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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/6/19

As Trump Orders US Out of Afghanistan, Notorious CIA-Backed Units Will Remain

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The US should make reparations for the devastation it has wreaked in Afghanistan and Syria.


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Politicians and pundits alike have roundly criticized Donald Trump for stating he will pull our troops out of Syria and cut US forces in Afghanistan by half. James Mattis immediately resigned as secretary of defense, writing in a letter to Trump, "you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours."

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As the US military kills civilians in Syria and CIA-led Afghan forces continue to commit war crimes, it appears Trump is doing the right thing in pulling out military troops. But the CIA will remain and grow stronger after the US troops leave. "[A]s American military forces are set to draw down, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency is only likely to grow in importance," according to The New York Times.

On December 31, The Times described a CIA-sponsored Afghan strike force that operates "unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity." In the article, journalist Mujib Mashal cites an October 2018 United Nations report that raised concern about "consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention and other abuses."

Mashal reports that the abuses by the CIA "are actively pushing people toward the Taliban" and when few US military troops remain, "the [CIA-led] strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence." Indeed, Mohibullah, whose relative was killed when his home was attacked by a strike force, told The Times he saw "no difference between the CIA-sponsored force and the Islamic State if the result was to be attacked with no warning."

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International Court: Reasonable Belief of US War Crimes in Afghanistan

Last fall, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, asked the court's Pre-Trial Chamber to open a formal investigation into the possible commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by parties to the war in Afghanistan, including US persons.

Bensouda's preliminary examination found "a reasonable basis to believe" that "war crimes of torture and ill-treatment" had been committed "by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014."

Bensouda noted these alleged crimes "were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals," but rather "part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract 'actionable intelligence' from detainees." She concluded there was "reason to believe" that crimes were "committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies ... which would support US objectives in the conflict in Afghanistan."

Like its predecessor, the Trump administration is adamant that US war criminals escape justice. In response to Bensouda's referral, National Security Adviser John Bolton told the right-wing Federalist Society the United States would punish the ICC if it mounts a full investigation of Americans for war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Trump issued a statement saying that in the event the ICC opens a formal investigation, he might negotiate "even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering United States persons to the ICC." Trump threatened to prohibit "ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the United States financial system, and, prosecute them in the United States criminal system." He would consider "taking steps in the United Nations Security Council to constrain the Court's sweeping powers."

But Bensouda will not be bowed. After Bolton's speech, she stated that the ICC is "an independent and impartial judicial institution" based on the principle of complementarity, where the ICC will step in only if the accused's home country does not. Bensouda added, "The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law."

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Meanwhile, the ICC has received an astounding 1.7 million allegations of war crimes committed in Afghanistan during a three-month period ending in January 2018. Some accusations encompass entire villages.

The US Should Completely Withdraw From Afghanistan and Syria

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is one of the few Congress members who favor pulling US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. She told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, "I think it is right to get our troops out of Syria ... and let me add, I think it's right to get our troops out of Afghanistan." Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she disagrees with the "foreign policy establishment" position that US troops should "stay forever" in Afghanistan.

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)
 

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