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‘Did you pick up his brains?’

(Let the title act as fair warning. But by my reckoning,  since Akins was willing to risk his life for this report, we should be willing to bear witness to his discoveries.  My deep appreciation to Matthieu Akins for his in-depth investigation.)

By Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone, November 6th, 2013

 Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a U.S. Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?

As Omar lay stunned on the ground, his wife and kids rushed over, hysterical, and clutched at him to protect him, but Hamza fired several shots over their heads, killing a cow and scattering the woman and children. He then dragged Omar into a small, walled apple orchard, where the other translator – a tall, sunken-eyed man who had taken the nom de guerre Zikria Kandahari, after his southern birthplace – was beating Gul Rahim in front of several Americans. In the neighbor’s orchard, Americans had found the trigger wire for the bomb that had exploded earlier in the day. As the two pleaded their innocence, one of the Americans came over and shoved Omar up against the wall, punching him. Omar says he watched as Kandahari marched Gul Rahim about a dozen yards away, and as the Americans looked on, the translator raised his pistol to the back of Gul Rahim’s head and fired three shots. When Kandahari turned and strode toward Omar, pointing his pistol at him, Omar fainted. When he came to minutes later, he was being dragged into a Humvee.

Omar was the only civilian eyewitness to Gul Rahim’s killing, but in Wardak I spoke to three of his neighbors who said they had seen the American Special Forces arrive on their ATVs at Omar’s house, had heard gunshots and, after the soldiers had left, had seen Gul Rahim’s bullet-riddled body lying among the apple trees, his skull shattered. The Americans later returned and demolished the orchard’s walls with explosives; when Kandahari saw the 12-year-old son of the orchard’s gardener, he taunted the boy: “Did you pick up his brains?”

Part I

Part II


And yet when the 2014 deadline for transition arrives and, as Obama put it in his State of the Union Address last February, “our war in Afghanistan will be over,” the quiet professionals of the Special Forces and the CIA will remain behind. They will likely operate under much less restrictive rules and oversight than the current U.S. military mission, and if the CIA’s attitude toward working with Afghan allies who violate human rights is any indication, the fight in Afghanistan may get even dirtier.

If the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan stalls over negotiations and reverts to the “zero option” as it did in Iraq, the future of the country may well be one of covert warfare under the auspices of the CIA.

While reading and listening, I began musing over my posts on ‘Rogue Soldier’ Robert Bales, and how the military predetermined that he acted alone in face of much evidence to the contrary.  In that one was a link to The “Kill Team” Photographs by Sy Hersh, 11/18/2011.

(cross-posted at

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