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U.S. Soldiers Killed Afghan Civilians for Sport and Collected Fingers as Trophies

September 9th, 2010 Obama is out with some Quran-burning-will-help-the-terrorists blather today.
In other news…
Via: Guardian:
Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.
Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.
In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.
According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army’s criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to “toss a grenade at someone and kill them”.
One soldier said he believed Gibbs was “feeling out the platoon”.
Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a “kill team”. While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target was Gul Mudin, who was killed “by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle”, when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.
Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover. Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.
Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.
The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.
The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.
Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
Posted in Atrocities, War
Soldier's father: Army was warned of murder plot
By GENE JOHNSON (AP) – 4 days ago
SEATTLE — The father of a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan says he tried nearly a half dozen times to pass an urgent message from his son to the Army: Troops in his unit had murdered an Afghan civilian, planned more killings and threatened him to keep quiet about it.
By the time officials arrested suspects months later, two more Afghans were dead.
And much to Christopher Winfield's horror, his son Adam was among the five Fort Lewis-based soldiers charged in the killings.
The elder Winfield told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that his son did not kill the unarmed man and would never have been in the situation if the Army had investigated the warnings he says he passed along to Fort Lewis.
An Army spokeswoman at the base said she could not comment on whether they received such a tip or if so, whether it was acted on. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Thursday he had no information about the man's claim.
"That's disheartening to hear if that is indeed the case," he said. "If someone is trying to reach out, trying to notify us, trying to head off a potential problem, that's something we need to pay attention to and heed that warning."
The new details about Winfield's efforts to alert the Army and his son's pleas raised questions about the Army's handling of the case and its system for allowing soldiers to report misconduct by their colleagues.
The soldiers have been accused of conspiracy and premeditated murder in a case marked by grisly details.
The highest-ranking is Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who, along with Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, is accused of taking part in all three killings. Gibbs collected fingers and other body parts from Afghan corpses, slaughtered animals indiscriminately and hoarded illicitly obtained weapons he could drop near civilian bodies to make them appear to be combatants, according to charges filed by Army prosecutors and statements soldiers in the platoon made to investigators.
Pfc. Andrew Holmes is charged with murder in the first killing, and Spc. Michael Wagnon is charged in another. Both deny the charges.
Winfield is charged with murder in the final killing, and his attorney, Eric Montalvo, insists he was ordered to shoot after Gibbs hit the civilian with a grenade. Winfield deliberately shot high and missed, he said.
Gibbs has denied the charges. His attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, said his client maintains that the shootings were "appropriate engagements" and denies involvement in any conspiracy to kill civilians.
The soldiers, all assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade, deployed in July 2009 and were stationed at a base in Kandahar Province.
The AP reviewed witness and defendant statements as well as documents filed with an Army magistrate for this report.
Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont., arrived in the unit late last year and soon began discussing how easy it would be to kill civilians, some in the platoon told Army investigators. He and Morlock, 22, planned "scenarios" in which they could carry out such killings, they said.
Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, gave investigators extensive statements describing the plot.
Morlock's lawyer did not immediately return calls and e-mails from the AP but previously told The Seattle Times that the statements were made under the influence of prescription drugs to treat traumatic brain injuries from explosions and should be suppressed as evidence.
In each of the killings, Morlock said, he and Gibbs planned and initiated the attack and enlisted one other soldier to participate.
The first indication for Christopher Winfield and his wife, Emma, that something was amiss came Jan. 15, the day of the first killing.
"I'm not sure what to do about something that happened out here but I need to be secretive about this," their son wrote them in a Facebook message. The couple gave the AP copies of the Facebook messages, Internet chats and their phone records.
Winfield, 22, of Cape Coral, Fla., didn't immediately provide more details, and over the next month he had little contact with his parents. They said they checked constantly to see if he was online.
On Feb. 14, he told his parents what happened in a lengthy Internet chat: Members of his unit on patrol had killed "some innocent guy about my age just farming." He said he did not witness the killing.
But, he wrote, those involved told him about it and urged him to "get one of my own."
He said that virtually everyone in the platoon was aware of what was going on, but no one seemed to object.
"If you talk to anyone on my behalf, I have proof that they are planning another one in the form of an AK-47 they want to drop on a guy."
He added that he didn't know whom to trust and feared for his safety if his comrades learned he was talking to authorities.
"Should I do the right thing and put myself in danger for it. Or just shut up and deal with it," he wrote his parents. "There are no more good men left here. It eats away at my conscience everyday."
In statements to investigators, at least three platoon members said Gibbs directly threatened Winfield. Morlock added that Gibbs devised "scenarios" for Winfield's death, one of which involved Gibbs dropping heavy weights on him as he was working out.
Gibbs accosted Winfield as he was on his way to speak with a chaplain and warned him to keep quiet, Montalvo said.
Soldiers serving in a combat theater typically would report crimes up the chain of command, to military investigators or chaplains, to members of the Defense Department inspector general's office, or even to another unit if their own commanders are involved.
One soldier, Pfc. Justin A. Stoner, who reported hashish smoking in the unit, said he was beaten by several platoon members. Gibbs and Morlock then paid him a visit, with Gibbs rolling out on the floor a set of severed fingers, he told investigators.
Morlock told him that "if I don't want to end up like that guy ... shut the hell up."
Winfield asked his parents to call an Army hot line because he didn't want anyone to overhear him using the phone.
His father, a Marine veteran, was shocked, and made five calls to military officials that day, his phone records show.
He said he left a message on a Defense Department hot line and called four numbers at Fort Lewis. He said he spoke with an on-duty sergeant and left a message at an Army Criminal Investigations Division office before reaching the base's command center.
In that call, an official told him that if his son wasn't willing to come forward while deployed, there was nothing the base could do, Winfield recalled in interviews with the AP and in a sworn statement to Army investigators.
The official suggested the soldier keep his head down until his deployment ended and investigators could look into his claims, he said.
The elder Winfield told AP he regrets not writing down the identities of those he spoke with. He said he did not give any of them Gibbs' name, but did identify his son. He said one of his son's sergeants had been involved in a civilian's murder and was planning more.
His son soon expressed concern about what would happen if Army officials stateside began making inquiries and asked his dad to back off. The elder Winfield said he complied.
A week later, the second killing occurred. On May 2, the third killing took place.
The killings eventually came to light when the soldier who had reported the drug use told investigators that Morlock "had three prior kills that none of which I believe were actually justified."
Preliminary hearings in the case are expected to begin this fall.
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek and Anne Gearan in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
They hate us for our Freedom, Democracy and Morality....not to mention being invaders, based on lies, lies, lies and oil, drugs and Empire. Sickening really. I guess shrunken heads take up too much room and phalluses are considered too hard to they settle on fingers..... And they say we are 'civilized' and trying to spread it!????? :hmmmm2:
The American Occupation of Afghanistan and the Birth of a National Liberation Movement

By Prof. Marc W. Herold
URL of this article:

Global Research, September 7, 2010

Edited Transcript of a Public lecture by professor Marc Herold, Massachussetts Institute of Technology M.I.T., Cambridge, Mass. August 2010

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Kabul, August 1996 before the Taliban entered. An old man in his neighborhood that was destroyed by years of inter-factional fighting, following the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989. Photo by photo-journalist anthropologist, Teun Voeten (from )

I shall discuss ten points:

· The Taliban entering Kabul on September 27, 1996. Who were they?

· Arrival of” the guest” (Osama bin Laden) in May 1996 and Al Qaeda’s agenda (very different from that of the Taliban);

· 9/11 and the implementing of the neo-conservatives’ Project for a New American Century (PNAC);

· US aerial attacks during Oct-Nov Dec. 2001 (release of my first Dossier on Dec. 10, 2001 documenting the slaughter civilians, families, etc...) beginning of armed opposition to the invader;

· Crucial battles in the northern plains of Afghanistan during Oct-Nov 2001 and what each side learned. Mullah Omar retreats on a motorcycle into the mountains north of Kandahar on Dec 8, 2001;

· Begin of slow reconstitution of the Taliban, 2002-4. US anti-guerrilla operations alienate increasing numbers of common Afghans. By early 2004, I could write about the “Taliban’s Second Coming”:

· Key point: the way the Americans (and later NATO) fought the Afghan resistance built a national liberation movement. People who fight a foreign occupation are a resistance, not terrorists. Provide lots of concrete examples of this;

· Analysis of what I mean by the three words in the Afghan “national liberation movement.” Differences exist with other national liberation movements as in Algeria and Vietnam;

· The primary struggle now is to oust the foreign occupiers;

· End with three stark photos depicting maiming, abduction and fear.

Let me, in the words of Richard Nixon, “be perfectly clear” about some matters which I do not wish to speak about. I am not defending the Taliban and/or the Afghan resistance, but keep in mind that as far as retrograde social practices, the Taliban hold no monopoly on that in Afghanistan. [1] Secondly, much of Western denigration of the Taliban is inspired, sadly, by that old practice going back to the British Empire’s thieves of feminist language, i.e. “feminism as imperialism.”[2] Lastly, pre-modern forms of social failure are much more naked or visible than complex subtle modern forms. It is easy to critique the burka, but less so the bikini.[3] Or, civilians get killed in suicide bombings as they do in even deadlier U.S/NATO “precision” air strikes.[4]

The great African revolutionary leader Amilcar Cabral connected culture to national resistance,

Whenever Goebbels, the brain behind Nazi propaganda, heard anyone speak of culture, he pulled out his pistol. That goes to show that the Nazis who were and are the most tragic expression of imperialism and its thirst for domination even if they were, all of them sick like Hitler, had a clear idea of the value of culture as a factor in the resistance to foreign domination.[5]

The Taliban marched into Kabul after a ten month siege on September 27, 1996.[6] The Taliban received strong Pakistani ISI support.

The reach of the Pashtun Taliban was never national with areas in the north (Tajik, Uzbek), center (Hazaras) and the west resisting. During October 1996-October 2001, bloody fighting continued across northern and central Afghanistan. The divides were largely along ethnic fault lines. The following map indicates the situation in September 2001:

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The brunt of the Taliban’s conservative, patriarchal social policies was felt in Afghanistan’s more westernized urban areas – a small part of the country. In most of the rural regions, life went on as it had for decades, nay centuries, based upon traditional village structures and practices.

Former mujahideen, disillusioned with the chaos that had followed their victory in1989, became the nucleus of a movement that grouped around Mullah Mohammad Omar, a former minor mujahid from Kandahar province.[7] The group, many of whom were madrasa (Islamic school) students, called themselves Taliban, meaning "students". Others who became core members of the Taliban were commanders in other predominantly Pashtun parties, and former Khalq PDPA members. Their stated aims were to restore stability and enforce their strict interpretation of Islamic law. But, the original Taliban came mostly from religious schools and refugee camps in the Pakistani border regions and were not former members of the mujahideen who had fought the Soviets (1980-89).

The Taliban inherited a devastated country, torn apart during six years of warlord in-fighting. Few state structures or institutions existed. Moreover, the background of the Taliban hardly prepared them for national governance. Close to a half of Kabul looked like this, destroyed by the factions once united in their fight against the Soviets:

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A woman and her son walk along Kabul's main avenue. Once a bustling thoroughfare lined with
merchants, the avenue was destroyed by four years of fighting. 1996 © Didier Lefevre (Source: )

During 1994-96, no relations existed between the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. But a new element had been introduced in 1996: bin Laden arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on May 18, 1996 after being expelled from the Sudan which bowed to U.S. pressure. Initially, bin Laden stayed in an area not controlled by the Taliban, who were fighting for control of the country. But by the end of September 1996, the Taliban conquered the capital of Kabul and gained control over much of the country. Bin Laden then became the guest of the Taliban. The Taliban, bin Laden, and their mutual opportunistic ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, then called for a jihad against Ahmed Shah Massoud, who retained control over a small mountainous area along Afghanistan’s northern border.

Osama bin Laden arrived in Jalalabad with 180 Arab followers on a chartered Ariana Boeing 727 cargo jet from the Sudan in May 1996. The pilot of Ariana, the Afghan national carrier, remembered flying to the Sudan and back in 1996.1 Sayed Hashimi said his crew waited for five days in Khartoum for their ‘cargo.’ They realized they had transported the bodyguards and the families of bin Laden’s inner circle to Jalalabad when at midnight at Jalalabad airport, all sorts of important people came to greet the ‘cargo’ of 90 persons.3 Bin Laden and his followers were welcomed by Haji Abdul Qadir and his lieutenant, Engineer Mahmood, the man who had extended the invitation to bin Laden. Bin Laden took up residence in Jalalabad with Mahmood. Tora Bora had been Mahmood’s headquarters during the 1980s anti-Soviet war.[8]

As bin Laden established a new safe base and political ties, he spoke about attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. Such attacks took place on U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. 9/11 was a clear consequence of bin Laden’s original fatwa of August 1996 about the “Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places”. In turn, 9/11 provided the Bush regime with the perfect pretext to launch the neo-conservatives’ plan to establish unilateral U.S hegemony - or what was called at the time in the academic literature, America’s unipolar moment - in the twenty-first century. I have written extensively on that and why the U.S. decided to bomb Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.[9] 9/11 was the wished-for Pearl Harbor (trigger event) of the PNAC document.

The launching of the neoconservatives’ PNAC plan (or grand design) meant that no compromise with the Taliban would be accepted. Once the U.S bombing had begun, Mullah Omar made a couple serious attempts at compromise. All were immediately rejected by the Bush gang. Details may be found in my manuscript, Blown Away.

Aerial attacks such as the one in October 2001 by an AC-130 upon entire Afghan villages contributed to a growing sense amongst common Afghans that the foreigner was terrorizing the nation.[10] By the way, this was nine years before WikiLeaks in 2010 released the video, “Collateral Murder” of the U.S Apache helicopter assault upon innocent Iraqis.

During October – December 2001, some 3,000 innocent Afghan civilians - about the same number as died on 9/11 - were killed upon impact by U.S bombs (to which many others need be added – injured who later died, refugees in camps who froze to death or starved, etc.). The Taliban quickly lost territory faced by an unreachable onslaught of U.S air power, purchased mercenaries/thugs of the Northern Alliance, and some 400 U.S Special Forces and CIA operatives on the ground pinpointing targets with lasers. The technological asymmetry between the U.S aggressors and the Taliban defenders was stark and militarily decisive in the short-run: Toyota pickup trucks or Soviet-era tanks (photo below) stood no chance against F-16s, F-18s, B-52s, B1-Bs, F-15s and laser/GPS positioning technologies.

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The following chart plots the civilian victims in each tragedy. As the body count of the World Trade Center [WTC] was revised downward from the initial high of 6,700 to the 2,819 in 2002, that in Afghanistan rose from 20-37 on October 8th to 3,215. The twin lines of ignominy cross around January 15, 2002. But in truth, the Afghan civilian casualties far exceeded the WTC deaths already during the second week of the U.S. airstrikes in real terms - experienced pain parity - that is in terms of the collective pain equivalent felt by a society. Why? The U.S. population was 13 times larger than the Afghan one [2001] and hence to make Afghan casualties relevant in U.S. terms we need to multiply Afghan numbers by thirteen. A calculation of the twin tragedies then reveals 2,819 dead at the WTC and an equivalent pain parity of 41,795 dead Afghan civilians.

The Twin Tragedies: Cumulative Civilian Deaths

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Arundhati Roy added an important point:
The bombing of Afghanistan is not revenge for New York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror against the people of the world. Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington.[11]
Conventional-style ground battles raged across the northern plains of Afghanistan during October-November 2001 pitting Taliban ground forces supplemented with Pakistani volunteers against the Northern Alliance backed up by U.S. Special Forces and CIA operatives with formidable air firepower. The Taliban lost 3-4,000 troops. Each side believed it had learned a lesson. The Taliban realized that they could no more marshal conventional ground forces to face the awesome firepower of the United States, a different enemy than the Soviets fifteen years earlier. They became true believers in asymmetric warfare, later superbly perfected with the use of IEDs and suicide bombers. For its part, the United States’ penchant to rely upon technological fixes/solutions was reinforced, leading to the certainty that the Taliban would soon be routed by U.S firepower. One might say the U.S was blinded by its success, thereby laying the foundation for its subsequent slow defeat.

Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership “did the right tactical thing” to abandon Kandahar on December 8, 2001. Omar allegedly rode off into the Afghan dust on the back of a motorcycle headed into the mountains of Helmand evading hundreds of U.S troops searching for him.[12] For his part, bin Laden hiked across the Tora Bora or Spin Ghar Mountains southeast of Jalalabad into the Pakistan border area and then disappeared (I personally believe he is up in the Pakistan-Chinese mountainous Pamir border region). Mullah Omar’s comeback journey is nothing but extraordinary: from fleeing sitting on the back of a motorcycle in December 2001 to leading a movement which today exerts significant control in 80% of Afghanistan.

What had been the Taliban government quickly disintegrated. Slowly three groups reconstituted themselves – one led by the veteran anti-Soviet fighter and brilliant tactician, former Minister of Border Affairs in the Taliban government, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and the other a loose grouping based in Quetta, Pakistan what later would be called the Quetta Shura with Mullah Omar as leader. A third group slowly re-aligned itself with the Taliban, that of the particularly oppressive fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (the Hizb-i-Islami or the HIA). These three groups remain independent today, belying the silly notion of a unified resistance.

I want to now make and document a critical point: the way the U.S carried out its occupation of Afghanistan and its campaign against the Taliban, transformed what was a low-intensity guerrilla campaign as of 1/2002 into a full-fledged war of national liberation by 2006. For now almost nine years, I have been documenting how the U.S has waged its Afghan war and the consequences for average Afghans. This transformation from a low-intensity conflict during 2002-4 took place because of certain deeply felt, ingrained, Afghan cultural beliefs of independence, pride, and responsibility (by the way, beliefs I cherish too). For example, to take revenge for ill done to a family member is expected. Estimates suggest that for every Afghan killed by the foreign occupiers, 3-5 members of the resistance are created.
But other factors played as well: (1) violation of the sanctity of Afghan homes by marauding U.S ground forces; (2) widely publicized desecration of the Koran; (3) mistreatment of Afghan female family members by occupation forces; (4) the abducting and/or beating of Afghan family members; (5) the old U.S. practice going back to Indochina of secretive night-time assassination raids carried out by U.S special operations forces[13]; and (6) systematically labeling civilians killed by US/NATO occupation forces as “insurgents” or Taliban

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In some small Afghan village in 2004, U.S occupation forces break into another Afghan home (photo from )

The heavy-handed U.S. search-and-destroy forays over time swelled the ranks of supporters, as the battle for Afghan hearts and minds tipped in favor of the Taliban. U.S. aerial 'decapitation raids' frequently devastate small villages and families. In January 2004, two U.S. raids killed 15 children and not a single Taliban was either captured or killed. The reality of living daily in fear is captured in the words of a young girl in Loi Karez, Zabul:
Whenever these tall people with blue eyes come to our village, we become very scared," said eight-year-old Saira Bibi as she fetched water from a well in Loi Karez. "They take away people and ask us about the Taliban. I haven't seen the Taliban. I don't know who these Taliban are.
A similar perspective is offered in Qalat, Zabul province, in January 2004:
... For many people a much more visible aspect of American intervention is the steady stream of civilian casualties. And in Qalat, there is hostility to patrols by American Special Forces. From a Humvee a man gets out wearing a Stetson and sheriff’s badge, and proceeds to have a loud argument with a colleague carrying a sawn-off shotgun. As they move away, the locals stare after them. "We are so unhappy when we see them," says Rahmatullah, a bearded 29-year-old shopkeeper watching from across the road. "When the Russians came here we fought to save our liberty and independence. So also Americans came... and so we will be fighting them.
During a search of the village of Atel Mohammed in Kandahar by U.S. Special Forces (and their allies of the Afghan Militia Forces) in the summer of 2003,
Scared Afghans in the southern province of Kandahar hid holy Quran and other religious items before United States troops searched their village, afraid the Americans would kill them for being Muslims.
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U.S occupation forces of the 82nd Airborne raided homes in the village of Salar in Ghazni province, December 2007 (photo by Tyler Hicks)

Afghan woman waits as U.S. Marines attached to the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, rest during a search of her residence during an operation

I am proud to have helped publicize the following rare photo. A collection of 1,000 photos of Afghanistan under the U.S occupation boot can be seen on my website under “Scenes of Afghanistan” at

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Photo 128. Member of 82nd Airborne, Stacey White, body searches Afghan women in a village in the Baghran valley, Helmand province, as U.S. forces moved northward village by village, house by house carrying out searches, confiscating items, going through houses and personal belongings, February 24, 2003 [A.P. photo, Aaron Favila].

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A female American soldier frisks Afghan women at a village during Operation Deliberate Strike, some 40 miles north of Kandahar. The mission involves hundreds of U.S. troops on a sweep through southern Afghanistan to counter operations by the resurgent Taliban and allied groups (Monday, May 19, 2003) Source: Kamal Kishore (Reuters)
The following shots by German photo journalist Perry Kretz were published in the German weekly, Der Stern:

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These photos by German war photographer, Perry Kretz, were taken in the fall of 2004 during a raid by U.S. occupation forces in Paktika Province. The first shows a raid in-progress by the Wolfhound unit of the 3rd Platoon, 25th Infantry Division. The second depicts the same unit photographing a homeowner, Amir Mohammad, another example of the sexual humiliation perpetrated by the U.S. occupation forces upon Afghan villagers.

A French journalist visiting Kandahar in December 2003 wrote:
One quiet afternoon in Kandahar, a convoy of U.S. military vehicles passed by. In the pharmacy where I was making a purchase, men who had been chatting animatedly stopped and watched the personnel carriers drive slowly by carrying young American soldiers chewing gum and pointing their rifles defensively at the locals. After the last armored vehicle passed, one of the Afghans spat in their tire tracks, and mumbled, "Inshallah, they will leave soon.
An apocryphal story tells of a Taliban leader in the mountains where Afghanistan meets Pakistan, looking at his wrist and saying to a Western visitor: "You have the watches, but we have the time."[14] That may be the Taliban's most powerful weapon against the Americans.

By 2004, the Taliban were showing signs of a second coming as I wrote about in February 2004:

“The Taliban's Second Coming”

The specter of Vietnam began taking shape in 2002 with U.S. raids upon compounds, villages, and neighborhoods of cities. The forced entries, frisking and abuse of persons (including women and children), the ransacking of homes, and the abductions merely served to heighten Afghan animosity towards the foreign occupier. John Pilger saw evidence of new Vietnams in: U.S. servicemen saying that once they leave their secured base, they are in a combat zone; renewed "search and destroy" missions carried out in villages across Afghanistan; and in the targeting of civilians (for arrest or execution). Daniel Bergner who accompanied a U.S. force into the countryside south of Kandahar, reports the enemy is everywhere and nowhere, and Liz Sly wrote about the same thing in eastern Afghanistan. Nick Meo provided a superb first-hand account of the sheer unknown, the dangers and frustrations experienced by young American soldiers on a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. Others noted the resurgence of the Taliban and its allies - Al Qaeda and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami group - by mid-2003. In June 2003, the Taliban publicly named a new 10-man leadership council, including such veterans as former Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah, Minister and Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Commanders Mullah Dadullah Kakar and Mullah Akhtar Usmani. Mullah Usmani led Taliban forces in the south in late 2001 and was named in 2001 as successor to Mullah Omar should he perish. Dadullah harks from Uruzgan and Usmani from Helmand. (Source: Marc W. Herold, “The Taliban’s Second Coming, (February 29, 2004) at
Both Usmani and Dadullah were later killed in U.S air strikes. The rest is history: soaring Afghan civilian, escalating violence, local military and US/NATO occupation forces deaths.

The following systems’ chart highlights the essential feedback elements at work in the America’s Afghan war:

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The essential link is that America’s Afghan war causes civilian casualties which, in turn, fuel the Afghan resistance which, in turn, causes more U.S casualties. No link exists between Afghan and U.S civil societies, i.e. rising civilian casualties in America’s foreign wars have never caused the U.S general public to become anti-war.[15] Thirdly, McChrystal’s alleged effort to reduce Afghan civilian casualties (-) was a trade-off for rising U.S military casualties (++) as I demonstrated a year ago.[16] The graph makes an essential point: the United States can pursue its war but the result will be either soaring Afghan civilian casualties or escalating U.S. military deaths.
A recent video of how the U.S/NATO military actions contribute to the building of a movement of national liberation to oust the foreign occupiers was released by the Brave New American Foundation which confirms what NATO forces repeatedly denied: U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan killed dozens of people in the Sangin district of Helmand Province on July 23, 2010.[17] Mohamed Ahmadzai, a resident of Sangin where this U.S attack took place, explained clearly what happened. He told independent reporters how he was forced to bury two daughters, his sister and wife after a rocket fired by coalition forces hit a soft target: a house full of woman and children who had fled to the nearby village of Regai to avoid a firefight between the Taliban and occupation forces. His story described a reality that cannot be found in the mainstream U.S media or in a UNAMA report.
"We gather(ed) all of the body parts, some were missing legs or heads, we placed them in a bag and buried them," Ahmadzai said. "We were able to identify them through the clothes they were wearing and by their shoes. The body parts we couldn't identify we put into a piece of cloth and then buried them. Those chunks of flesh, blood and bone were from so many people not just one, but we couldn't identify them so we put those body parts into an individual grave and buried them as though they belonged to one person..."
On July 1, 2002, I reported on the U.S aerial attack less than one hundred miles away from Regai upon a wedding party in Kakarak, Uruzgan province in which 63 civilians were massacred.[18] Nothing changes. But where were The Nation magazine, the Brave New Foundation, the Tom Engelhardts, etc. nine years ago when I was documenting at the human carnage resulting from U.S military actions in Afghanistan?[19] Answer: all cozily housed inside the humanitarian imperialist tent alongside the likes of Laura Bush, Samantha Power, and Michael Ignatieff. Rare voices of dissent in America could only be read in Z Magazine, Counterpunch,, etc. It’s easy to be anti-war today when humanitarian imperialism has visibly failed in Afghanistan.

As I wrote two years ago,

The perceived poison of a foreign occupation, the rampant corruption, the all-too-frequent desecration of Islam by the occupiers, the sheer folly of the US/NATO seeking to extend the writ of a central government to the Pashtun tribal regions , the spiraling count of civilian deaths has shifted the Afghan struggle towards a war of national liberation. Anatol Lieven of King’s College (London) put it aptly. Afghanistan is ‘Becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the U.S. and NATO breed the very “terrorists” they then track down’.[20]

I realize that my use of the phrase “national liberation movement” may not sit well with some people.[21] How can a national liberation movement exist in a largely pre-modern, rural society? Isn’t a national liberation movement or front part of the anti-colonial struggle? The West had no qualms labeling Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation as a “war of national liberation.”[22] For example, the legal scholar W. Michael Reisman cited the 1949 Geneva Conventions which argued that peoples engaged in resisting the suppression of their right of self-determination are fighting what has come to be known as a “war of national liberation.”[23] The phrase illustrates the contest over assigned meaning. America’s duplicity is mind-boggling: when common Afghans fight the evil Soviet Union, it is a war of national liberation; when a dozen years later common Afghans fight the American invader, they are terrorists.

Let me briefly discuss the three terms – national, liberation and movement. The current Afghan resistance movement comprises various factions: the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar; the Haqqani group based in eastern Afghanistan, the Hekmatyar group, as well as some smaller organizations based in the Pakistani border regions. The dominant goal of this gradually constructed “coalition” comprised mostly of Pashtuns became the ouster of U.S and NATO occupation forces from the territory of Afghanistan. In that sense, this is a national movement; national does neither necessarily imply everyone is on board nor that the result will be a socialist society.[24] American neo-colonialists effectively sought to use ethnicity to divide-and-rule in Southeast Asia; the British colonizers did the same in British West Africa.[25] The national liberation of Angola from Portuguese rule was deeply divided along ethnic lines. The national liberation movement (the FLN) in Algeria, however, was a unified oppositional force. In Afghanistan, the U.S. employed the surrogates of the Northern Alliance. The Afghan resistance was not built through hard organizing work of the Taliban and associates, but rather by the actions of the US and later NATO.

The resistance differs greatly from other national liberation movements like those in Algeria, Vietnam, Angola, or Peru (Sendero Luminoso) insofar as it lacks a national political vanguard party. In Algeria and Vietnam, the armed struggle against the occupier began with the formation of a national liberation front. In Afghanistan, on the other hand, the national liberation movement emerged de facto after the aggressions of the foreign occupiers. This reflects the particular specificity of Afghanistan wherein family-clan-tribe-ethnic group form the primary social cohesion blocks. Afghanistan never was a secular nation-state; instead a figurehead, royal sovereign reigned over the little urban island of Kabul (just as Karzai, the ‘mayor of Kabul,’ has since 2002).

We saw the fragile unity at the national level in the Taliban movement in its tenuous relationship with the Al Qaeda group. The latter had clear national and international political agendas, whereas the Taliban’s focus was upon strengthening the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan proper inspired by the Deobandi interpretation of Islam, removing un-Islamic foreign influences. As I mentioned earlier, the Taliban were even willing to hand over Osama bin Laden in early October 2001 in return for a cessation of the brutal U.S. bombing. The Haqqani hard-line faction within the Taliban maintained a greater affinity and working relationship with Al Qaeda (it also remains the cutting edge in military terms of the Afghan resistance).

What the U.S-led occupation did was to provide the glue during 2003-6 to bring together disparate groups united in a fight against the foreign occupier (and his obvious corrupt, puppet regime in Kabul), i.e. liberation from the foreign occupation. In effect, this is a replay of the anti-Soviet struggle in which a variety of mujahideen groups aligned themselves against the Soviets. And just as when the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the disparate members of the current temporary national liberation movement will disband once the US/NATO exit and pursue their own regional agendas. In other words, I use the word “liberation” here in a very constrained way: this is no implied social liberation from multiple forms of social oppression. There is no guarantee what emerges after: Islamic Sharia, a bourgeois democracy, or a socialist state. The mujahideen anti-Soviet national liberation war resulted in six years of deadly civil war. Those who wish to conflate national and social liberation (however defined) may do so at their own intellectual peril. I would caution, however, against whining about a lack of “democracy” in post-occupation Afghanistan. Samir Amin has argued that the term “democracy” - or the ‘democratic question’ (whose essence is of course the caricature of ‘multi-party elections’) has been and continues to be employed by the Triad of collective imperialism (and its academic point men/women) as a battering ram in its geopolitical struggle to open up the world to the dictates of the market.[26] But, democracy in its essence is about accountability and traditional societies whether Native American Indian or rural Afghan may have community structures of responsibility and/or accountability, admittedly sometimes imperfect (respectively constrained here by money and there by religion). We whether bourgeois democrats or Marxists, might not like this national movement but that should not cloud our analysis. As Julian Assange recently stated, “the Taliban is part of the will of Afghan people.”[27]

An optimistic vision of Afghanistan’s post-occupation future must involve a very loose federative structure with significant regional autonomy, allowing regions to implement their visions of socio-economic “development.” For example, one would hope that Afghanistan’s innovative National Solidarity Program of grassroots development would be greatly expanded.

As my dear friends from RAWA put it, first get rid of the foreign oppressors, then we’ll focus upon the remaining home-bred ones. Is that not better than continued.....maiming......abductions......and fear?

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Burned victims of a U.S. “precision” bombing in the Kajaki region arrived in October 2006 at the Emergency (Italia) Surgical Hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province (source: Maso Notarianni, “Burnt Children after a NATO Bomb Attack,” RAWA News (October 31, 2006) at ). Maso Notarianni is the editor of PeaceReporter, an online news magazine and news agency set up by the Missionary International Service News Agency and the humanitarian organisation Emergency. Emergency is an independent and neutral Italian organization founded in order to provide free, high quality medical and surgical treatment to the civilian victims of war, landmines and poverty. Its work around the world is possible thanks to the help of thousands of volunteers and supporters. Maso is married to Cecilia Strada, daughter of Gino Strada and Teresa Sarti, the founders of Emergency.

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Faces of Afghanistan under U.S. bombs and occupation. The first photo above depicts a detained Afghan
in November 2007 (photo by Reuters reproduced in Spain’s El Pais). The second, award-winning picture (2001)
taken by Seamus Murphy shows a young “Girl in Ghulam Ali,” a village in the Shomali Plains where the
U.S. bombed heavily during November 2001. The latter photo is taken from


[1] See Michael Stittle, “Warlords are no better than Taliban, says Afghan MP,” RAWA News (November 8, 2007) at
[2] See for example Katherine Viner, “Feminism as Imperialism. George Bush is not the First Empire-Builder to Wage War in the Name of Women,” The Guardian (September 21, 2002) at
[3] Feminist politics of clothing is discussed in Sarah Seltzer, “From Bikinis to Burqas, the Feminist Politics of Clothing,” (July 10, 2010) at
[4] The conclusion is inescapable. When using delivery-adjusted cost data as a proxy for accuracy, U.S./NATO "precision" bombing slaughters many more innocent Afghan civilians than does a Taliban suicide car bomber (from my “Suicide Car Bombs vs ‘Precision’ Bombs,” Frontline. India’s National Magazine 23, 19 (Sep. 23-Oct 06, 2006) at ).
[5] From his “National Liberation and Culture,” Transition No. 45 (1974): 12-17
[7] Omar fought as a guerilla with the Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami faction of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen under the command of Nek Mohammad. After the experience in the Soviet conflict, Mohammed Omar shifted his attention to his religious studies. He reportedly taught at a madrasah (Islamic religious school) near the Pakistan border.
[8] Kathy Gannon, “Qadir Key Pashtun Leader for Karzai,” Associated Press (July 6, 2002)
[9] See Marc W. Herold, "Tratando de comprender los veinte años de guerra en Afganistán (1989-2009) y el 'momento unipolar' de Estados Unidos" ,in Enric Prat Carvajal (ed.), Las raíces históricas de los conflictos armados actuals (Valencia: Publicacions de la Universitat de València, 2010): pp. 141-169
[10]1] Go to a 7-minute video of an attack by an AC-130U Specter gunship upon an Afghan village in October 2001. The video depicts U.S gunners firing directly upon people leaving the mosque, view at:
[11] From her “Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter. Why America Must Stop the War Now," The Guardian (October 23, 2001)
[12] Martin Bentham, "Omar Flees by Motorcycle to Escape Troops," Telegraph (January 6, 2002)
[13] Described by Philip Alston in 2008 in Joe Kay, “CIA Death Squads Killing with “Impunity” in Afghanistan,” (May 19, 2008) at
and in Pratap Chatterjee, “The Secret Killers: Assassinations in Afghanistan and Task Force 373,” The Huffington Post (August 19, 2010)
[14] H.D.S. Greenway, “In Mideast, Time is not on America’s Side,” (February 27, 2004) at ).
[15] As beautifully expressed in “The American public is conditionally tolerant of [military] casualties and consistently indifferent to collateral damage,” Dr. Karl P. Mueller, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base.
[16] See my “Obama’s Unspoken Trade-Off: Dead US/NATO Occupation Troops versus Dead Afghan Civilians?”
[17] view 2 ½ minute video at
[18] see my “Crashing the Wedding Party: Arrogance, Pentagon Speak and Spooky’s Carnage,” (July 8, 2002) at
[19] My original dossier was released on December 10, 2001 at the website. A slightly revised version can be found as “”A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting [revised],” (March 2002) at
[20] Marc W. Herold, “More of the Same Packaged as Change. Barack Obama and Afghanistan,” Counterpunch (August6, 2008) at I have added the “...” in Lieven’s quotes
[21] the concept is explored in amongst many others, Nigel Harris, National Liberation (London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 1990)
[22] see amongst many others the editorial comment by the legal scholar, W. Michael Reisman, “The Resistance in Afghanistan is Engaged in a War of National Liberation,” American Journal of International Law 81,4 (October 1987): 906-909 available at
[23] Reisman, op. cit.: 908
[24] As falsely argued by David Whitehouse, “Afghanistan Sinking Deeper,” International Socialist Review No. 69 (Jan-Feb 2010: 12 at
[25] Details on Nigeria in Pade Badra, Imperialism and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, 1960-1996 (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1998): 72
[26] Samir Amin, “The Battlefields Chosen by Contemporary Imperialism: Conditions for an Effective Response from the South,” MRZINE.Monthly (20101) at
[27] “Interview: Taliban is Part of Will of Afghan People – WikiLeaks Chief,” The Voice of Russia (2010) at
Great article, Christer; thanks for finding and posting it.
The Norwegian paper Verdens Gang brought the chocking words of soldiers in Afghanistan to be published as an interview in the “men's magazine” Alfa: “to be fighting is worth three months without sex. It might sound strange but it is better than f**king. When you are in the field it's you or the enemy and if you get 'red mist' … It is indescribable. That's why we are here.”
It's like it is here now that we hoped it would be. You don't get enlisted to go to Afghanistan in order to save the world, but to be in a real war.”
And more of it. The interviews are taped. The Isaf soldiers are from the Telemark battalion, company Mek 4, and at present stationed in Meymaneh. Their chief, major Kristian Simonsen says: “I've planned my forces in order to kill, and we've had success with this. … I don't think much over having taken somebody's life. They have themselves chosen to come to the battlefield, intent to kill us...”
The soldiers have also painted death threats, which is forbidden, on their vehicles.
The highest military chiefs, as well as the Defence Minister, strongly condemn the views of the soldiers.
Public opinion in Norway will probably turn more in favour of bringing the Norwegian military contingent home from Afghanistan.
Christer Forslund Wrote:The Norwegian paper Verdens Gang brought the chocking words of soldiers in Afghanistan to be published as an interview in the “men's magazine” Alfa: “to be fighting is worth three months without sex. It might sound strange but it is better than f**king. When you are in the field it's you or the enemy and if you get 'red mist' … It is indescribable. That's why we are here.”
It's like it is here now that we hoped it would be. You don't get enlisted to go to Afghanistan in order to save the world, but to be in a real war.”
And more of it. The interviews are taped. The Isaf soldiers are from the Telemark battalion, company Mek 4, and at present stationed in Meymaneh. Their chief, major Kristian Simonsen says: “I've planned my forces in order to kill, and we've had success with this. … I don't think much over having taken somebody's life. They have themselves chosen to come to the battlefield, intent to kill us...”
The soldiers have also painted death threats, which is forbidden, on their vehicles.
The highest military chiefs, as well as the Defence Minister, strongly condemn the views of the soldiers.
Public opinion in Norway will probably turn more in favour of bringing the Norwegian military contingent home from Afghanistan.

Christer -another fascinating post.

Nearly all American and British military journalists are "embedded". Which means that they can't so much as take a piss without clearing it with a military press officer first.

Do you know if the Norwegian journalists were "embedded"? It strikes me that any military press officer hearing the quotes above would immediately terminate the interview and attempt to suppress the comments quoted above on (spurious) grounds of national security.
Quote:Do you know if the Norwegian journalists were "embedded"? It strikes me that any military press officer hearing the quotes above would immediately terminate the interview and attempt to suppress the comments quoted above on (spurious) grounds of national security.

The journalists at Verdens Gang / VG Nett working on this story are Mads A. Andersen , Rune Thomas Ege , Gunn Kari Hegvik and Marianne Johansen. Rune Thomas Ege was a Defence press officer in Afghanistan, January – August 2008. I'm quite sure that they have not been 'embedded.' Rather, they started working on this 'story' when they found out about the coming article in Alfa magazine. Probably this 'men's magazine' sent a – not 'embedded' - man to interview some soldiers, and just happened to get these views on tape.

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This man (on the photo) is believed by high military chiefs - who are strongly critical - to be the man behind the special 'war-culture' in the Telemark battalion: Major Rune Wenneberg (41). He is also the man behind the 'war cry': “To Valhall” (from Norse mythology). Here he poses with a 'Viking' helmet and a threatening skull and devise on his breast. He makes a sign with his hand that some people call a 'rock sign', while others call it 'a sing of the devil.' He claims the helmet is “just for fun” and that all chiefs of the Telemark battalion, in any assignment in any land, since 2003 have kept it. This picture was taken in the springtime 2010. It was used as a Facebook 'profile picture' by Wenneberg until recently, that is until he understood that Verdens Gang was interested in the views of the Telemark soldiers.
The 5th Stryker Brigade:

Quote:Brigade linked to Afghan civilian deaths had aggressive, divergent war strategy

U.S. soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghans

A group of U.S. soldiers from a platoon in the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, including Calvin Gibbs, stands accused of targeting Afghan civilians for sport.

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By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 12:50 AM

When the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade arrived in Afghanistan, its leader, Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, openly sneered at the U.S. military's counterinsurgency strategy. The old-school commander barred his officers from even mentioning the term and told shocked U.S. and NATO officials that he was uninterested in winning the trust of the Afghan people.

Instead, he said, his soldiers would simply hunt and kill as many Taliban fighters as possible, as dictated by the brigade's motto, "Strike and Destroy."

What resulted was a year of tough fighting in territory fiercely defended by the Taliban and a casualty rate so high that it triggered alarms at the Pentagon. By the time the 3,800-member brigade returned in July to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., it had paid a steep price: 35 soldiers were killed in combat, six were dead from accidents and other causes, and 239 were wounded.

The brigade also carried home a dark legacy that threatens to overshadow its hard-won victories and sacrifices on the battlefield. In some of the gravest war-crime charges to arise from the Afghan conflict, five soldiers have been accused of killing unarmed Afghan men, apparently for sport, and desecrating their corpses. Seven other platoon members have been charged with other crimes, including smoking hashish - which some soldiers said happened almost daily - and gang-assaulting an informant.

As sordid accounts of the platoon's activities continue to emerge, critics inside and outside the Army are questioning whether the brigade's get-tough strategy, which emphasized enemy kills over civilian relations, influenced the behavior of the accused.

Questions also persist about why the 5th Stryker Brigade's chain of command did not intervene earlier, given that soldiers from the platoon are charged with crimes alleged to have taken place over a roughly six-month period, beginning in November 2009.

Interviews and records obtained by The Washington Post indicate that commanders received multiple warnings of trouble brewing in the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment.

Some soldiers have since told investigators that their company commander became furious after learning that the platoon had killed a second unarmed Afghan in January. But rather than referring the incident up the chain of command, he demanded that soldiers find evidence that would justify the shooting.

In March, the platoon's first lieutenant and sergeant were removed from their posts because their soldiers had been caught shooting at dogs, according to Army investigative records. In contrast, no disciplinary action was taken after platoon members shot and killed four Afghan men - who were allegedly unarmed - in as many incidents. (Three of those shootings are now the focus of murder investigations.)

"It's obvious that willful blinders came into play, because this unit clearly was stepping in it," said Eric Montalvo, an attorney for one of the soldiers charged with murder.

Tunnell, the brigade commander, is not implicated in the shootings. There has been no indication he was aware that soldiers were allegedly killing for sport until special agents from the Army's Criminal Investigations Command opened a probe in May.

According to brigade members, however, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, the alleged ringleader of the self-described "kill team," was assigned to Tunnell's personal security detail from July until November 2009, right before the first of the atrocities occurred.

Gibbs, 25, was reassigned to the 3rd Platoon for reasons that are unclear. Army officials declined to say why he was transferred, citing the ongoing investigation.

Within days of the transfer, other soldiers have said in statements to investigators, Gibbs confided to his new platoon mates that he had gotten away with "stuff" during his previous deployments. They also said he talked about how easy it would be to stage the killings of innocent Afghans. Investigators are now examining Gibbs's involvement in the killing of an Iraqi family in 2004.

Through a spokeswoman at Fort Knox, Ky., where he now works for the U.S. Army Accessions Command, Tunnell acknowledged that Gibbs served on his security detail "for a brief time" but declined to answer other written questions for this article.

When asked in July about the killings, he told the Seattle Times that the fact that his brigade had opened the investigation by itself was "a good comment on how the system is supposed to work."

Gibbs's attorney and family also declined to comment for this article. His attorney previously told reporters that the killings Gibbs is charged with were combat-related and therefore justified.

Conflicting war strategies

The 5th Stryker Brigade - named for the Army's eight-wheeled Stryker combat vehicles - had trained for more than a year under the assumption that it would go to Iraq. In February 2009, however, it learned that it would go to Afghanistan instead.

That month, the brigade was undergoing mission rehearsal exercises at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Evaluators warned Tunnell that his disdain for counterinsurgency would cause trouble in Afghanistan, but the brigade commander ignored them, said Richard Demaree, a retired lieutenant colonel who served as a battalion commander for the 5th Stryker Brigade.

"Everybody was astonished he has this war-fighting philosophy toward Iraq or Afghanistan that was totally out of sync with the Army," Demaree said.

Tunnell, who served in Iraq and was badly wounded there, was a devotee of counter-guerrilla strategy, which places more emphasis on raids and other aggressive tactics but had been rejected as a doctrine by the Army in the aftermath of the Iraq insurgency. According to Demaree, Tunnell barred his soldiers from using the term COIN, shorthand for "counterinsurgency."

Demaree, who says he was later forced to relinquish his battalion command because of personal conflicts with Tunnell, said many officers worried that Tunnell's contempt for counterinsurgency would interfere with their mission in Afghanistan. "I believed it would put soldiers' lives unnecessarily at risk," he said.

Tunnell's mind-set also alarmed NATO and U.S. officials shortly after the 5th Stryker Brigade arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a State Department official who was present in Kandahar. At the time, military and civilian leaders in NATO's Regional Command South had embraced counterinsurgency.

"We all said: 'This is going to be a disaster. This is the exact opposite of what we need,' " said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because agency rules forbid him from giving unauthorized interviews.

U.S., Dutch and Canadian officials asked Army Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, then the deputy commander of Regional Command South, to intervene with Tunnell. Nicholson agreed to talk to the brigade commander, but the chat had little effect, the State Department official said. Nicholson did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

"Tunnell was just apparently totally unimpressed by what he was told," the official said. "He spoke to us and said, 'Some of you might think I'm here to play this COIN game and just pussyfoot with the enemy. But that's not what I'm doing.' "

Tunnell's Strike and Destroy approach contrasted with official guidelines issued by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, which read: "Protecting people is the mission. The conflict will not be won by destroying the enemy."

As the 5th Stryker Brigade began suffering heavy casualties, however, some officers and enlisted soldiers grumbled that Tunnell's strategy was backfiring. According to the Army Times, Tunnell relieved a company commander, Capt. Joel Kassulke, in November after he advocated for counterinsurgency and tacked a quote from McChrystal's guidelines on a command post wall.

Warning signs

On Jan. 28, members of the 3rd platoon fatally shot an unarmed Afghan man along Highway 1 in Kandahar. Some soldiers said they thought the man could have been a suicide bomber.

When Capt. Matthew Quiggle, the platoon's company commander, heard of the incident, he became "furious," according to one soldier, Cpl. Emmitt Quintal, who later gave a statement to Army investigators. The platoon had shot and killed another unarmed Afghan man two weeks earlier, so Quiggle told the soldiers "they needed to search until they found something" that would justify the shooting, according to the statement. Quiggle did not respond to a request for comment submitted through the Army.

In response, Gibbs and other members of the unit planted a magazine from a contraband AK-47 rifle next to the corpse "to give the appearance the Afghan was an insurgent," according to an Army investigator's report. The shooting was subsequently ruled justified, and no one was disciplined.

There were more warning signs. In February, the father of one member of the unit called the command center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to report that his son had told him that Gibbs and other members of 3rd platoon had "gotten away with murder" and were planning more killings.

The father spoke to the sergeant for 12 minutes, records show, but the Army did not take action. Army officials have since confirmed the phone call and are now investigating why the warning was ignored.

Members of the platoon would kill two more unarmed Afghans, according to charging documents.

Army criminal investigators learned about the killings in May as they were scrutinizing hashish use in the 3rd Platoon. In June, they charged Gibbs and four other soldiers with murder.

Quote:US military investigates 'death squad' accused of murdering Afghans

Brigadier general to conduct review of 5th Stryker brigade as evidence emerges of widespread complicity in deaths

Chris McGreal in Washington, Wednesday 29 December 2010 19.45 GMT

The US military is investigating the leadership of an army brigade whose soldiers are accused of running a "kill team" that murdered Afghan civilians, as further evidence emerges of widespread complicity in the deaths.

A brigadier general is conducting a "top to bottom" review of the 5th Stryker brigade after five of its soldiers were committed for trial early next year charged with involvement in the murders of three Afghans and other alleged crimes including mutilating their bodies, and collecting fingers and skulls from corpses as trophies.

Among the issues under investigation is the failure of commanders to intervene when the alleged crimes were apparently widely spoken about among soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, the alleged leader of what prosecutors have characterised as a death squad based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, is accused of planning the alleged murders in which civilians were killed with hand grenades and guns and their deaths made to appear to be legitimate battlefield casualties. Gibbs, 26, has denied three charges of murder and other crimes.

Four other soldiers are charged with involvement in at least one of the three murders over a five-month period this year. They include an army specialist, Adam Winfield, whose lawyer has released a Facebook chat between the soldier and his father, Christopher, that suggests many other soldiers in the brigade approved of the killings.

In the chat, Winfield says he is troubled by one murder by other members of his unit. "Some innocent guy about my age just farming. They made it look like the guy threw a grenade and them and mowed him down ... Everyone pretty much knows it was staged. If I say anything it's my word against everyone. There's no one in this platoon that agrees this was wrong. They all don't care."

Later in the chat, Winfield wrote: "Everyone just wants to kill people at any cost. They don't care. The Army is full of a bunch of scumbags I realized."

Winfield's father contacted the military to warn it about the killings. His son later admitted to firing his gun towards a third Afghan who was allegedly murdered two months later. Winfield later told investigators in videotaped interviews shown at a pre-trial hearing that Gibbs formed the "kill team".

Another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, who faces a court martial for alleged involvement in all three murders, has also accused Gibbs of organising the killings.

"Gibbs had pure hatred for all Afghanis and constantly referred to them as savages," said Morlock.

Seven other soldiers are charged with lesser crimes, including drug use, collecting body parts as souvenirs and covering up the killings. Gibbs is alleged to have kept finger bones, leg bones and a tooth from Afghan corpses. Another soldier is said to have collected a human skull.

Some of the soldiers are also accused of taking a photograph posing next to one of the corpses as if it were hunted game. The military has so far declined to offer the pictures in evidence out of concern they would be more generally released and prompt a backlash against US troops in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, one of the accused soldiers, Staff Sergeant Robert Stevens, reached a plea bargain with prosecutors in which he was convicted of aggravated assault over two killings and sentenced to nine months in prison after agreeing to testify against 10 other members of his unit. He also pleaded guilty to lying about these crimes and to dereliction of duty.

Stevens had faced charges that carried up to 19 years in prison.