Afghan Officials Say NATO strike Killed Women and Girls Gathering Firewood

Local officials in eastern Afghanistan say that a NATO airstrike supposedly targeting 45 armed insurgents, killed  killed eight women and girls. The alliance admits that some civilians may have been killed.

Laghman provincial government Sarhadi Zewak said the women were gathering firewood when they were hit by the strike. Seven other females were being treated in the hospital for injures, some as young as 10. Villagers carried the victims’ bodies to the local governor’s office while some chanted “Death to America!” said Zewak.

NATO initially reported that as many as 45 armed insurgents were killed in a “precision air strike,” but Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the Isaf later told the BBC that between five and eight civilians may have been caught in the crossfire in a tragic loss of life.

 

 

 

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Ben Swann’s Reality Check: 10 More Years and 100 Billion Dollars An “End” To Afghanistan War

Ben Swann takes a look at the NATO summit in Chicago where President Obama announced plans to keep forces in Afghanistan until at least 2024.

 

Cenk Uygur on NATO Afghanistan Agreement “What Fucking Gains!?”

What fucking gains indeed.

 

GOP Lawmaker Turns The Tables on Obama/Clinton Via New/Old Legislation

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) recently introduced a piece of legislation that should look very familiar to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. The bill would require the Obama administration to explain why it negotiated the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan without any input from Congress.

Jones’s legislation is identical to a 2007 bill that that then Senators Clinton and Obama introduced to question why then President Bush announced a declaration of cooperation with Iraq without congressional approval.

Jones said that regardless of who is in the White House, Congress needs to exert more authority over these issues in general.

“Congress for too long has not injected itself to be part of the process,” said Jones. “Congress needs to be able to evaluate whether this security agreement is worth the taxpayers’ investment.”

His bill, H.R. 5787, says that the White House agreement fails to outline the extent and cost of the U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan, and that because Congress will have to fund that commitment, they should be involved.

“Congress is a co-equal branch of government and as such the extension of long-term United States security commitments to Afghanistan that obligates or requires the appropriation of United States funds requires the full participation and consent of Congress,” his bill says.

In 2007, the Clinton-Obama bill read, “Congress is a co-equal branch of government and as such the extension of long-term United States security commitments to Iraq that obligates or requires the appropriation of United States funds requires the full participation and consent of Congress.”

Jones’s bill, like the Clinton-Obama bill, requires that the State Dept submit a report to Congress that justifies the administration’s exclusion of Congress in it’s decision to enter into the agreement, it would also require a legal analysis of the decision.

The bill also includes a sense of Congress saying the Afghanistan agreement does not have the force of law, and would prohibit the authorization or appropriation of funds to carry out any agreement that is not approved by Congress.

U.S. Officials Confirm/Apologize for Killing Family in Airstrike

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for last Friday night’s airstrike that killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan.

Spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, for Helmand Province Governor Muhammad Gulab Mangal, said an investigation revealed that a family home in the Sangin district was bombed by mistake in the American airstrike, called in to respond to a Taliban attack.

“We expressed regret over the incident, and we’re investigating to determine how this happened,” a spokesman for the United States military in Helmand, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton said.

“We are deeply saddened by any civilian death and particularly regret an incident where civilians are killed,” especially because of action by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, he said.

He added that General Gurganus “will be formally apologizing in the next couple of days to the family.”

According to Afghan officials a mother, her three girls and two boys were killed.

 

Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents for Pledges of Peace

For several years now the US government has secretly been releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups.

While the Obama administration has, unsuccessfully, been pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program serves as a means for officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips for pledges of peace.

U.S. officials warn the prisoners before they are released that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.

“Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks,” said one U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Releasing prisoners from the Parwan detention center, the only American military prison in Afghanistan, does not require congressional approval like at Guantanamo.

U.S. officials would not say how many detainees have been released under the program, or exactly when it was established.

The process starts with talks between U.S. military officials and insurgent commanders or local elders. Promises of decreased violence are made if certain insurgents are released from Parwan. The value of the tradeoff and the sincerity of the guarantee is determined by senior military officials in Kabul, officials said.

“The Afghans have come to us with information that might strengthen the reconciliation process,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said. “Many times we do act on it.”

The insurgents released through the secret program are the only detainees at Parwan who are able to circumvent the prison’s judicial review board. Their release is instead approved directly by the United States’ top commander and top military lawyer in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. One official described the process as being “outside of our normal protocol.”

As opposed to the formal NATO-sponsored reintegration program, which forces militants to sever ties with the insurgency, the strategic release program does not require detainees to formally disavow their relationship to the Taliban, Hezb-i-Islami or other insurgent groups.

US Paid $50k Compensation for Each Afghan Villager Killed in Shooting Spree

The Obama administration paid $50,000 in compensation to the families of each Afghan killed and $11,000 for each person wounded in the horrific shooting spree allegedly committed by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan.

The sum is much larger than the usual payments made by the U.S. to families of civilian casualties killed by the military in Afghanistan.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of sneaking off his base on March 11, sneaking into houses in two nearby villages and opening fire on families as they slept.

U.S. investigators believe the gunman returned to his base before later slipping away again to kill more civilians, American officials have said. Bales has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The families of the dead, who received the money Saturday at the governor’s office, were told that the money came from U.S. President Barack Obama, said Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai. He and community elder Jan Agha confirmed the payout amounts.

Survivors had previously received smaller compensation paymentsfrom Afghan officials, $2,000 for each death and $1,000 for each person wounded.

Families of the dead declined to comment on any payments by U.S. officials on Sunday, but some said previously that they were more concerned about seeing the perpetrator punished than money.