Afghan war logs reveal U.S. death squad’s crimes
Published Aug 13, 2010 10:07 AM
A top secret unit of U.S. Special Forces called Task Force 373 set out on June
17, 2007, in the Patika province of Aghanistan to purposely commit a war crime.
Task force 373 is a death squad organized by the NATO coalition in Afghanistan
to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than
2,000 alleged leaders of the Taliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or
capture” list, known as Jpel for Joint Prioritized Effects List.
On that occasion, the target was a man named Abu Laith al-Libi. Task Force 373
believed he was hiding in a remote village in Patika province. The unit was
armed with a new weapon known as HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket
System — a pod of six missiles on the back of a small truck.
According to Pentagon war logs recently released by WikiLeaks, TF 373’s
plan was to launch five rockets at targets in the village of Nangar Khel where
Libi was supposedly hiding and then send in ground troops. The rockets failed
to find Libi but killed six men TF 373 claimed were Taliban fighters.
Then, when troops approached the rubble that was once a school, they recorded
“initial assessment of 7 x NC KIA,” which translates as
“seven non-combatants killed in action.” All of them were children.
One of them was still alive: “The Med TM immediately cleared debris from
the mouth and performed CPR.” After 20 minutes, the child died.
(WikiLeaks War Logs quoted in The Guardian, July 25)
The U.S.-led coalition issued a press release claiming that troops “had
surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications that there were
children inside the building.” The release also claimed that Taliban
fighters, who supposedly were in the compound, had used the children as human
The bodies of the six “Taliban” were in a completely different
building than the school where the children were found. The release suggested
that coalition forces had attacked the compound because of “nefarious
activity” there, when the reality was they had gone there to kill or
The press release made no mention at all of Libi, nor of the failure of the
mission (although that was revealed later by NBC News). Crucially, it failed to
record that TF 373 had fired five rockets, destroying the school and other
buildings and killing seven children, before anybody fired on them. This was a
mission to murder.
The internal report was marked not only “secret” but also
“Noforn,” that is, not to be shared with non-U.S. members of the
coalition. The wording of the report was very specific: “The knowledge
that TF 373 conducted a HIMARS strike must be protected.” And it was.
That is, until the recent release of 91,000 secret Pentagon cables by a
whistleblower inside the U.S. intelligence establishment.
‘Sources and methods’ of imperialist occupation
Both the Obama administration and the Pentagon have opened a virulent attack on
those who released the Afghan War Logs. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used a Pentagon
press conference on July 29 to vilify WikiLeaks and its editor, Julian Assange,
while vowing to crack down on anyone involved in making the documents
Additional charges have been filed against SPC Bradley Manning, who is already
accused of releasing a video showing a massacre in Iraq. The Army recently
moved Manning from Kuwait to Quantico, Va., where it is holding him in
According to the Pentagon brass, the Afghan war logs’ release has
endangered NATO troops and Afghan collaborators because they reveal the
“sources and methods” of U.S. intelligence units. The generals
don’t seem to worry that using death squads against the people of a
country that they illegally occupy is a direct violation of the Geneva
Conventions and international law. Or that the Afghan people already know from
bitter first-hand experience how these horrific war crimes have been committed
— and by whom.
What the brass really worry about is that the leaks will undercut political
support for the war at home and around the world.
Another slaughter, followed by torture
Another potential war crime was the slaughter of Jan. 12, 2008. After tracking
the movements for 24 hours of the man ranked seventh on the Jpel list, Qari
Baryal, the coalition established that he was holding a large meeting with
other men in a compound in Pashkari. The command sent planes that dropped
500-pound bombs, then ran five strafing runs to shoot those fleeing the
The report records that some 70 people ran to the compound and started digging
into the rubble on which there were “pools of blood.” Subsequent
reports suggest that the targeted Baryal survived. There was no mention of how
many people died or had been wounded.
Numerous logs show Jpel targets captured and transferred to a special prison,
known as Btif, the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility. No logs indicate that
prisoners were charged or tried. Previous press reports suggest that prisoners
have spent years with no legal process in communal cages inside vast old
Considering how the U.S. ran intelligence operations at Abu Ghraib, Iraq and
Guantanamo, it’s likely that detainees are tortured. By December 2009, a
total of 4,288 prisoners, some as young as 16, had been held at Btif, with 757
still in custody.
Who are TF 373?
The leaked war logs show that Task Force 373 uses at least three bases in
Afghanistan: in Kabul, Kandahar and Khost. Although TF 373 operates alongside
Special Forces from Afghanistan and other coalition nations, it appears to be
drawing its own troops from the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C. It
travels on missions in Chinook and Cobra helicopters flown by the 160th Special
Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
The release of the Afghan war logs can help mobilize anti-war forces, but
it’s important to seize the opportunity it presents. We must redouble our
efforts to stop the illegal war and occupation in Afghanistan and bring the
troops home. It is encouraging that on Aug. 8 more than 100 anti-war
demonstrators gathered outside the Quantico base demanding “Free Bradley
Manning” and that the war criminals, especially those at the highest
level, be held accountable.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE