US Soldier Kills Afghan Boy Outside Bagram Airfield

Locals Protest Against Latest Killing

Pentagon officials promised an investigation into an incident today in which a US soldier in a watchtower opened fire on an Afghan boy, shooting and killing him outside the Bagram airfield in Parwan Province.

parwDetails are still scant on the incident, but the soldier claimed the boy had “what looked like an automatic rifle” when he fired. Officials never did say what the object turned out to be, though it was evidently not a gun.

The killing added to tensions around the airfield, which has seen numerous incidents riling locals, and villages from the surrounding area organized near the base to protest the killing, though they have since been dispersed.

Though the US presence at Bagram isn’t as large as it once was, the site has been a source of controversy for years, and in 2012 sparked a massive protest when US military personnel were caught burning Qurans at the base.

by Jason Ditz

U.S. military struggles to explain how it wound up bombing Doctors Without Borders hospital

A heavily-armed U.S. gunship designed to provide added firepower to special operations forces was responsible for shooting and killing 22 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan over the weekend, Pentagon officials said Monday.

The attack occurred in the middle of the night Saturday, when Afghan troops—together with a U.S. special forces team training and advising them—were on the ground near the hospital in Kunduz, the first major Afghan city to fall to the Taliban since the war began in 2001. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said Monday the airstrike was requested by Afghan troops who had come under fire, contradicting earlier statements from Pentagon officials that the strike was ordered to protect U.S. forces on the ground.

[Afghan response to hospital bombing is muted, even sympathetic]

The new details of the attack, and the continuing dispute over what exactly happened, heightened the controversy over the strike. In the two days since the incident, U.S. officials have struggled to explain how a U.S. aircraft wound up attacking a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. On Monday, the medical humanitarian group said the United States was squarely responsible.

“The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs,” Doctors Without Borders’ general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. “With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

The weekend’s disastrous airstrike reinforces doubts about how effectively a limited U.S. force in Afghanistan can work with Afghan troops to repel the Taliban, which has been newly emboldened as the United States draws down its presence.

The strike also comes as the Obama administration is currently weighingwhether to keep as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2015, according to senior officials. Obama has not made a final decision on the proposal, but the recent advances by the Taliban have certainly complicated the president’s calculus.

Campbell told reporters Monday at a press conference that Afghan forces “advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces.” Campbell made it clear that this differed from initial reports that said U.S. forces were under attack and called in the airstrikes for their defense.

Campbell’s remarks differed from two previous comments, including one made by Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter on Sunday that said U.S. forces were under attack.

“At some point in the course of the events there [they] did report that they, themselves, were coming under attack. That much I think we can safely say,” Carter told reporters Sunday.

Senators: US Should ‘Drop’ Karzai

Hope His Successor More Amenable to Occupation

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai angrily complaining about civilian deaths in a January 15 US air attack and still not accepting US demands to sign off on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), US Senators are condemning him, and urging the US to drop official support for him for the last few months of his term in office.

AfghanistanThe BSA would formalize the US occupation of Afghanistan “through 2024 and beyond,” and while White House officials are still talking up a largely empty threat to end the occupation, the Senators are saying they should just ignore Karzai until the election, and hope his successor will be more amenable to the idea of another decade-plus of US occupation.

The US has been angry with Karzai off and on for years, but with the BSA more or less stalled, every little comment, including criticism of civilian deaths in US air strikes or a judicial order to release detainees the US wants jailed but has no evidence against has officials convinced Afghanistan is openly flaunting US interests.

Sen. Carl Levin (D – MI), determined to see the occupation continue, says the US has to “get beyond Karzai” and realize that he’s not going to give in, but rather that the deal should be pushed to his successor.

President Obama gave Karzai an ultimatum to sign the deal by December 31 of last year or face a full withdrawal. Karzai didn’t sign, and the US continues to push the ultimatum back a bit, but with elections just a few months away, it seems to be neither here nor there anymore, and officials are just looking for chances to spite Karzai on his way out.

by Jason Ditz

US Air Strike Killed Woman, Seven Kids in Central Afghanistan

Karzai Reiterates Demand to End Air Strikes Against Villages

Another US air strike against an Afghan village has ended in tragedy last night, with reports that the attack destroyed a home, killing a woman and seven children, and injuring at least one other civilian.

parwAfghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed the incident, reiterating his long-standing demands to stop launching strikes in residential areas, and saying the incident further harmed US-Afghan relations.

The Obama Administration has yet to respond to the killings, while NATO said they are “aware” of the civilian deaths, though they also claimed the strike was aimed at “an enemy force.”

NATO went on to issue a statement expressing “regret” for the civilian deaths, but touting the operation as having “disrupted” Taliban fighters in the area.

by Jason Ditz

Six Contractors Found Beheaded in Afghanistan

Contractors Were Building Checkpoints in Kandahar

Provincial officials have reported finding six bodies of government contractors in the Kandahar Province, all of them beheaded after apparent capture by the Taliban.

AfghanistanAccording to police spokesmen, the contractors were working for the Afghan National Police force to construct police compounds and checkpoints across the province. The Taliban have yet to confirm responsibility for the killings.

The bodies were initially found by villagers, dumped by the side of the road. The Taliban regularly target contractors working on large government projects, either holding them up for “protection” money or killing them outright.

The Taliban did confirm involvement in a separate attack in Kabul, hitting the Loya Jirga which is discussing continuing the US occupation beyond 2014. The weekend bombing killed 12, according to officials, including three soldiers.

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