Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years‚ÄĒbut military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled.¬†(Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Afghanistan
Bensouda

US imposes sanctions on ICC chief prosecutor

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced economic sanctions against the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda. Characterizing the ICC as “a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution” and noting that the United States is not a member of the court, Pompeo condemned what he called the court’s¬†“illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction,” referring to Bensouda’s investigation into possible war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan.¬†Human Rights Watch assailed the move as a¬†“stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to target those prosecuting war crimes.”¬†(Photo:¬†Wikimedia Commons via +972)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops.¬†This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances:¬†US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while¬†Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The¬†notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in¬†a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity.¬†(Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Idlib displaced

UN: world refugees break record ‚ÄĒagain

An unprecedented one percent of the world’s population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or across borders, according to the latest annual report by the UN Refugee Agency. At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced, up from 70.8 million the year before. The rise was in part due to new displacements in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. It also reflected the inclusion for the first time of 3.6 million Venezuelans who have been displaced outside their country but who have not sought asylum. (Photo: UNHCR)

Afghanistan
Hazara ceremony

Massacre at Hazara ceremony in Kabul

Gunmen stormed a memorial ceremony honoring a martyred leader of the Hazara Shi’ite minority in Afghanistan’s capital. Key politicians including chief executive Abdullah Abdullah were on hand for the commemoration of the Hazara Mujahedeen commander Abdul Ali Mazari, who was assassinated by the Taliban in 1995. At least 27 people were killed in the attack, and some 30 more wounded. Soon after the massacre, the Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility. Shortly after that, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed the attack in a communique, and also asserted that the actual death toll was 150. An ISIS-claimed attack on the same ceremony last year saw a barrage of mortar fire that killed at least 11 people. The new attack comes just as a tentative “peace deal” with the Taliban is raising concerns for the fate of Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minorities. (Photo of ceremony just before attack via Khaama Press)

Afghanistan
Special Forces

ICC approves Afghanistan war crimes investigation

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court ¬†unanimously approved an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both sides in the Afghanistan conflict. The investigation will focus on “alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan.” The Pre-Trial Chamber had rejected a request to open an investigation last year, but the prosecutor appealed. The case names three primary parties as the focus of its investigation: the Taliban and affiliated groups for crimes against humanity and war crimes;¬†the Afghan National Security Forces for war crimes; and the US armed forces and its Central Intelligence Agency for war crimes. (Photo:AiirSource Military)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Will human rights be betrayed in US-Taliban deal?

More than a year of US-Taliban negotiations bore formal fruit with the signing in Doha of what is being called a “peace deal” by Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad¬†and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The pact calls for the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments under the agreement.¬†“Intra-Afghan” talks are to follow, with the aim of negotiating a permanent ceasefire.¬†Amnesty International, however, raised concerns about what the ¬†deal could mean for Afghanistan’s women and religious minorities, urging: “Any peace process involving the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan must not ignore the voice of victims.”¬†(Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Afghanistan
Kunar

Afghanistan headed for four-way war?

Five months after Afghanistan’s presidential elections, a winner has finally been declared‚ÄĒthe incumbent, Ashraf Ghani. But hours after the announcement, rival Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the victor, claiming irregularities in the vote and calling the results “national treason.” The showdown portends a divided government just as US is attempting to broker a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, ostensibly to be followed by “intra-Afghan talks” between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. In addition to the ongoing war with the Taliban, NATO-backed government forces are continuing to battle the Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” in Afghanistan. Following a long offensive, President Ghani in November triumphantly declared that ISIS had been “obliterated.” However, air-strikes continue against the group in its remaining stronghold in the Spin Ghar mountains of eastern Kunar province. (Map via Khaama Press)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

UN rights office protests Trump military pardons

A spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that he is “very concerned” by President Donald Trump’s pardons of two army officers and restoration of rank of a Navy SEAL. The president granted full pardons to two officers accused of killing noncombatants or disarmed captives, and restored rank to a SEAL accused of posing with the body of a slain fighter in Iraq. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, said the pardons sent “a disturbing signal to militaries” around the globe, noting that international law requires the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, and that the pardons “simply void[ed]” the legal process.¬†(Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Afghanistan
Afghan paramilitary

CIA-backed Afghan forces commit ‘grave’ abuses

Human Rights Watch charges in a new report¬†that US Central Intelligence Agency-backed Afghan forces have committed summary executions, disappearances,¬†attacks on medical facilities, and other “grave” offenses. These paramilitary forces are officially under the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), but have been recruited, trained, equipped and overseen by the CIA. The CIA provides logistical support, as well as intelligence and surveillance for targeting during “kill-or-capture” operations. US special forces personnel, usually Army Rangers, often are deployed alongside the paramilitary forces. (Photo: IRIN)

Afghanistan
warplane

UN report: air-strikes on Afghan drug labs illegal

US air-strikes in Afghanistan this May resulted in civilian casualties and violated international humanitarian law, the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported. On May 4 the US Forces-Afghanistan carried out air-strikes on buildings located in Bakwa district, Farah province, and neighboring Delaram district of Nimroz province. The air-strikes were aimed at potential drug facilities in the area but resulted in 39 civilian casualties, including 14 children. In a press release, UNAMA stated, “The report, jointly produced by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office, concludes that drug facilities and associated workers may not be lawfully made the target of attack and should be protected.”¬†(Photo: USAF)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David‚ÄĒa week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!‚ÄĒwill further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike‚ÄĒand were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.¬†¬†ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not. ¬†(Photo: Khaama Press)