Tuesday, February 17, 2009

UNAMA and the military's lies

Conor Foley, who has some experience in Afghanistan as a humanitarian aid worker, has some juicy gossip to dish up on the UN mission in that country. From the Guardian's web site:

Conor Foley
Monday 16 February 2009

Triumph of the nation-builders

Obama's rethink on Afghanistan may finally signal an end to the mindless air strikes, and a focus on development...

[The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] has significantly scaled up its presence in the last year and also has far more human rights monitors in place. Their reports have helped to focus attention on issues such as corruption in the police and judiciary, and also on the growing number of civilians killed in western military air strikes. This is known to have infuriated the US and UK military and seems to have been what led to the recent arrest of Colonel Owen McNally.

McNally was the liaison officer between UNAMA and the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). It was his job to keep the two respective organisations informed about one another's activities – a standard task that is common to all UN missions, where the model is for independence and oversight. Following his arrest, a number of British newspapers insinuated that he was having an affair with a Human Rights Watch researcher. A similar insinuation was made about his relationship with the head of UNAMA's human rights unit.

The stories themselves are ridiculous, but have served to draw attention away from the far more significant fact that his arrest was politically motivated. One Ministry of Defence official admitted to the Daily Mail that the information that he is alleged to have passed on did not concern any operational details, but exposed contradictions in official accounts about casualty details. "The whole point of defeating the Taliban is winning hearts and minds and stopping the population joining their cause," said the source. "If they think we're lying to them, it could become a very dangerous place. This has caused a diplomatic row and the Americans are not happy at all."

A UNAMA report due to be released next month is likely to show that over 3,000 civilians were killed by both sides last year... (link)
You can see the Daily Mail report Foley refers to here.

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