Amnesty on NATO in Afghanistan: ‘must preserve the modest human rights gains of the past 12 years’.

I wrote a bit yesterday about how there is increasing evidence that U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan are employing Afghan proxy militias who have been responsible for the murder, torture, disappearances and the rape of civilians, as part of their ‘counter-insurgency’ strategy.

NATO/ISAF have also, according to Refugee International, been using air strikes and night raids which are ‘destroying homes, crops and basic infrastructure, traumatizing civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people’. Indeed, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, ‘About 400 individuals were displaced each day in 2006-2010 – 730,000 in total – mostly due to military operations by US/NATO forces’.

Civilian deaths from air strikes, including of children, are still a fairly regular occurrence (and most probably go undocumented, including in the U.N.’s ‘official’ casualty figures). Polls of Afghan public opinion, commissioned by generally pro-occupation media outlets like the BBC, have found widespread opposition (p.19) to such air strikes, precisely because they lead to the deaths of civilians. And it’s interesting that I haven’t yet heard a single person in British or American corporate media call for a ‘U.N. no-fly zone’ over Afghanistan to protect the population from the air raids that they hate and that are taking a heavy toll on them.

So you have a situation where NATO/ISAF forces and their militias are blatantly abusing and inflicting a huge amount of suffering on the Afghan population.

You might expect mainstream human rights organisations like Amnesty International to be condemning these things in the harshest terms, just like they do when it comes to the crimes of Assad, Gadaffi, Hussein, and all those other official Bad Guys.


Well, not quite. In an article released today, Amnesty International, in reference to the upcoming withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan, say that ‘International and Afghan military forces must preserve the modest human rights gains of the past 12 years and ensure that the rights of the Afghan people are protected during and after the ongoing security transition’. Those’ll be the same ‘International and Afghan military forces’ currently murdering, torturing, raping, bombing and disappearing them presumably.

The article goes on to say that ‘international and Afghan forces have emphasised their commitment to protect civilians’, and that ‘Amnesty International recognizes that NATO/ISAF has made efforts to reduce civilian casualties’. Again, in reference to the people currently murdering, torturing, raping, bombing and disappearing them.

Perhaps the most egregious part is when they say that ‘More focus should be put on international human rights and humanitarian law training, and gender-sensitivity training, for all relevant Afghan security personnel, including the Afghan Local Police’. The Afghan Local Police are the U.S. trained paramilitary unit who’ve been implicated in rape and widespread sexual violence by Human Rights Watch and various reporters, and Amnesty thinks they need to be given ‘gender sensitivity’ training. I suppose gender sensitivity training might be a good idea, but can you imagine them calling for the Syrian Shabiha units who’ve been implicated in sexual violence to be given ‘gender sensitivity’ training as well?

To be fair to Amnesty, the article isn’t totally uncritical, and it does say things like ‘concerns remain about the lack of accountability of Afghan and international security forces for civilian harm and loss of livelihoods resulting from their military operations’, and that ‘ISAF’s Civilian Casualties Tracking Cell (CCTC) is still not fully resourced and needs to be’.

But that’s about as far as the criticism goes. The language is extremely timid relative to the gravity of the crimes NATO/ISAF and their Afghan proxies are committing, and as ever when it comes to the Good Guys, they only speak of ‘concerns’, and how perhaps they could be doing a bit better in terms of accountability and in their mission to protect the civilian population from the atrocities that they themselves are committing.

When it’s the Bad Guys committing similar crimes though, it’s always off to the ICC you go-go.

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