IT is the first time that a serious effort has been made by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to assess the loss by the invaders’ involvement in genocide in Afghanistan. In a damning 50-page report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that night raids and aerial strikes led to mounting civilian casualties. It confirmed that CIA-backed Afghan strike forces are involved in night-time raids into homes in remote villages, forced disappearances, attacks on healthcare facilities and summary executions which according to HRW amounts to atrocities and possible war crimes. The HRW quoted at least 14 cases across nine provinces over the last 2 years, and highlighted two serious matters; CIA-trained Afghan forces show little concern for civilian life and shot people taken in their custody during the night raids. Since there is great majority of Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras in the armed forces, they are committing crimes against Pashtuns.
The Taliban draw the bulk of their fighters and supporters from Pashtuns – more than half of Afghanistan’s population – are determined to have their rightful share in power. And there is reason to do so because 18 years’ resistance shows that Pashtuns are not likely to shift their loyalties away from the Taliban in any case. Afghans are paying the price with their innocent blood – the blood of their civilians, their children and their women. The saddest part is that there are no tears in western eyes on colossal massacre of Afghan civilians. Not a single human rights activist made an issue of this civilian carnage as if Afghans are no human beings. However, the recent Human Right Watch report stated that death squads under the command of the CIA repeatedly carry out and continue to carry out war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.
HRW report also states that “the true nature and composition of the death squads is still not fully understood but one thing is known that they are recruited, trained, funded and operationally led by the CIA. These death squads have no respect for international law as they carry out daily night raids on villages and houses of Afghans, force their way inside homes like armed-robbers, force people out of their homes, loot valuables, demolish homes with explosives and ruthlessly murder innocent youngsters inside their own homes in front of their family members”. The high level of civilian casualties from operations by the pro-government forces mainly from air and search operations have raised eye-brows across the world. Brigadier Retired Mohammad Arif, an Afghan army veteran and defense analyst, told Anadolu Agency, that this rise in violence came on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy announced in 2017.
Thousands of Afghans in affected areas such as Kunduz, Paktika, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kunar and Nangarhar provinces have held multiple street protests against such deadly air and ground offensives by the government forces. For the first time since the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan started keeping records in the war-ravaged country, the civilian casualties caused by the pro-government forces in the first quarter of 2019 surpassed those caused by the Taliban insurgents and other anti-government forces. This UN report documented a total of 1,773 civilian casualties (581 deaths and 1,192 injured), including 582 child casualties (150 deaths and 432 injured) between January 1 and March 31 this year. It went to state that pro-government forces carried out 43 aerial operations in the first quarter of 2019 that resulted in 228 civilian casualties (145 deaths, 83 injured), with international military forces responsible for 39 of these operations resulting in 219 civilian casualties (140 deaths, 79 injured).
In November 2017, the airstrikes in Kunduz at night had targeted three villages in Chardara, a district west of the provincial capital where Taliban fighters have long maintained a strong presence. Afghan security forces prevented access to the bomb sites in Essa Khil, Qatl-e Aam and Uzbek Bazaar in order to hide the civilian killings in the strikes. A Provincial Council member estimated that around 55 civilians had been killed while an Afghan aid worker said at least 40 had been killed, including women and children. In this situation, the collective international humanitarian conscience is facing a great challenge. Will they be able to defend the human rights of the oppressed from the oppressor or continue their hypocritical silence in face of the criminal invaders? The Taliban appreciated the recent HRW report, but publishing a report about this mass-murder is not enough.
A number of victims recalled the horrifying moments of death and despair following one such raid in summer. According to another report, the ghastly night raids by the Kabul government’s frontline forces backed by the CIA in the fight against terrorism are living nightmares for civilians. The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan asked the international community to prevent the ongoing systematic massacre of Afghans. It also called on all domestic political parties and the various strata, individuals and groups of society to pay serious attention to the issue. All must raise their voices in unison to prevent the ongoing ruthless murder of Afghans, plunder of their wealth and destruction of their homes and villages. Take a stand against these crimes against humanity on the basis of Islamic brotherhood and humanitarian sympathy without any political bias by stopping the killers of innocent compatriots known to both our people and history.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.