Escalation not Ruled Out

KABUL/BERLIN | | afghanistan

KABUL/BERLIN (Own report) - Anti-NATO Protests are continuing, following the killing of demonstrators outside of the German army base in Taloqan, Afghanistan. Yesterday, several hundred demonstrators again took to the streets to express their outrage over a nighttime NATO raid. At least 14 demonstrators were shot to death on Wednesday. The Bundeswehr does not rule out a new escalation. The growing number of civilians being killed by NATO forces during military actions has provoked these protests. According to a study by Afghan human rights activists, the number of NATO's civilian casualties has grown to over 500, while the protest movement against the Western occupiers has become stronger. The recent escalation has been provoked by a war strategy that for years has been tolerating civilian casualties. This has also been the case for the Bundeswehr: the German military has taken part in the establishment of hit lists, in night raids and in the preparation for air raids that regularly kill civilians.

Aimed Shots

The protests against western occupation forces are continuing in Taloqan, Afghanistan. They were provoked by the deaths of two women and two men, killed by NATO soldiers during the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. Whereas the NATO alleges that they had been insurgents, locals insist that they were non-partisan civilians. On Wednesday, a funeral procession was transformed into a protest demonstration. About 3000 people were marching toward the Bundeswehr base in Taloqan, where violence erupted. At least 14 demonstrators were shot to death. It is unclear, whether German soldiers had also fired deadly shots. The Bundeswehr admits that "aimed shots" were "fired at the legs of violent protesters,"[1] wounding "7 to 8 attackers." Faced with continued protests, the Bundeswehr explicitly declared, "an escalation cannot be ruled out." The situation is very tense.

More Civilian Casualties

According to reports by Afghan human rights organizations, explaining the mass protests outside the Bundeswehr base in Taloqan, the number of civilians killed by western occupation forces and their Afghan collaborators is much higher than admitted by the West based upon United Nations figures. According to a UN report, 440 civilians were killed during military actions by western occupation and Afghan security forces in 2010 – 26 per cent less than in 2009.[2] The independent Afghanistan Rights Monitor, based in Kabul, registered 512 civilians killed by western soldiers and 278 by Afghan security units.[3] According to the Afghan Rights Monitor the discrepancy in these figures can be explained by the fact that US/NATO forces often classify civilian casualties to be insurgents and their collaborators. Verifying the exact number of casualties would take time-consuming research on the ground.

Bombing Election Campaigners

A recently published detailed study by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, also seated in Kabul, sheds more light on the high number of casualties. The investigation highlights a NATO targeted killing and explains why western troops had attacked a convoy of election campaigners during an air raid on September 2, 2010. Ten civilians were killed. The Afghanistan Analysts Network explains that western forces believed they were attacking the Takhar province's deputy Taliban governor.[4] Their fateful error can be traced back to shoddy research - risky conclusions, drawn from wiretapped telephone conversations were insufficiently re-examined. For the Afghanistan Analysts Network, it is evident that the Taliban governor was not killed in that attack – contrary to what the military still alleges - he has even found and interviewed in Pakistan since his alleged death. In the Takhar province - whose capital Taloqan has become the focus of protests – the NATO attack had caused a wave of indignation already back in September 2010. Protests had been spreading in other areas throughout 2010. "Numerous emotional demonstrations against foreign troops allegedly killing civilians were held in various parts of the country," reported the Afghanistan Rights Monitor in its annual report.[5]

Counter-Insurgency

The hostility of the Afghan population towards the western occupiers is being nourished from several sources. Alongside the casualties, there is also immense material damage. According to the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, in November 2010 alone, western troops destroyed hundreds of houses, pomegranate trees and fruit gardens, thereby robbing the people of their means of subsistence. More than US $100 million in damage has been produced in the name of western counter-insurgency. Also in the name of counter-insurgency, the West and its puppet regime are cooperating with irregular militias, comprised of warlords and often of criminals. The population detests the militias, above all, because of their widespread abuse of civilians, reports the Afghanistan Rights Monitor. In addition, personal vendettas as well as political rivalry are being fought out under cover of alleged counter-insurgency. The civilian population is always caught in the line of fire.

With German Participation

The fact that the hostility is now being also directed toward the German Bundeswehr is not due merely to the fact that it is a contingent of the western occupation forces. The September 4, 2009 Kunduz massacre, ordered by a German colonel, killing up to 142 civilians, has not been forgotten in Afghanistan. The population is also aware that the hit lists ("Joint Prioritized Effects List") with the names of enemies to be captured or killed are certainly not solely produced by the US military, but also with information from German troops. These hit lists usually lead to nighttime raids by western forces – which repeatedly lead, as currently in Taloqan, to hefty protests.[6] For the German side, it was particularly the Task Force 47 that, according to the German government, had, by August 2010, participated 21 times in these "offensive operations," in which 59 people had been arrested "at least temporarily." The government insists that German soldiers had not killed anyone in the course of these operations, but furnishes no details on how many were killed during these operations by participating members of other allied forces.

[1] Afghanistan: Gewalttätige Demonstration in Talokan (3. Aktualisierung); www.bundeswehr.de 19.05.2011
[2] Afghanistan Annual Report 2010: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict; United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Kabul, March 2011
[3] Afghanistan Rights Monitor: ARM Annual Report. Civilian Casualties of War January-December 2010, Kabul, February 2011
[4] Kate Clark: The Takhar attack. Targeted killings and the parallel worlds of US intelligence and Afghanistan, Afghanistan Analysts Network, May 2011
[5] Afghanistan Rights Monitor: ARM Annual Report. Civilian Casualties of War January-December 2010, Kabul, February 2011
[6] see also Tyrannical States