The U.S.-Trained Warlords Committing Atrocities in Afghanistan

By May Jeong—In These Times—October, 2017—

A village alleges dozens of civilian deaths at the hands of a single U.S.-trained-strongman — just one example of the “Afghan Special Forces” to whom the U.S. has delegated its war. 

1. THE KHATABA MASSACRE

Even by Afghan standards, the easternmost part of Uruzgan province is remote, mountainous and poor. It sits 200 miles southwest of Kabul along a highway pockmarked with IEDs and plagued by roving bandits. The road is often impassable, choked by snow in winter and fighting in summer. Most of the tens of thousands of residents are farmers, growing almonds, grapes and apricots. The area’s richest soil lies along two rivers that cut through the arid landscape. Where the rivers merge, forming a wishbone-shaped stretch of green, sits a village called Khataba.

After the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001, Khataba, like many remote villages in Afghanistan, was nominally under government control. But by 2009, the capital’s hold on eastern Uruzgan was fraying. Khataba was what the American military would call a “pro-Taliban village,” an area that, for reasons of tribal or political jockeying, was deemed sympathetic to the insurgency. Afghan government forces had long accused the predominately Pashtun village—an ethnic group often conflated with the Taliban—of giving cover to Taliban fighters.