Friday, December 09, 2005

Sometimes You Have to Destroy A Village To Save It

There is still a war going on in Afghanistan. I think people forget this given all that's happening in Iraq. The BBC reports that Kunar province in Eastern Afghanistan is the center of continuing battles. Locals say several groups are working together in fighting Americans including supporters of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and former mujahideen groups. A pattern similar to Iraq has developed whereby American troops clear an area but fighters regroup and return when Americans leave. Americans have now tried new psy-op tactics. One tactic is to broadcast messages on local radio in the name of Kunar's governor to residents of a troublesome village. But it may contravene the Geneva convention according to a human rights group as it implicitly threatens collective punishment......

The BBC obtained a copy of one broadcast from officials in the province who requested anonymity.

They said they had been given the message by American personnel from a local base and believed that is where it had been written, even though it was in the name of the governor and his deputy.

This is how it ends:

"if they [the people of Korengal] are not going to comply with the demands of expelling the enemy from their villages then we will be forced to continue to pursue the enemy relentlessly until the elders either force them to leave or the hand of our national security troops force them out. The people of Korengal are either with the people of Kunar or against them."

However, when asked about the message, the US military said it was not their work.

"I am told we did not write this document; that it was written by the governor," said Lt Colonel Laurent Fox, a spokesman at its headquarters in Kabul, in an e-mailed response.

However, his statement confirmed that US troops had put it out.

"I was told that CJTF-76 (the operational name of the US-led coalition force in Afghanistan) did transcribe it after it came out and ran some messages based on this letter on Peace radio in that area."

But according to Human Rights Watch, regardless of the document's original authorship, broadcasting the message to the people of Korengal could break international conventions.

"It contains a barely veiled threat of collective punishment," said Sam Zarifi, its research director for Asia. "Making such a threat is a violation of the Geneva conventions and other laws of war."

Lt Colonel Laurent Fox said the aim of transmitting the message was to use "non-lethal means against anti-government personnel."

However, some Afghan officials involved in disseminating the broadcast said they were not happy about the language, which they described as "how the foreigners speak".

"It will make things worse," another warned.
It sounds like the American military faces a tough situation in this province. I don't purport to have an answer but these tactics don't appear helpful at all. I don't know why we think we can win the head game war with these people. And when "non-lethal means" don't work, then what? Lethal?

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