message, that locals should leave.

CBS News reports embedded with the US Marines outside Marjah, to the southwest of the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah. This report gives the impression that substantial numbers of civilians have left or are leaving, but this assertion appears not to be true.

The NATO / Kabul plan is to chase the Taliban out of Marjah, win local hearts and minds, and garrison it with Afghan army troops in the aftermath to ensure that the Taliban do not return. This plan requires that the operation not do so much damage to the city and kill so many locals that they are alienated in the long term.

This would require a good deal more care than the US led forces have taken so far, so I expect the in/em -bed reporters of corporate news will be again working overtime to portray a favourable spin to mass civilian deaths. Expect stories of tragic yet heroic soldiers killed by eveel swarthy hordes and maybe in a throwaway last line ‘and 400 Afghans killed today’. The BBC is going with- Afghan villages abandoned before Nato-led operation Hundreds of villagers living in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan are leaving before a major Nato-led offensive gets under way. -While carefully avoiding mention of the vast majority, the thousands who are still there except in a little fact box that is entitled ‘MARJAH: ‘TALIBAN STRONGHOLD’ see how that works? So while the on the ground assault is called Operation Moshtarak, is that also the name for the media warfare operation that is clearly already being deployed?

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