Tag Archives | Afghanistan

Australia’s Drone War: The ‘Kill Chain’

Reports ABC News:

A senior Australian Defence Force officer has revealed details of how the Royal Australian Air Force deploys Israeli-owned drones for battlefield surveillance and to target anti-government Islamic fighters in Afghanistan.

Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan says Australia is “just buying hours” on the Heron drones from a Canadian company that in turn “leases them from IAI” (Israel Aerospace Industries), which is wholly owned by the Israeli government.

While enthusiastically endorsing the Heron’s capabilities, Wing Commander McMullan was highly critical of the quality of training provided by Israeli and Canadian instructors to Australian drone crews.

The unarmed Israeli Herons first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009. They are the centrepiece of the ADF’s rapidly expanding drone warfare capability that has so far cost an estimated $550 million. Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra late last month: “I wouldn’t discount the fact that we might have armed UAVs thinking through our force structure review into the future.”…

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Suicide Has Killed More Troops Than the War in Afghanistan This Year

Writes Alexander Abad-Santos on the Atlantic Wire:

This is a pretty terrible statistic: 154 active duty troops have committed suicide in the first 155 days of the new year–a rate alarmingly close to one per day. The number dead from suicides eclipses the U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan by about 50 percent.

For comparison, there were around 130 suicide deaths during the same time last year, reports The Associated Press’ Robert Burns. It’s difficult to wrap our brains around that number and that rate, and of course that statistic is just one more troubling recent finding from our troops. (Remember the reports that found that sexual assaults among members of the army were up 64 percent from 2006? Or the rise in alcohol abuse?) “It’s a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war,” Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Army general told Burns. “We’ve seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison.”…

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The Controversial Email From America’s Last Prisoner Of War

Rolling Stone on the strange and sad saga of Bowe Bergdahl, the final U.S. prisoner of war being held by the Taliban. After sending a goodbye email to his parents stating that he was “ashamed to be an American”, Bergdahl walked off his base in Afghanistan three years ago:

The Taliban captured 26-year-old Bowe Bergdahl on June 30th, 2009, and since that day, his parents, Jani and Bob, have had no contact with him. Like the rest of the world, their lone glimpses of Bowe – the only American prisoner of war left in either Iraq or Afghanistan – have come through a series of propaganda videos, filmed while he’s been in captivity.

Bowe’s own tour of duty in Afghanistan mirrored the larger American experience in the war – marked by tragedy, confusion, misplaced idealism, deluded thinking and, perhaps, a moment of insanity. And it is with Bowe that the war will likely come to an end.

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Nearly Half of New U.S Veterans Are Seeking Disability

US Dept. of Veterans AffairsReports the AP:

America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It’s unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors.

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Malaysian War Crimes Tribunal Finds Bush and Cheney Guilty

Kuala LumpurOh, if only it were the Hague. Or better yet, the U.S. Supreme Court. I guess it’s a start, though. Via Common Dreams:

Former President George W Bush, his vice president, Dick Cheney, and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.

Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.

Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.

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Ron Paul on The Real Costs Of War

Ron Paul PeaceRon Paul writes on the Daily Bell:

This month Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the addition of some 1,900 mental health nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff in attempt to get a handle on the epidemic of suicides among combat veterans. Unfortunately, when presidents misuse our military on an unprecedented scale – and Congress lets them get away with it – the resulting stress causes military suicides to increase dramatically, both among active duty and retired service members. In fact, military deaths from suicide far outnumber combat deaths. According to an article in the Air Force Times this month, suicides among airmen are up 40 percent over last year.

Considering the multiple deployments service members are forced to endure as the war in Afghanistan stretches into its second decade, these figures are sadly unsurprising.

Ironically, the same VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to retire from the Army by President Bush for daring to suggest that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would not be the cakewalk that neoconservatives promised.

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U.S. Military Under-reporting Afghan Military and Police Attacks on American Soldiers

ISAFNow why would the military do such a thing? Reports Robert Burns in the AP via Google News:

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war. The U.S. and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014.

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U.S. Soldiers Pose With Bodies Of Suicide Bombers In Afghanistan

AirborneDavid Zucchino writes in the Los Angeles Times:

The paratroopers had their assignment: Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification.

The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.

A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.

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Showdown With The Afghan National Army

Afghan National ArmyOur convoy was screaming down the road, traffic got out of our way in a hurry, as most would when multiple multi-ton armed vehicles packed full of pissed off soldiers are in their rearview mirror. We shouldn’t have even been out in sector this night, mostly because we got back from another patrol only a few hours prior, and it was the other squads turn to roll out but there we were.

The Afghan National Army had received a tip from a kid saying his dad was Taliban, and that he had weapons in his house somehow this got sent to us. We never work with the Afghan Army, we work with the Afghan Police. The area they got the tip from wasn’t even in my company’s battle space but again, there we were.

Everyone in the trucks were bitching and complaining, my Team Leader kept saying the whole thing was a trap, my driver kept saying we were all going to die.… Read the rest

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On Patrol With The Afghan National Police

PoliceKandahar, Afghanistan—High centered, surrounded on both sides by open air sewage ditches is a dusty Afghan Police Checkpoint. I mean ‘checkpoint’ only in the loosest of terms, as the Afghans put it together. A few sand bags here and there with a bright pink lawn chair in the center, the police stand totally unprotected.

If they ever did their job that is.

My squad’s patrol crawls by under the hot Kandahar sun, when they see us the Police jump up off their flamboyantly colored lawn chair and start searching random fields and anyone who is misfortunate enough to be close by. Their checkpoint commander rushes out and tries to look as professional as his ill-fitting uniform and bare feet allow him to look.

“Hello!” he calls out, trying to act like we are disturbing his work. Our interpreter walks over to him and starts small talk while the tired, sun burned soldiers spread out along nearby builds and canals to set up sectors of fire.… Read the rest

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