Afghan Probe Finds 15-20 US Soldiers Involved In Kandahar Killings

Updated below the fold

Obviously, this is directly contradictory to the Pentagon’s version of events (hat tip – b)- and includes a very direct threat:

A parliamentary probe team on Thursday said up to 20 American troops were involved in Sunday’s killing of 16 civilians in southern Kandahar province.

…[Chairman of the Parliamentary National Security and Internal Affairs Commission Hamidzai Lali] told Pajhwok Afghan News their investigation showed there were 15 to 20 American soldiers, who executed the brutal killings.

…”œThe villages are one and a half kilometre from the American military base. We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time, and the 16 civilians, most of them children and women, have been killed by the two groups.”

Lali asked the Afghan government, the United Nations and the international community to ensure the perpetrators were punished in Afghanistan.

…The lawmaker said the Wolesi Jirga would not sit silent until the killers were prosecuted in Afghanistan. “If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians,” Lali warned.

How to square the circle? Here’s some pure speculation. I think its possible there’s a mix-up on dates when the suspect’s lawyer says a friend had his leg blown off the day before the massacre. I think perhaps it was 3 days before – conforming to one early report soldiers had put village kids against a wall and threatened revenge after an IED. I think it’s possible there was a decision made somehow (drawing lots?) that one guy would take the fall for his buddies, knowing otherwise they’d all be in it up to their necks. Its a gut feeling, no real evidence, but something here stinks and, frankly, I think Afghans have been in general far more reliable about their accounts of civilian killings than the Pentagon has.

Update Karzai has noted what he says was a lack of co-operation from the US military in the probe and also questioned the official US line.

“On the question of the account of the one person, supposedly, who has done this, the story of the village elders [in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province] and the affected people is entirely different. They believe it is not possible for one person to do that,” Karzai told journalists after the meeting.

…Karzai said his investigators did not find the US surveillance video they were shown convincing. The army chief of staff reported to the meeting that a key US commander had not returned his calls while he was investigating the attack.

“The Afghan investigation team did not receive the co-operation that they expected from the United States, therefore these are all questions that [we] will be raising, and raising very loudly and raising very clearly,” Karzai said, referring to whether the killer acted alone.

Afghans were weary of killings by foreign troops after “hundreds” of civilian casualty incidents, he told the meeting, a point he underlined when he told US President Barack Obama in a morning phone call that his call for foreign forces to leave Afghan villages was serious.

And if Obama and the Pentagon refuse to heed Karzai’s call to withdraw to ISAF’s main bases I assume the threat to have the Jirga name ISAF an occupier like the Russians would then come into effect.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

23 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Politics.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • Soldier accused in Afghan shooting spree identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

    Washington Post, By Craig Whitlock, Mary Pat Flaherty & Carol D. Leonnig, March 16

    Seattle, WA — The Army soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting spree was identified Friday as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, according to a U.S. official.

    The suspect was being flown to a U.S. military prison Friday to await possible criminal charges, the Pentagon said earlier in the day.

    Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, would not identify the military prison, citing security concerns. But the Associated Press reported later that Bales was being flown from Kuwait to a military detention center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

    Bales, a 38-year-old father of two, served three tours in Iraq and was badly injured there before being deployed to Afghanistan, according to his attorney.

  • Let’s hope the Afghans reject the unequal treaty granting extraterritoriality to the US military as the Iraqis did. Then maybe we’ll get out as we should.

  • According to what we know already, Bales left the base TWICE (this is a forward base in hostile territory, remember) after it was known that he had been drinking.

    Why would a drunk soldier be allowed to walk off a secured, guarded base in hostile territory, armed, with no orders to, no mission, TWICE? Something doesn’t add up here, obviously.

    And the Afghans raise a good question: how could he have raided two separate villages in less than one hour?

    I have also been suspicious of the press being given about the suspect Bales: it’s all about how stressed he was, how he may have PTSD (OK that much is believable), how he didn’t want to be deployed on this tour, etc, etc.

    In other words, the press has been exclusively focused on priming Americans up to accept the temporary insanity defense that his lawyer is preparing. Uncle Sam wants YOU to feel sorry for the soldiers! (of course, that does NOT extend to expanding their veterans benefits).

    And of course, the Afghans will never see the suspect or suspects ever again. They’ll never get to try the soldier(s) in the country in which the crimes were committed.

    Eventually, the real reasons why we are there have to emerge. If it’s to control territory that we want to run oil pipelines through, once the Afghans declare us the enemy, just as they did the Russians, we will simply have to drop the facade, wipe out all Afghan resistance, take the damn territory, and build the friggin’ pipelines.

    Do you think Obama has it in him to just nakedly make that power grab?

    If he doesn’t, the Republican who could replace him this year or in 2016 will.

    At that point, there will be no “hearts and minds” blather. We will have to openly admit that we are there to take their resources, and deal militarily with anyone who wants to defend their turf.

    For my money, that’s what it has actually been about all along.

  • …emphasize factors that could be seen as exculpatory? Perhaps because most of what we know about his personal circumstances tracks back to his attorney?!?

    Just a thought.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • …story in the context of arguing the media is seeking to increase public sympathy for the man while Pat Lang is citing exactly the same story saying that the press is trying to make a monster of the man. Call me crazy, but I’m going to go with “we don’t know shit”.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • We surely haven’t been told big chunks of the real story.

    And to be honest, I sympathize with Sgt. Bales as well. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s guilty.

    My basic opinion is that this is the latest and greatest fallout from a conflict that has been characterized by lots of mistakes on our part.

    I actually think McChrystal was the best military leader they had over there, but he failed to keep the boundaries in place. The things that he said that got him fired – basically that the White House doesn’t know what the hell they doing over there – are actually correct, but he still should have known he cannot say those things outside of very tightly controlled circles (i.e. -especially in front of an investigative reporter).

  • Mother Jones – The first rule of fact-checking is that everything you read and hear is wrong.

    In true fact-checking, literally every word of every factual statement must be traced to a primary source, whether a document or the corroborated accounts of independent experts or witnesses. “Primary source” means that if the story you’re fact-checking says some soldier was the 44th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002, you’re calling the Canadian Army. Once, I heard one of our fact-checkers call a bar in Mexico to ask, in Spanish, whether its floor was metal, per William T. Vollmann’s assertion.

    For the record, it was. But often, it’s not. People just get things wrong. They read them wrong, or remember them wrong or the way they want to, or the information they read right was wrong in the first place. You hear the same a fact a thousand times, but if you track down its origins, you find out all the repeaters are using the same source, and source zero was just guessing, or citing a highly questionable source or study. Or misciting a highly questionable source or study. Or confusing the details, so that by now, everybody’s under the erroneous impression that a shot of espresso contains more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

    So I wasn’t a week into my job before I, too, had undergone the completely life-changing installation of an irrevocable—and warranted—skepticism of everything I heard or read.

    I wrote an entire chapter based on a first-rate historical account of some stupid and misguided action on the part of the United States that oh, man, did I want to be true. One expert corroborated that it was. Three others said it wasn’t, exactly. A declassified State Department memo settled the dispute in favor of the nays. It’s cool; there was plenty of equally stupid and misguided action to take its place

    more at link

    This article could go anywhere, so it might as well go here. It is tiled in “Mother Jones” “A Propos Mike Daisey: Ode to Fact-Checking”


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

  • Pulitzer Center – …
    I suggested that foreigners’ inability to understand Afghanistan had contributed to the disastrous situation in which the international community now found itself. Danish[head of the agency] agreed. “Forty-five countries are here. Why they fail?” He smiled grimly. “Now maybe we accept that they fail, that there is no way to resolve the Afghan issue. We fight for nine or 10 years, and after nine or 10 years, the security is worse, and our foreign friends didn’t know how to leave us, how to support us, how to help us. Now they lose their way.”

    Danish saw the foreigners’ mistakes as clearly as any other Afghan, but he took no pleasure in them. “During Taliban time, there was no media, there was no journalists, and there was a difficult life,” he told me. “By the presence of foreign troops, now we have everything.” He didn’t mean material things so much as the chaotic openness that had become as necessary to him as oxygen. “If tomorrow, for example, the Taliban come, what will be the future of Pajhwok? What will be the future of Afghan journalists’ work? Are we allowed to something publish? Is there will be 25 TV channels to be broadcast?”

    Danish paused to let these questions sink in. “Now we criticize very well the Afghan government,” he said. “We investigate great stories, we investigate so many important issues and we explain that it is wrong, it is against the Afghan constitution, it is against our law. But if Taliban came, what will happen? If the foreign troops go away from Afghanistan, I think there will be no life and no freedom. I think there will be nothing.”


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

  • not sure it matters: Army Times

    The Army provided basic information about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (No middle initial)

    Date of Rank: April 1, 2008

    MOS: 11B (Infantry)

    Duty Status: Active

    Basic Active Service Date (Enlistment Date): Nov. 8, 2001

    Assignment History:

    2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd

    Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Sept 11, 2002 — Present)

    Military Education/Year Completed:

    Combat Life Savers Course 2002

    Warrior Leaders Course 2008

    Sniper 2008

    Visual Tracker 2008

    Combatives Level 1 2010

    Combatives Level 2 2010

    U.S. Air Force Airlift Planner 2010

    Advance Leaders Course (ALC) 2010

    Civilian Education/Year Completed

    Associate Degree (2 Yr College) 1992

    Home of Record: Jensen Beach, Fla.

    Deployment History/Time Frame:

    Operation Iraqi Freedom (12 Months) / Nov. 1, 2003 – Oct. 1, 2004

    Operation Iraqi Freedom (15 Months) / June 19, 2006 – Sept. 22, 2007

    Operation Iraqi Freedom (10 Months) / Aug. 8, 2009 – June 4, 2010

    Operation Enduring Freedom / Dec. 1, 2011 – March 2012

    Awards and Decorations:

    Army Good Conduct Medal (Three awarded)

    Iraq Campaign Medal Campaign Star (Two awarded)

    National Defense Service Medal

    Overseas Service Ribbon

    Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

    Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

    Combat Infantry Badge

    Expert Infantry Badge

    Army Commendation Medal (Six awarded)

    Army Achievement Medal

    Meritorious Unit Commendation (Two awarded)

    Army Superior Unit Award

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • From Bales’ lawyer:

    At their meeting Monday, Browne said, Bales clarified one story: It was two days before the Afghan shootings when one of Bales’ friends, another soldier, had his leg blown off by a roadside bomb. Browne said Bales didn’t witness the explosion but saw the aftermath.

    Legal troubles included charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and, in a hit-and run accident, ran bleeding in military clothes into the woods, court records show. He told police he fell asleep at the wheel and paid a fine to get the charges dismissed, the records show.

    So, same incident as I suggested?

    And then there’s this:

    The soldier accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children, made an ominous and disturbing Facebook comment during an exchange with a friend back home in 2010. The Wall Street Journal reports that the comment was made in response to a childhood friend’s message: “Sup brother?” wrote the friend, Steven Berling. “Hope all is well overseas!!! Been a long time, look me up when you get back in town,,, we’ll go drink some brews!!!” The accused soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, replied, “You got it. Overseas is boring this trip, pretty dumb. Giving money to Hagi instead of bullets don’t seem right.”

    The word “Hagi” appears to be the slang U.S. military term “hajji,” a pejorative commonly used by American soldiers to refer to Iraqis.

  • Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired brigadier general who was an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says Bales’s alleged crime is emblematic of a larger problem. “This is equivalent to what My Lai did to reveal all the problems with the conduct of the Vietnam War,” Dr. Xenakis says. “The Army will want to say that soldiers who commit crimes are rogues, that they are individual, isolated cases. But they are not.”


    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • Bloomberg, By Clea Benson, March 19

    Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales defrauded an Ohio couple of more than $600,000 when he served as their stock broker in 2000, according to records of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

    An arbitrator in 2003 ordered Bales to pay more than $1.3 million in damages to Gary Liebschner and his wife of Carroll, Ohio. By then, Bales was already in the Army, having enlisted in November 2001, less than two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to an Army statement.

    […]

    Gary Liebschner told WCPO TV, the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati, that Bales pocketed their money after they asked him to sell some stock to cover medical bills. Bales never paid the money and the couple could never find him, Liebschner said.

  • is a damaged bad apple who escaped past punishment(s); he squandered luck and now faces a military tribunal who won’t look with compassion at someone who damages the reputations of fighting men who represent their country with honour. He may escape the hangman, but he won’t be seeing daylight from a military prison for a very long time. Death would be too kind if he’s found guilty.

    A tragic and super sad ending for his victims, his family and his military mates.

  • McClatchy Newspapers, David Goldstein & Matthew Schofield, March 21

    WASHINGTON — Besides waiting nearly a week before identifying the Army staff sergeant who’s accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers, the U.S. military scrubbed its websites of references to his combat service.

    Gone were photographs of the suspect, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, as well as a recounting in his base’s newspaper of a 2007 battle in Iraq involving his unit that quoted him extensively.

    But not really.

    Given the myriad ways that information remains accessible on the Internet, despite the best efforts to remove it, the material about Bales was still out there and available, such as in cached versions of Web pages. Within minutes of the Pentagon leaking his name Friday evening, news organizations and others found and published his pictures, the account of the battle — which depicts Bales and other soldiers in a glowing light — and excerpts from his wife’s personal blog.

    So why did the Pentagon try to scrub Bales from the Internet in the first place?

    The military said its intention in removing the material wasn’t to lessen the Army’s embarrassment over the horrific attack — nine of the victims were children — but to protect the privacy of Bales’ family.

    “Protecting a military family has to be a priority,” said a military official, who like several interviewed for this story spoke only on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

    “I think the feeding frenzy we saw after his name was released was evidence that we were right to try. … Of course the pages are cached; we know that. But we owe it to the wife and kids to do what we can.”

    wow.

  • US soldier to be charged with murder
    Posted: 23 March 2012 0718 hrs

    WASHINGTON: A US soldier will be charged with 17 counts of murder stemming from the killings of civilians in a rampage in southern Afghanistan, a US official said Thursday.

    The official, confirming the murder charges on condition of anonymity, also said Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales would be charged with six counts of assault and attempted murder.

    The 38-year-old Bales is alleged to have walked out of his base in the southern province of Kandahar under cover of darkness March 11 and killed 17 people in two nearby villages, including women and children, and burning their bodies.

    US officials had pledged a swift and thorough investigation, and US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said Bales could face the death penalty if convicted.

    AFP/wk

  • Not to be a knee-jerk contrarian, but modern firearms are pretty damn effective and deadly. I don’t see how its inconceivable that one man COULD kill 16 unarmed civilians in the night in two nearby villages.

    1.5 kilometers is not that far of a walk, maybe 20 minutes give or take a few. I’m assuming that’s true that he was drinking with others, and maybe even others knew his intentions when he walked out even if he walked out alone. But why do they say this is not possible?

    If the Afghans have ballistic or eyewitness evidence, I’d like to hear that. Just saying they believe 15-20 guys were involved without knowing why they think that is a little confusing.

    That being said, I’m as sure as the next guy about the Army’s priorities for institutional protection and the chances of justice being served fully being thin

  • Washington Post – None of the Afghans who witnessed the March 11 massacre of 16 villagers has reported personally seeing more than one shooter, despite claims that many U.S. soldiers took part in the killing, two Afghan officials said Wednesday.


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

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