Witnesses: U.S. Special Forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan

Matt Aikins spoke to dozens of local witnesses of torture and murder, which the U.S. military continues to deny

Published November 6, 2013 7:00PM (EST)


Based on interviews with dozens of local witnesses and international organizations' reports, Rolling Stone Wednesday published an explosive investigation by Matt Aikins, fleshing out allegations that U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan tortured and murdered civilians.

"If true, these accusations would amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by American forces since 2001," wrote Aikins. His report is well worth reading in full. Although it does not go so far as to fully substantiate the Afghan's allegations, the investigation gives voice and much-needed credibility to claims of war crimes that the U.S. military continue to outright deny. The allegations against the American green berets -- the special ops forces that replaced large army units following the surge -- include the murder of eight civilians and the disappearance of ten more.

Aikins spoke with eyewitnesses and family members of those believed killed or disappeared by U.S. Special Forces. He was shown evidence of civilians' corpses, found near the American military base in the beleaguered Nerkh region, the bodies wrapped in body bags used by U.S. forces. "None of the witnesses and family members who were interviewed by Rolling Stone during five months of reporting say they have ever been contacted by U.S. military investigators," Aikins noted.

Via Rolling Stone:

Last winter, tensions peaked and President Karzai ordered an investigation into the allegations. Then on February 16th, a student named Nasratullah was found under a bridge with his throat slit, two days, his family claimed, after he had been picked up by the Green Berets. Mass demonstrations erupted in Wardak, and Karzai demanded that the American Special Forces team leave, and by April, it did. That’s when the locals started finding bodies buried outside the American base in Nerkh, bodies they said belonged to the 10 missing men. In July, the Afghan government announced that it had arrested Zikria Kandahari, a translator who had been working for the American team, in connection with the murders, and that in turn Kandahari had fingered members of the Special Forces for the crimes. But the American military stuck to its denials. “After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF or U.S. forces,” Col. Jane Crichton told The Wall Street Journal in July.

But over the past five months, Rolling Stone has interviewed more than two dozen eyewitnesses and victims’ families who’ve provided consistent and detailed allegations of the involvement of American forces in the disappearance of the 10 men, and has talked to Afghan and Western officials who were familiar with confidential Afghan-government, U.N. and Red Cross investigations that found the allegations credible. In July, a U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan warned: “The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture – if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict – may amount to war crimes.”

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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