How we’re “winning” in Afghanistan; backing death squads

Stunning report in the UK Independent. Adding to this detail is the presence of private mercenaries working alongside Afghan and Western forces committing acts that may be illegal. Accountability is non-existent. Much more on this in time:

Covert forces of CIA-trained Afghan paramilitaries are being built up to continue the US-led war on the Taliban as thousands of US troops prepare to leave the country.

Members of one shadowy group of some 400 men in southern Kandahar province have given The Independent a unique insight into their training and secret operations against militants as foreign troops prepare to quit Afghanistan by 2014.

Senior figures within one of the forces revealed that they were taught hand-to-hand combat by foreign military advisers, were delivered to targets by US Black Hawk helicopters and have received a letter of thanks from President Hamid Karzai for their work.

Despite their apparent military successes, one of the groups, the Kandahar Strike Force, has been dogged by rights abuse allegations that have raised questions about their role when their foreign handlers leave the country.

“These forces are the most shadowy and the most unaccountable in the country and it’s a serious problem [that] nobody’s taking responsibility for,” said Rachel Reid, a senior policy adviser to the Open Society Foundation.

Under a revamped counterterror strategy released on 28 June, the US said it intended to “ensure the rapid degradation of al-Qa’ida’s leadership structure” – and those of its adherents – using covert tactics going “beyond traditional intelligence, military, and law-enforcement functions”.

Details of the group’s operation were given in interviews by three former members in a prison outside Kabul where they are serving sentences, along with 38 comrades, for the killing of a police chief in 2009. The shoot-out was sparked by the detention of a member of the Kandahar Strike Force. They are appealing against their convictions.

The paramilitary groups are concentrated in eastern and southern Afghanistan where they collect intelligence, secure the border with Pakistan, and launch raids on militants from al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and the host of other militant groups. Taliban sources have told The Independent that the Kandahar Strike Force is the outfit they fear most.