Afghanistan Theater

Bagram: US still holding detainees without charge

The nonprofit human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) released a report  on Sept. 5 detailing the conditions at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, a facility that continues to detain non-Afghan prisoners of the US despite not being under US control since March. According to the JPP, many of these detainees are being held indefinitely without charges, trial or access to a lawyer. Many prisoners have testified to being captured and held in the prison without ever being told about the basis for their detainment.

ISI behind Taliban attack on Indian consulate?

Persistent claims that Afghanistan's Taliban are backed by ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, will certainly be enflamed by the Aug. 3 attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad. Nine were killed and some 25 wounded in the coordinated suicide blast and armed assault. No Indian officials were killed, though the blast badly damaged a mosque and dozens of homes and small shops nearby. (Reuters, Aug. 3) A story in India Today on the same day as the attacks claimed that Delhi had warned its ambassador in Kabul, Amar Sinha, of a Pakistan-based  plot to assassinate him in a suicide attack, and recommended he beef up security measures. Sepcial commandos from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), already guarding the embassy in Kabul, were to be deployed to the consulates in Kandahar, Heart, Mazar and Jalalabad. Apparently, just too late...

UN report sees steep rise in Afghan civilian deaths

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mid-year report (PDF) released on July 31 indicated a 23% rise in the number of Afghan civilian casualties over the first six months of 2013 as compared to the same period last year. The report noted that many civilian deaths have been caused by the increased use of improvised explosive devices. Women and children are also increasingly the victims in the country's war, with a 30% increase in the number of children killed. Additionally, almost 75% of civilian deaths during this time period were caused by "Anti-Government Elements" such as Taliban fighters, who were increasingly targeting civilians that they viewed as cooperating with the government. The report calls on the Afghanistan government to "continue to disband and disarm all armed groups and to take measures to ensure accountability for human rights abuses carried out by these groups."

UN: Afghanistan remains top opium producer

The annual report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), released June 26, says that Afghanistan remains the world's top opium cultivator, accounting for 75% of global illicit production in 2012. The report noted that plant diseases in Afghanistan—rather than eradication efforts—reduced global opium production by 30% compared to 2011. However, the poppy-cultivation area in the country jumped by 14%. Most of the country's opium is produced in the southern Helmand province—which also happens to be the heartland of the Taliban insurgency. Use in the country is also on the rise, with over 1 million addicts. "Afghanistan itself has become a consumption country and has one of the highest levels of addiction, globally speaking," said UNODC representative Jean-Luc Lemahieu. (VOA, June 27; RFE/RL, June 26; UNODC, June 22)

Will 'peace' mean betrayal of Afghan women?

So, it's come to this. After more than 12 years of the United States being at war in Afghanistan, the Taliban have opened a "political office" in Qatar preparatory to negotiations with the Kabul government's High Peace Council and the US—the culimination of a series of preliminary meetings in various countries leading toward direct peace talks. The principal prerequisite that the US set for the talks is that the Taliban commit to not using Afghanistan as a staging ground for terror attacks abroad. (Khaama PressBBC News, June 18) Through their website Voice of Jiihad, the Taliban oblige: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has both military as well as political objectives which are confined to Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate does not wish to harm other countries from its soil and neither will it allow others use Afghan soil to pose a threat to the security of other nations!"

US soldier pleads guilty to killing Afghan civilians

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to the premeditated murder of 16 Afghan civilians on June 5 in order to comply with a plea deal and avoid the death penalty. Bales admitted to leaving his post last March in the Kandahar province in order seek out and murder civilians. Bales read the individual charges against him detailing each specific instance in detail. The murders represent the worst case of murder of civilians on the part of military personnel since the Vietnam War. Once the plea deal is accepted by the court martial judge, Bales will be given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

UK forces accused of illegally detaining Afghans

London-based Public Interest Lawyers on May 29 accused the UK military of holding at least eight men without charge at the UK temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Their clients have allegedly been held for over eight months without charge and without access to lawyers in what could be a breach of international law. Applications for habeas corpus were issued on behalf of two of the men in April, and the military has ordered a hearing in July. UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond insisted that the holdings are in compliance with international law and that there are regular inspections by the International Committee of the Red Cross. He explained that standard military procedures, which required the detainees to be released to Afghan forces after 96 hours, were changed in November due to suspicions about the use of torture on prisoners by the Afghan forces. According to the Ministry of Defence, the detainees are being held in Camp Bastion until a safe path through the Afghan system could be assured.

Chief prosecutor in Musharraf case killed

Chaudhry Zulfikar, chief prosecutor in the criminal case against Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf, was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on May 3. Zulfikar had been due to appear at the High Court in Rawalpindi for a hearing in Musharraf's case on charges of involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Zulfikar was leading the investigation into the allegations that Musharraf failed to provide adequate security to Bhutto when she returned to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile in December of 2007. She was killed at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi later that month.

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