The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 21      May 30, 2011

Afghan war: hunter-killer
units used by White House
(front page)
While talking about plans to reduce the number of regular U.S. combat forces on the ground in Afghanistan, the White House is intensifying its campaign of assassinations by hunter-killer units and remote-controlled aircraft there and in neighboring Pakistan.

A recent report issued by the Afghanistan Analysts Network provides some insight into how U.S. special forces operate.

The report, by journalist Kate Clark, details a botched “target killing” last September and explains how these operations have been expanding since last year. In these missions, spies gather information and select targets whose elimination they believe will weaken the Taliban. Hunter-killer teams then track down and assassinate the person—quite often along with others in close proximity.

In a case of mistaken identity, Zabet Amanullah made it onto the “to be killed” list. On September 2, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, U.S. commandos killed him along with 10 other people in northeastern Afghanistan. They all turned out to be civilians traveling as part of an election campaign convoy supporting Amanullah’s nephew as a parliamentary candidate.

Over the past year U.S. special forces have “stepped up the tempo of precise, intelligence-driven operations to capture or kill insurgent leaders,” said Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, during testimony to Congress March 15. He said that every 90 days they average some 360 targeted killings or captures of Taliban leaders.

Between April 24, 2010, and April 15 of this year there have been 11,500 operations conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported.  
‘Collateral damage’
Sometimes the “collateral damage” left in the U.S. assassins’ wake gets reported. In the third death of a child from such attacks in less than a week, U.S.-led forces May 16 killed a 10-year-old girl and injured four others who were outside their homes collecting firewood in eastern Kunar Province.

Two days earlier U.S. troops in a commando night raid killed a 15-year-old boy in Nangahar Province in the Hesarek District in eastern Afghanistan. In response, the following morning “an angry crowd gathered in Narra, the boy’s village,” reported the New York Times, “and more than 200 people marched with his body to the district center. Some of the men were armed and confronted the police, shouting anti-American slogans and throwing rocks at police vehicles.” The cops opened fire, killing another boy, 14, and wounding at least one other person.

Two days prior to this, a 12-year-old girl, sleeping in the courtyard outside her house near Jalalabad, was killed along with her uncle, a police officer, targeted—as it turns out falsely—as a local Taliban leader.

Those not killed but captured by U.S.-led forces are arbitrarily and indefinitely locked up without even the pretense of legal “rights” afforded to inmates at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Since Obama took office, the number of prisoners U.S. forces hold in Afghanistan has nearly tripled—from 600 in 2008 to 1,700 in 2011.

Washington is also stepping up its aerial drone attacks in Pakistan, having demonstratively launched four such strikes over the 11 days since Osama bin Laden’s death May 2. The latest attacks killed four people in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan May 13, and another eight the previous day. Nearly 200 such strikes have been carried out since Barack Obama became president.

Pakistan’s parliament May 14 condemned the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. In a resolution it warned against future attempts to repeat such a mission and called for the suspension of drone attacks, threatening to prohibit convoys of supplies traveling through Pakistan into Afghanistan.

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with top Pakistani officials in Islamabad May 16 to defuse tensions and reassure the Pakistani rulers of Washington’s continuing commitment to provide massive military and economic aid.

Urging a reopening of debate on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, Kerry called for “working toward the smallest footprint necessary” but made clear he’s not advocating a “unilateral, precipitous withdrawal.” Kerry is an advocate of Vice President Joseph Biden’s approach, arguing for fewer troops in Afghanistan but stepped-up targeted killings by special forces and drones.

The Obama administration’s desires to reduce U.S. boots on the ground are frustrated by the challenge of training competent numbers of Afghan troops and police to replace U.S.-led forces in combat. Because of the large number of desertions, some 141,000 Afghan soldiers must be recruited to increase the size of the Afghan army by 56,000, writes Paul McLeary of Defense Technology International magazine.

In another development, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh visited Afghanistan, announcing that New Delhi would invest an additional $500 million in that country, bringing its total investment there to $2 billion. Several Indian companies are currently seeking rights to invest in the large iron ore deposits in Bamian Province in central Afghanistan.

New Delhi’s overtures won endorsement from Washington while rattling Islamabad, which feels threatened by the growing political and economic influence in Afghanistan of its main rival.

For its part, Washington seeks to balance and deepen its alliances with the governments of both Pakistan and India as a counterweight to the growing regional influence of Beijing, also a close ally of Islamabad. This overreaching goal of the U.S. imperialists’ regional strategy necessitates a de-escalation of tensions between the rulers of India and Pakistan.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home