U.S. Military Accused of Blocking Afghan Investigation into Civilian Murders

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Afghans who disappeared after being seized by US Special Forces (photo: Anja Niedringhaus, AP)

Afghanistan’s government suspects that members of an elite U.S. Army unit were involved in the mysterious disappearance and deaths of 17 civilians.


The Afghans vanished from Wardak province after being detained by U.S. Green Berets between October 2012 and February 2013.


Bodies of 10 of the men were eventually discovered in shallow graves outside the U.S. base that housed Operational Detachment-Alpha, or A Team.


Officials with Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), tried to interview three American commandos, as well as four Afghan translators working with the unit, but were rebuffed by U.S. commanders, according to a document obtained by Reuters.


The U.S. military has insisted that the Green Berets were not responsible for the murders.


Even if they were, the Afghanistan government could not bring the soldiers to trial. U.S. military personnel are immune from Afghan law under an agreement signed a decade ago.


NDS, which had undertaken an investigation into the matter, has decided it cannot pursue the case any longer due to its efforts being blocked by the U.S. military.


“Despite many requests by NDS they have not cooperated,” said the report. “Without their cooperation this process cannot be completed.”


The Berets had been implicated in the crime by Zakeria Kandahari, an Afghan translator who had worked with them. The NDS and Nerkh villagers had accused Kandahari of involvement in the murders, and he was subsequently arrested.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded that the U.S. investigate the incident.


“The U.S. investigation should go beyond the people who carried out the killings and examine who may have assisted in the crimes or failed to take action to stop them,” Andrea Prasow, an HRW legal adviser, told Reuters.


The controversy over the deaths has increased already existing tensions between the U.S. and Afghanistan over the role of American troops that are to remain in the country following the removal of foreign forces by the end of 2014.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

'Lack of U.S. Cooperation' Halts Afghan Probe into Civilian Killings (by Hamid Shalizi and Dylan Welch, Reuters)

The A-Team Killings (by Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone)

How Much is the Life of a Dead Innocent Afghan Worth? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

The Forgotten Victims of the Bales Massacre (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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