Thursday, August 6, 2009

'You will be targeted'

Over these past few years, we have seen numerous cases of injustices visited upon the Afghan civilian population by foreign forces. Even leaving aside airstrikes, Afghans have been subject to host of imposed terrors and harassments. It is certain, for instance, that the residents of Salehan in the Panjwai district will not soon forget the ear-splitting sound of Canadian artillery and tank fire from the testing range near their homes where troops frequently trained.

Now it seems that US forces in eastern Afghanistan are adding another form of peril for the population:

U.S. Threatens Afghans Over Kidnapped GI

JULY 16 (CBS) - At least two Afghan villages have been blanketed with leaflets warning that if an American soldier kidnapped by the Taliban two weeks ago isn't freed, "you will be targeted."

Villagers near the border of two volatile provinces, Ghazni and Paktika, tell CBS News' Sami Yousafzai that aircraft dropped the leaflets during the past several days.Military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias confirmed that the leaflets were produced at Bagram Air Base, the primary U.S. installation in Afghanistan, and distributed in the region. She told CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, however, that they were distributed by hand, not aircraft.

The papers show on one side an image of a soldier with his head bowed so that his face is not visible. A message in the local Pashtun language over the image says, "If you do not free the American soldier, then…"

On the other side, an image shows Western troops breaking into a house. The rest of the message is printed across the photo: "…you will be targeted".

According to the military, the translation of the last word in the sentence is "hunted," not targeted, but CBS News' independent translators say the word also means "targeted". (link)
In the spirit of Summer re-runs, I want to reproduce a bit of an essay I did a while ago which speaks to a related topic:
According to ABC News, US military units [in Kunar province have] employed "a new tactic - sanctions" which are aimed at residents of the Korangal Valley, who are open supporters of the insurgency. These locals, mostly subsistence farmers, endured a blockade on essential items such as sugar, tea and cooking oil. But the blockade of the Korangal wasn't limited to staple goods. A Himalayan Times correspondent spoke to one local who explained their predicament: "[W]e cannot even go to the hospital as the forces have blocked the road to the south of the valley. We cannot move our lumber which is our main source of sustenance".

Captain Hansen, commander of the American unit involved, explained the brutal logic of the blockade: "They are going to need all those things that make their lives just a little bit better. We are providing them with the hard decision. Either you work with the government of Afghanistan or you have the effects of not working with them. It's in their court."

The tactic of collective punishment is a part of the Canadian arsenal as well. "Any people that are found to have been helping the Taliban will have their houses seized by the government, their property seized. They will be left with nothing," promised Lieut. Craig Alcock, a Canadian platoon commander. This statement aroused zero commentary. Yet, as numerous reports indicate, civilians "helping the Taliban" are often doing so against their will. And this concern is prior to the question of whether this threat, if carried out, would violate Geneva Convention prohibitions against collective punishment. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention (1949) says, in part: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed." ... (link)

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