STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
US Levels, Rebuilds Afghan Village
By Staff News & Analysis - January 24, 2011

'Tarok Kolache's atrocity reminiscent of Fallujah' … The U.S. military's operation of completely wiping out the Afghan village of Tarok Kolache reminds one, of the most "brutal and savage" war crime the U.S. committed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah back in 2004 says Dahr Jamail, author and independent journalist. "My first thought upon seeing this news is that it reminds me of what I saw happen when the U.S. military completely destroyed the city of Fallujah in Iraq back in 2004," Jamail said in an interview with Press TV's U.S. Desk on Saturday. The Iraqi city of Fallujah was "largely destroyed and the population irradiated by the depleted uranium ammunitions that the U.S. used to destroy the city" he said. In October 2010, the U.S. army completely wiped out the Tarok Kolache village in Afghanistan's Kandahar to allegedly get rid of the Taliban militants in the area. However it took several months for the media to get wind of the atrocity. – Press TV

Dominant Social Theme: Villages sometimes must be destroyed to save them.

Free-Market Analysis: It has hit the Internet hard – harder than almost any other news from Afghanistan in a long time: the news that the US military had dropped 25 tons of bombs on a small Afghan village and reduced it to glazed mud. Pictures of the village, Tarok Kolache, and its fertile fields are available on the Internet. The "after" photos show the same fertile fields but no village, only a pale, lumpen plain where it had been.

There are at least 20,000 cites for "Tarok Kolache" on Google and climbing. The story has now been covered at the Huffington Post, Salon and other high-profile media; it has been subject to scathing coverage on such websites as Press TV (see article excerpt above). In Britain, the Daily Mail has covered it in detail and provided before and after photos that suppy emphatic evidence of the efficacy of modern warfare. Here's an excerpt from the Daily Mail article:

The Afghan village that's been wiped from the map – with 25 tons of coalition bombs … The impact of coalition operations in Afghanistan is often bogged down in statistics and political maneuvering. But these photos of a devastated village in the Arghandad River Valley show the horror of war in stark reality. Tarok Kolache, a small settlement in Kandahar, has been completely erased from the map after an offensive by the U.S. army …

Taliban militants had taken control of the village and battered the coalition task force with homemade bombs and improvised explosive devices. And after two attempts at clearing the village led to casualties on both sides, Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th gave the order to pulverise the village. His men were ‘terrified to go back into the pomegranate orchards to continue clearing [the area]; it seemed like certain death', writes West Point graduate Paula Broadwell on the Foreign Policy blog.

Instead of continuing to clear the tiny village, the commander approved a mine-clearing line charge, which hammered a route into the centre of Tarok Kolache using rocket-propelled explosives. The destruction only escalated, however, with '49,200lbs of ordnance' dropped on the village via air strikes and ground-launched rockets, which saw it swiftly blown off the face of the earth. The results of the battery were adjudged to have left ‘NO CIVCAS' – no civilians killed.

According to Ms Broadwell's post on Foreign Policy, General Petraeus has approved $1million worth of reconstruction projects but also told his commanders in the south of Afghanistan to 'take a similar approach to what 1-320th was doing on a grander scale as it applies to the districts north of Arghandab'.

The Daily Mail describes Broadwell's bio this way: "Miss Broadwell, who has served as a major in the U.S. Army, was educated at Harvard University before completing a PhD at London University's War Studies Department. Her Linkedin profile page states that she also graduated from the U.S. military academy West Point, and has worked for the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force."

Broadwell has posted several articles on Tarok Kolache at the Foreign Affairs magazine website. She has put the bombing into perspective and has emphasized the US military's grant of some US$1 million to rebuild the village. She writes the following:

As of today, reconstruction efforts are well on track for Tarok Kalache and others in his AO. Mosque construction is underway, the irrigation canals and culverts are being restored, and the local government has been an active participant in the process of assisting the people of the village in rebuilding their homes. Just last week, the district governor, Shah Mohammed, signed land deeds for all 14 landowners of the village which will set the conditions for future land titles to be issued — something that only happens in Kandahar City now. In the coming days, the villagers will be compensated and meet with local contractors approved by the district governor to begin rebuilding the homes. As [Lt. Col. David Flynn, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th in Kandahar Province that bombed the village], likes to say to his troops, "Time to 'getterdun.'"

Broadwell and others have been forthright about the bombing once it finally became a public story – apparently months after the incident. And General David Petraeus, commander of the Afghan war had a spokesperson available to respond in detail, though not with an apology. According to a military-oriented website called "Danger Room," the spokesperson's message was clear: Expect more Afghan villages to be destroyed by American rockets and bombs — if, that is, the Taliban "saturate" them with homemade explosives and kick out the villagers. But the U.S.-led coalition isn't going to destroy populated areas, the spokesperson adds.

While there has been no apology, General Petraeus is obviously taking the furor seriously. Thus permission was apparently granted for Commander Lt. Col. David Flynn himself to respond directly to criticism, pointing out that the village was entirely booby-trapped and that the only way to undo the Taliban's damage was to level it.

He posted his reply at Foreign Policy, and his forthrightness garnered praise in some quarters. Outside the Wire website wrote the following: "The Army is so often criticized for not responding quick enough and then questioning why no one is paying attention when they issue a response well after everyone stopping talking about it. Not this time. Lt. Col. David Flynn, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th in Kandahar Province, responded immediately to critiques of his tactics in his AO."

The individual responsible for some high-profile criticism (and the person to whom Flynn is replying) is Joshua Foust. Further comments – in response to David Flynn – appear at Registran.Net. Foust points out that "Team Petraeus" is responding to the growing criticism of the village razing policies "by blaming the Taliban's." And he adds, "Put less charitably, Petraeus is admitting the Taliban is setting the pace of operations, setting the terms of engagement, and forcing the U.S. to engage in property destruction. Classic insurgent tactics, in other words. It is not encouraging." Here's some more from Foust:

As a counterpoint to Paula Broadwell's bubbly account of the destruction, in December Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McClosky covered Tarok Kolache. Far from accusing locals of engaging in theatrics, she reported their anger honestly and transparently, which is nice to see. She also described a slow process of winning over local acquiescence to what happened, which is also an important angle to the story. I do hope their acceptance is genuine and not just avoidance (which often results in anger being expressed long after the fact). If they do not move fast to compensate and calm the locals that razing will be Afghanistan's "Dresden" even with out civilian casualties.

Foust also responds to feedbackers defending David Flynn. "Lemme see if I can make sense of this. The common reporting was that the villagers were given money and time to leave. Now they wanted to get back in to get their possessions? Paula said they took all their possessions and were living elsewhere. Which is it?" He adds:

What bothers me is when Americans proclaiming their own genius make stupid decisions. Look, I can accept that maybe a village has to be leveled to clear it of explosives. That doesn't excuse all the other stupid decisions that accompanied this, which I've explained at length: the land reform, the DSG titles, waiting until after the fact to figure out who lived where and owned what, and so on. These decisions are being made because of higher pressure to perform on a very short time frame, and that is ruining anyone's ability to make good decisions.

The US seems to be hardening its stance regarding Afghanistan, though it is hard to tell from the Obama administration which changes course two or three times a month. The latest stance regarding the war comes from WW4 Report, which a quotes US Vice President Joe Biden as saying last week that "US troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, with Kabul's permission … While insisting the US does not intend ‘to govern or nation-build' as that ‘is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it,' Biden added: ‘We stand ready to help you in that effort … after 2014.'"

WW4 Report points out that Biden's comments come a month after he told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the US would be "totally out" of Afghanistan by 2014 "come hell or high water." The Report also reminds us that at a November conference in Lisbon, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen signed a long-term partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai under which "NATO will stay as long as necessary to support Afghanistan until it can no longer become a safe haven for terrorism."

Is this practical? The war seems to be getting worse along with the behavior of NATO and US troops – many under constant pressure. In fact, the war is likely not aimed at natural resources or an oil pipeline (certainly not primarily) but is a continuation of a war that the British began in the late 1800s against the Pashtuns that have traditionally occupied parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan for some 2,000 years.

No matter what Biden says, the war IS a kind of nation-building, designed to create regulatory democracy that will be amenable to the "new world order" that the Anglosphere has in mind imposing not only the West but on the world at large. The Pashtuns, with a decentralized, tribal culture, have resisted the imposition of the Anglosphere's political scheme; the Taliban, a kind of Pashtun militia, have continually fought against NATO and American occupation.

At this point, there are many complications to the war that speak to its lack of progress. Pakistan has backed the Taliban and supplied them; other revenue comes from Afghan poppy growing. The wealthy families of Pakistan fear India and look to the Pashtuns to stabilize Afghanistan so that it does not become an ally or puppet of India. This is an outgrowth of previous British meddling; Pakistan is something of a creation of the West. The West also supports Saudi Arabia with hundreds of billions in oil revenue and military supplies – and Saudi Arabia is a prime funder of the kind of Muslim fundamentalism that the Taliban espouse. These elements constitute "blowback."

Pakistan continually provides the Taliban safety and security within its borders. These sanctuaries are actually tribal homelands that the Pashtuns have occupied for millennia. Despite considerable pressure, Pakistan has not been willing to move militarily on these sanctuaries – and 20 million or so Pashtuns – for good reason. Pakistan is nearing the status of a failed state and military action against Pashtuns who avenge their dead "unto the seventh generation" is not perhaps feasible or wise. So long as Pakistan refuses to fight the Taliban (which it helped create), the West would seem to have no chance of fully "Westernizing" Afghanistan.

The elite promotion remains one of victory; Afghanistan will be dragged bodily into the 21st century. The reality is that the war's futility is apparently beginning to fuel irrational behavior within the US military. There IS a deadine (no matter that Biden denies it) and both political and economic factors militate against the kind of open-ended campaign that the West has run until recently. General Petraeus' increasingly heightened response to the violence – and now the apparent policy of bombing whole villages – surely cannot be considered a positive step in terms of winning "hearts and minds" (the stated goal). Petraeus doubtless believes he is running out of time.

After Thoughts

It is said that General Petraeus harbored hopes of a political career, perhaps one ending in the US presidency. It is also possible that if he continues to escalate the war (shades of Viet Nam) Afghanistan shall prove the graveyard of those hopes … even as it has throughout the centuries proved one for empires.

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