Escalation in Afghanistan

The retraction of Newsweek’s allegations of Koran-abuse at Guantanamo, which had sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, may not win the U.S. peace in that country for very long. A vivid report in the NY Times May 20 depicts horrendous details of the torture-death of two detainees at the Bagram Collection Point in December 2002, based on a 2,000-page confidential file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by the Times. Seven soldiers are now facing criminal charges in the case.

President Hamid Karzai responded to the revelations by demanding greater Afghan control over U.S. military bases, the transfer of prisoners to Afghan custody, and punishment for U.S. soldiers implicated in torture. (Boston Globe, May 22) Right on time, somebody leaked to the NY Times a cable from the US embassy in Kabul to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice charging that Karzai “has been unwilling to assert strong leadership” to curtail Afghanistan’s heroin trade. The leak camse just as Karzai has left for Washington for meetings with Bush. (BBC, May 22)

On May 21, one U.S. soldier was killed and two others injured in a bomb blast on their armored vehicle in southern Zabul province. (BBC, May 21) The May 22 edition of the UK newspaper Scotland on Sunday claims to have uncovered a secret plan to rush 5,500 more British troops to Afghanistan to combat a new guerilla alliance in the south, led by the Taliban and Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. An anonymous Ministry of Defense official reportedly told the paper: “We are going into an area where there’s a civil war going on. It’s dangerous and it’s somewhere new. People within the MoD are now saying we will have to deal with this and go into the south of the country. What they are saying is, don’t do it piecemeal. We will have to do it properly.”