# 10 Dec. 1, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Did CIA Spark Mazar Prison Massacre?
2. First Official Us Combat Casualties
3. Summary Executions In Mazar And Kunduz?
4. Civilian Casualties Mount--Despite US Media Blackout
5. Refugee Crisis Spirals
6. Aid Workers Plead: Stop The Air-Drops Already!
7. Russia Stakes Claim
8. US Playing Ball With Iran?
9. Pakistan Pissed
10. Balkanization Of Afghanistan Planned?
11. "Pashtunistan" Next?
12. Afghan Women Censored At Bonn
13. Kabul Critical Mass!
14. Dervishes Boogie
15. Propagandists Make Hay
1. Philippine Front Opened
2. India Weighs Anti-Terror Bill
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. DID CIA SPARK MAZAR PRISON MASSACRE?
The bloody siege of Kala-i-Janghi, the ancient fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif, ended Nov. 27 with an estimated 500 dead, three days after Taliban POWs being held there launched a desperate uprising. It took assaults by US Special Forces and British SAS troops backing up Northern Alliance fighters, plus repeated US airstrikes on the prison-fortress from warplanes and helicopter gunships. Both the UN and human rights groups are calling for an investigation into the bloodbath.
On Nov. 28, Oliver August, Mazar correspondent for the London Times, wrote that Johnny (codename 'Mike') Spann, the CIA agent killed in the uprising, "triggered" the violence with an unsubtle interrogation of Taliban "foreign legion" volunteers, the most fanatical Taliban troops. Spann and a CIA colleague, "Dave," were dressed in Afghan robes, spoke Persian and had grown beards, but apparently failed to fool the captives. When Spann asked one, "Why did you come to Afghanistan?", the captive responded, "We are here to kill you," and jumped at Spann. Spann and "Dave" both pulled their guns, shooting three prisoners dead before losing control over the situation. Spann was "kicked, beaten and bitten to death," while "Dave" fled.
In a strategic blunder, Mazar's reigning Northern Alliance warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum had departed for the Kunduz front days earlier, leaving only small force in control of the prison. The guards were quickly overwhelmed by the 800 Taliban prisoners--including many volunteers from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Chechnia--who had turned themselves over to the Northern Alliance in a negotiated surrender at Kunduz. The prisoners then stormed the armory and seized weapons, and the siege began. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has echoed Amnesty International director Kate Allen in calling for an urgent inquiry. Amnesty says it is willing to send an observer to Afghanistan to monitor an inquiry into "the proportionality of the response by the Northern Alliance, US and UK forces." (London Times, Nov. 28; Reuters, Nov. 27)
2. FIRST OFFICIAL US COMBAT CASUALTIES
The US airstrikes on Kala-i-Janghi fortress also resulted in the first officially acknowledged US combat casualties, when a bomb went astray on the night of Nov. 26, killing six Northern Alliance fighters and seriously injuring five US Special Forces soldiers (BBC, Nov. 27). Two US servicemen were killed in a helicopter accident Oct. 19 in Pakistan, and four non-military personnel (presumably CIA) injured in helicopter accident in Afghanistan around Nov. 4 (See WW 3 REPORT #' 4 & WW 3 REPORT #7).
3. SUMMARY EXECUTIONS IN MAZAR AND KUNDUZ?
A day after the fall of Kunduz, corpses littered the streets, Justin Huggler wrote in the UK Independent Nov. 27: "People here spoke of street-to-street fighting at 7am, when the Alliance troops led by General Mohammed Daud advanced into town. They said the Taliban had been killed in the fighting. But some of the bodies lying on the streets had their big toes tied together, so they could not run. They had not died in fighting. They had been executed."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also expressed concern about the up to 600 bodies it says it has recovered in Mazar-i-Sharif, BBC reported Nov. 23. The organization could not specify whether the victims had died in the fighting or had been summarily executed after the Northern Alliance captured the town two weeks ago. "There have been stories of executions," said ICRC spokesman Bernard Barrett, noting that "summary executions are clearly prohibited under the Geneva convention."
4. CIVILIAN CASUALTIES MOUNT--DESPITE US MEDIA BLACKOUT
The foreign press--even in the UK--has been far more aggressive than the US media in reporting the impacts of the bombing campaign on Afghanistan's civilians. While the bombing has largely disappeared from US headlines in the past three weeks, the international press continued to run harrowing eye-witness reports by correspondents on the ground in besieged Afghan cities.
UK Independent correspondent Justin Huggler wrote from Khanabad Nov. 27: "We were picking our way through the bombed-out ruins of Khanabad when we heard the explosion. When we got there, struggling through the collapsed remains of houses, an old man sat in his blood blinking and shaking his head in bewilderment. Beside him, a 15-year-old boy lay bleeding and unconscious. They had trodden on one of the American cluster bombs that litter the fields and roadside around Khanabad... The Americans killed more than 100 unarmed civilians in Khanabad in the last two weeks, relentlessly bombing heavily populated residential areas in the town, one of the last under Taliban control. The Independent first reported allegations of civilian deaths made by fleeing refugees a week ago. Yesterday, after the Taliban left, those claims were confirmed."
On Nov. 21, the AFP reported the Taliban's Mulla Fazil told Pakistan's daily Dawn by satellite phone that US airstrikes had killed some 800 people in the Kunduz area and 250 in Khanabad district. The US dismisses all Taliban casualty accounts as mere propaganda--which they may well be. But accounts from reporters on the scene indicates civilian casualties may be much higher than most US citizens are aware.
Wrote UK Telegraph's correspondent Philip Smucker Nov. 21 from the village of Gluco, near Jalalabad: "Terrified Afghan villagers, in an area abandoned by the Taliban, yesterday described how Allied bombers circled their village for the third time in two days, before launching air strikes that killed seven residents. Their wooden homes looked like piles of charred matchsticks. Injured mules lay braying in the road along the mountain pass that stank of sulphur and dead animals. The strikes, which killed the seven on Monday and four on Sunday, suggest that western military intelligence on the ground...is not good as it might be."
5. REFUGEE CRISIS SPIRALS
Refugees continue to flee the bombing into dramatically overburdened camps in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan has given up on its policy of attempting to hold refugees back and close camps near the border. Pakistan authorities are now letting refugees in, but relocating them away from the border to large centralized camps administrated with the aid of the UN (BBC, Nov. 19). About 100,000 refugees are believed to have crossed the Pakistan border illegally since the US began bombing Afghanistan, AFP reported Nov. 8--despite a Taliban policy of shooting refugees down, and Pakistan's policy of turning them back.
Those who have taken internal refuge, establishing makeshift camps within Afghanistan's borders (mostly in the west, near Iran), are in even worse shape, according to UNICEF. AP reported Nov. 26: "Diseases spreading through refugee camps in western Afghanistan, near Iran, have claimed the lives of hundreds of children in the past few weeks, the organization said." Some of these camps had been established before the bombing by refugees fleeing the Taliban--but their situation has been seriously worsened by the bombing, which has slowed aid deliveries to a trickle.
6. AID WORKERS PLEAD: STOP THE AIR-DROPS ALREADY!
The UN regional de-mining manager for Herat, Haji Seddiqi, has sent an urgent message to his Islamabad headquarters urging that the US be requested to stop food airdrops in areas where unexploded ordinance might be lying around. Reported the BBC Nov. 22: "The problem is that during the American bombardment of the Taliban around Herat a few weeks ago, at least three densely populated civilian areas were hit by cluster bombs which went astray. The bombs are designed to scatter bomblets over a wide area. Many houses were damaged at the time. Several civilians were killed, and the areas still haven't been cleared..." The report cited a Nov. 21 incident in which a 15-year old boy was killed and at least one other young boy lost his hand and forearm when they mistook one of the deadly yellow bomblets for a food packet (See WW3 REPORT #9).
Reuters reported Nov. 29 that unemployed Afghan engineer Golam Sediq was woken by a loud bang in the early hours that Tuesday when a crate full of US food aid fell through the roof of his Herat home. "With seven people, mostly women and children, asleep in the house, it was pure luck that no one was hurt, though his two-year-old son was trapped under the rubble for some time." Yellow food packages of peanut butter and poptarts--labeled "a gift from the people of the United States of America"--littered his home and nearby gardens. Said Sediq: "They should drop smaller packages or nothing at all. We'll have to pay at least 20 times more to repair the damage than we gain from the extra food. The Americans should pay for this."
AP reported Nov 29 that a civilian was killed when a heavy bundle of humanitarian supplies dropped by parachute crushed her house near Mazar-i-Sharif. The package of wheat, blankets and cold weather equipment hit the house before dawn the previous day, admitted a spokesperson for US Central Command in Florida.
7. RUSSIA STAKES CLAIM
Some 100 troops from Russia's Emergencies Ministry have occupied a patch of wasteland in the heart of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Reuters reported Nov. 27. The Emergencies Ministry is not part of the military, but the troops are uniformed and armed with AK-47s, and have military-style transport trucks in the compound. When questioned by reporters, the troops said they are building a field hospital or an embassy. The troops are evidently there at the invitation of the Northern Alliance, which holds Kabul and is being heavily armed by Russia. But the city's populace is said to be wary of the Russian presence--given Russia's brutal counterinsurgency war in the Afghanistan in the 1980s.
8. US PLAYING BALL WITH IRAN?
Although neither side can publicly admit it, the US appears to be cooperating closely with Iran in the anti-Taliban campaign. Aviation Week & Space Technology reported Nov 26 that US and UK troops were spotted disembarking from Iranian aircraft at Bagram air base near Kabul.
9. PAKISTAN PISSED
A day before the Northern Alliance took Kabul, President Bush told reporters: "They have no intention of occupying--and they've said this publicly--they intend not to occupy Kabul. And its fine, its the way it oughta be." (Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Nov. 18)
The Northern Alliance's disobedient march on Kabul has increased tensions between the US and Pakistan (which until recently supported the Taliban). On Nov. 25, the New York Times quoted a "senior Pakistan official" saying "I am sorry to put it in this way, but [US Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld's been extremely callous." But Pakistan seems more susceptible to US pressure than vice versa. In preparation for the Bonn talks on establishing a new Afghanistan government, Pakistan established its first contact with the Northern Alliance in over a year at a meeting in Abu Dubai this week, BBC reported Nov. 28.
10. BALKANIZATION OF AFGHANISTAN PLANNED?
Afghanistan may be about to disappear from the map entirely, setting the stage for a wider Central Asia power grab. Wrote the New York Times Dec. 1: "As representatives of rival Afghan factions met in Bonn this week to begin shaping a new government for their long-suffering land, American specialists have been debating whether it makes sense to try to reconstitute a single, unified country. Many scholars, intellectuals and policymakers are considering how to create a broad-based Afghan government, but a handful of experts argue that Afghanistan is a failed state destined to spread instability forever."
Particularly highlighted are the theories of Eden Naby of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, who believes Afghanistan should be broken up into several "allied independent states"--as if this were a decision for Harvard scholars rather than the people of Afghanistan. Naby told the Middle East Studies Association last month in San Francisco: "Getting rid of the idea or concept of Afghanistan is very difficult, just as getting over the idea of Yugoslavia was difficult"--which is hardly a brilliant argument for her concept, given the potential for a bloody Balkan-style scramble for ethnically-pure mini-states. "But in the long run no one wants a strong Afghanistan," Naby concluded.
If by "no one" she means no outside powers, she is evidently right. Afghanistan is already divided by militias allied with either the US and its regional ally Pakistan (the Pashtun factions of the south) or Russia and its regional ally Iran (the Northern Alliance). The US now backs all sides against the Taliban--but if the Taliban is defeated, or if the Bonn talks fail, the conflict could break down into a Russo-v-Anglo-American proxy war--following the pattern in Afghanistan for nearly 200 years.
11. "PASHTUNISTAN" NEXT?
The Afghanistan intervention could backfire on the US by destabilizing its regional ally Pakistan--if playing the Pashtun nationalist card against the Northern Alliance backfires on the strategists in Islamabad, Paskitan's capital. Writes Shiraz Paracha of the UK's Institute for War & Peace Reporting: "Islamabad fears that unless America helps to secure a broad-based government in Afghanistan, Pashtuns will side with their ethnic kin in northern Pakistan and revive calls for their own state. The Northern Alliance...is wary of a government comprising representatives of the majority Pashtuns whom they regard as supporters of the Taliban. The Afghan Pashtuns, in turn, will not accept being ruled by a coalition of minority ethnic groups. This problem is set to be talked through in Bonn... But many Afghans expect the talks to break down...
"Pakistan is a federation of four provinces, the largest of which is Punjab--home to 63% of the country's population--with Pashtuns mainly inhabiting North West Frontier Province, NWFP. Relations between these regions have never been smooth. Habib Ullaha Khan Kundi, a former senior provincial minister in Pakistan, believes the division of Afghanistan between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns would have serious consequences for his country. 'The Pashtuns in Afghanistan may wish to join Pakistan. It would not be acceptable to Punjab,' said Kundi.
"The idea of Pashtunistan has played an important role in Pakistani politics since the formation of the country in 1947. Kabul had long sought to annex NWFP, claiming it was part of Afghanistan. The influential Pakistani military--fearing this would lead to the disintegration of the country--countered by attempting to promote divisions between the Afghan Pashtuns. During the war against the Soviets in the '80s, Islamabad encouraged the emergence of rival political parties. It then distributed funds to them unevenly to exacerbate their mutual suspicion. Subsequently, the Pakistani authorities supported the Taliban who were mostly Pashtuns opposed to a Pastun state--the student militia had more of a religious than a national identity which suited Islamabad's aims perfectly. But Paskistan's ability to dictate events north of the border have diminished with the military collapse of the Taliban...
"If talks with the Northern Alliance next week prove to be successful, Pakistan government fears may be eased. But if the Northern Alliance continues to seek control over Afghanistan, Afghan Pashtuns may feel that their future lies with their brothers in northern Pakistan." (www.iwpr.net, Nov. 23)
12. AFGHAN WOMEN CENSORED AT BONN
A voice for Afghanistan's oppressed women at the Bonn talks has become a contentious issue. A sanguine Nov. 30 account on the Feminist Daily News Wire quoted Sima Wali, vice president of Sisterhood is Global and a "feminist delegate" to the talks: "We are not waiting any longer to be invited to sit at these tables where peace is being discussed..." The account said "Wali and many other delegates are pushing for the restoration and enforcement of women's rights as well as leadership roles for women in any new Afghan government."
A more skeptical view was offered by Jill Colgan of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Nov. 28, who interviewed Surao Palika, onetime secretary general of the Afghan Red Crescent and currently leader of "a secret society that's only now come out of hiding, the Union of Afghan Women." Palika said all three women delegates in Bonn are ex-patriots representing foreign NGOs, and she fears they've been selected by the Afghan delegations because they'll offer no resistance to their decision making. "Afghan women will be represented," she said, "but not Afghan women from inside the country who've been directly subjected to all this injustice, discrimination, physical violence and torture. We could have represented ourselves better...than women from outside the country." Palika also pledged that hundreds of women plan to march through Kabul unveiled next week--putting the new regime on notice.
"Mehmooda," a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), responded by e-mail Nov. 30 to WW3 REPORT's queries about RAWA's status at the Bonn conference: "Yes, our representatives are in Bonn with the King's delegation trying to take part in the meeting, but have been refused so far. They are trying to go in but due to the presence of the people from Northern Alliance who can't obviously tolerate RAWA, the UN officials are not allowing them."
13. KABUL CRITICAL MASS!
Afghan cycling enthusiasts, forced off their bikes by the Taliban, are back in the saddle, Reuters reported Nov. 26. About 20 cyclists in full gear staged their first race for five years from Kabul the Sunday after the city fell to the Northern Alliance. Braving a potholed road riddled with landmines, they pedaled 40 km north to the town of Charikar. The Taliban had outlawed all public sports events. "During Taliban times we weren't allowed to do sports, it was very difficult. Now with freedom we can do what we want, so we are organizing this race," said Mahmood Azani, formerly of Afghanistan's Olympic Committee, clearly trying to ingratiate himself to the new boss. He said the race had been staged in honor of the late Ahmed Shah Masood, the Northern Alliance's legendary commander.
14. DERVISHES BOOGIE
The New York Times ran a photo Dec. 1 of dervishes from the Nakshbandi Sufi order dancing ecstatically at a Kabul shrine for the first time in years. Music and dance, as well as Sufism, had been banned by the Taliban.
15. PROPAGANDISTS MAKE HAY
Of course, media war propagandists were quick to exploit such scenes of jubilation. The New York Times' Thomas Friedman concluded Nov. 23 not that these were demonstrations of extreme courage and that vigilance is required to protect these tentative gains under whatever new regime--but that the Afghan people are grateful for getting bombed: "Think of all the nonsense written in the press--particularly in the European and Arab media--about the concern for 'civilian casualties' in Afghanistan. It turns out many of those Afghan 'civilians' were praying for another dose of B-52's to liberate them from the Taliban, casualties or not."
1. PHILIPPINE FRONT OPENED
Fighting on Jolo Island in the Philippines left over 100 dead, Reuters reported Nov. 21, with government helicopter gunships attacking areas held by Islamic separatist guerillas loyal to the region's rebel governor Nur Misuari. Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, Misuari signed a peace accord in 1996 after leading an insurgency on the island for 24 years. The new fighting is meant to prevent elections scheduled this week to pick a successor to Misuari as governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, according to the military. After talks in Washington with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Bush announced $100 million in new military aid to the archipelago nation. The aid is specifically targeted at crushing Abu Sayyaf, a Moro guerilla breakaway faction which has been holding a US missionary couple hostage for nearly six months and is purportedly linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
2. INDIA WEIGHS ANTI-TERROR BILL
India's government has introduced a sweeping counter-terrorism bill which emulates the US PATRIOT Act. The government claims the new Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance is more sensitive than the infamous Terrorist & Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), which Parliament let lapse in 1995 after harsh, sustained criticism from human rights groups. But the new measure "broadly empowers the authorities to tap telephones, monitor e-mail, detain people without charge for up to six months, conduct secret trials in jails and keep the identity of witnesses secret." (New York Times, Nov. 22)
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