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American War Crimes in Afghanistan? 10 Bodies of Abducted Villagers Found Outside U.S. Base

A Rolling Stone investigation explores how Afghan men were killed after being arrested by U.S. Special Forces.

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division conduct a patrol in a small village in eastern Afghanistan.
Photo Credit: Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez/US Army/Wikimedia Commons


The following transcript is taken from Democracy Now!'s November 7th broadcast.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A year ago yesterday, on November 6, 2012, tens of millions of Americans went to the polls to re-elect President Obama. On that same day, thousands of miles away, a 39-year-old Afghan farmer named Mohammad Qasim disappeared after being arrested by U.S. Special Forces. He was never heard from again.

Months later, an Afghan shepherd saw a feral dog digging at human remains now believed to be the farmer’s. His decaying body was found just outside a base used by a team of U.S. Special Forces known as "the A-Team." The body was found just weeks after U.S. Special Forces were compelled by the Afghan government to leave the base amid allegations of torture and murder.

More and more bodies were soon found just outside the base located in Wardak province, west of Kabul. In total, Afghan officials say they have uncovered the bodies of 10 Afghan men, all of whom disappeared after being arrested by U.S. Special Forces. Eight other Afghans were killed by the Special Forces during operations.

AMY GOODMAN: The mystery behind the killings is the center of a shocking new  article published by Rolling Stone magazine, which reports the disappearances and killings could amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by U.S. forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said any U.S. personnel who participated in or were otherwise responsible for the abuses should be criminally prosecuted. So far only one person has been arrested: an Afghan translator who went by the name Zikria Kandahari, who had been working for the American team. He was arrested in July by the Afghan government. Rolling Stone reports the U.S. military opened a criminal investigation into the killings in July; however, none of the witnesses and family members who were interviewed by Rolling Stone in Afghanistan during five months of reporting say they’ve ever been contacted by U.S. military investigators.

To talk more about this story, we’re joined by Matthieu Aikins, an award-winning investigative journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan. His article is titled "The A-Team Killings." It was just published by Rolling Stone magazine.

Welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you start off by just laying out your findings?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Well, essentially, what we did was we interviewed dozens of witnesses, family members of the victims, officials who had investigated—there was investigations done, confidential ones, by both the U.N. and the Red Cross, as well as the Afghan government—and laid out what had happened in this isolated valley, because, you know, even though these allegations emerged last winter and continued into the spring and were quite controversial, led to local demonstrations, no one really knew who this mysterious unit was, if they were CIA, if they were some sort of Special Forces team. The military had, right up until they opened this criminal investigation, categorically denied any responsibility.

So, what we did is we laid out a timeline of what happened, and we discovered who this unit was. We established conclusively that these men who disappeared were picked up by American forces, often in these mass roundups in villages in broad daylight. So it’s not a question of whether they were picked up by them; it’s a question of what happened to them afterwards. And then, in the end, we were able to actually identify the unit and even get in to see this translator, Zikria Kandahari.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, long before the American military launched its investigation, this had become a major issue in Afghanistan, with President Karzai actually demanding that the U.S. troops on that base be removed. Could you talk about that? And when did that happen?

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