Blackwater founder and DeVos war-criminal sibling Trump should install merc-backed viceroy in Afghanistan

Erik Prince is the creepy-rich war criminal/ex-CIA agent who founded Blackwater and put John Ashcroft in charge of its ethics department (no, seriously), whose rap-sheet includes reckless, corrupt, murderous, genocidal violence, conducted with near-total impunity. Read the rest

SecDef Mattis upset at Pentagon wasting $28 million on Afghan uniforms with wrong camo pattern

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis criticized officials at the Pentagon for spending $28 million on forest camouflage-patterned uniforms for Afghan National Army soldiers. Only 2.1% of Afghanistan is covered by forests.

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Photographers captured shots of mortar exploding in the instant before their deaths

A mortar shell exploded during a training exercise in Afghanistan in July 2013, killing four Afghan soldiers and a U.S. Army photographer, Specialist Hilda Clayton. Clayton was training one of them in photojournalism, and both were shooting as the shell exploded.

The photos were released by the U.S. Army today. Clayton's is below, the unnamed student's above.

The photos were published with the permission of the Clayton family.

The Army said that "not only did Clayton help document activities aimed at shaping and strengthening the [US-Afghan] partnership but she also shared in the risk by participating in the effort."

The visual information specialist, who was from the US state of Georgia, has had a photography award named in her honour by the Department of Defense.

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America has spent more rebuilding Afghanistan than it spent rebuilding Europe under the Marshall Plan

After WWII, the US launched the Marshall Plan to help Europe rebuild, spending about $120B in inflation-adjusted dollars on the project, which lifted the war-stricken European nations out of disaster and launched them into post-war prosperity; the US has spent even more than that on rebuilding projects in Afghanistan since the official cessation of hostilities there, but Afghanistan remains a crumbling, corrupt, failed state where violence is rampant, opium exports are soaring, and soldiers and civilians alike are still dying. Read the rest

Obama says US drones strikes have killed up to 116 civilians, watchdogs say real count is higher

The Obama administration today “partially lifted the secrecy that has cloaked one of the United States’s most contentious tactics for fighting terrorists,” as the New York Times puts it, and revealed that it believes U.S. airstrikes conducted outside established war zones like Afghanistan have killed as many as 116 civilian bystanders. The administration says it also killed an additional 2,500 people in those non-war-zones who were members of terrorist groups.

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United Nations reminds members including U.S. to not bomb hospitals and kill doctors please

The United Nations Security Council recently passed a resolution reminding members that intentional attacks on medical facilities are war crimes.

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That hospital we bombed in Afghanistan in 2015? Not a war crime, says Pentagon

U.S. forces bombed a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital in Afghanistan last year, destroying it and killing and injuring scores of medical personnel and patients. But the air strike didn't amount to a war crime because it was caused by "unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures," and “other factors,” U.S. military authorities said today.

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Obama apologizes to aid group for bombing hospital. MSF: Thanks, but we want an investigation

Doctors Without Borders received an apology from President Barack Obama today for the deadly U.S. bombing of its hospital in northern Afghanistan.

The international medical aid organization released a statement today:

"We reiterate our ask that the U.S. government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened," said Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of the group, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

MSF headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland October 7, 2015. REUTERS

The aid group, also known also as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF, said the proposed commission would gather evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan. After that, the charity would decide whether to seek criminal charges for loss of life and damage.

“If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries at war,” MSF International President Joanne Liu told reporters in Geneva. But she noted there was no commitment yet on official cooperation with an independent investigation.

The U.S. air attack Saturday killed 22 patients and medical staffers, including three children, in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz, which had been overrun by Taliban militants. Thirty-seven people were injured, including 19 staff members, the charity said.

Aid group seeks independent probe into U.S. attack on Afghan hospital

Afghan guards stand at the gate of MSF hospital after an air strike in the city of Kunduz. REUTERS Read the rest

UK military slang from Afghanistan

"ALLY Term for a battlefield fashionista - desirables include having a beard, using a different rifle, carrying vast amounts of ammunition, being dusty and having obscene amounts of tattoos and hair. Special forces are automatically Ally." Read the rest

US official backs Marines' request to classify photos of forces urinating on Taliban corpses

A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]

"In an apparent expansion of the government’s secrecy powers, the top official in charge of the classification system has decided that it was legitimate for the Marines to classify photographs that showed American forces posing with corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan," reports the NYT's Charlie Savage. Read the rest

White House leaks name of Kabul CIA chief, yet no one goes to prison

Soldiers take photos as U.S. President Barack Obama (C) shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, May 25, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The identity of the top CIA officer in Afghanistan was exposed over the weekend by the White House when his name was included by mistake on a list given to news organizations of senior officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with US troops.

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Afghan Taliban critiques journalism ethics of The Daily Beast

The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.

The Taliban's critique, below, in full:

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US spies supplied intelligence on investigative journalist to NZ military

US spy agencies fed "metadata" about a New Zealand journalist's communications to New Zealand's military spies, who were upset that he had reported on human rights abuses against Afghani prisoners of war. Jon Stephenson was writing for McClatchy and "various New Zealand news organisations." The NZ Defense Force later attempted to discredit Stephenson, saying he had invented a visit to to an Afghan base, a claim it retracted after Stephenson brought a defamation suit against it. NZ government is presently pushing legislation to allow its military spies conduct domestic surveillance of NZ citizens, even a leaked NZDF manual discloses that the media are classed with foreign spies and extremist organisations as threats to the state. Read the rest

Proto-warblogger Kevin Sites returns to Afghanistan. Here's the reporting gear he's packing.

Xeni Jardin and Kevin Sites worked together to create one of the world's first "warblogs," when Kevin was a CNN correspondent headed into Iraq, and later, Afghanistan. Ten years later, Kevin is returning to Afghanistan to reconnect with the people whose lives he documented. He shares a snapshot of his gear bag, and the details on what's inside, as he prepares for what may be his last trip into a war zone.

Mine Kafon; a bamboo tumbleweed that clears landmines

The "Mine Kafon" is Massoud Hassani's artificial tumbleweed, made from lightweight materials like bamboo. It is designed to be blown across uncleared minefields, detonating forgotten mines.

Taliban uses CC instead of BCC, exposes identity of 400+ contacts

A Taliban spokesperson sent out a press-release and used CC instead of BCC, exposing a long list of Taliban press-contacts, as well as several parties friendly to Taliban communiques.

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an l Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

Taliban Oops Reveals Mailing List IDs [Muhammad Lila, ABC] (via Techdirt) Read the rest

Junkbot insects from a metalworker in Afghanistan

Noah sez, "I thought you would appreciate these giant insects made from repurposed materials (including vehicle parts and bits of a blown up toolbox) by metalworker Ben Marcacci, who is currently at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan."

Noah is correct.

I started making these types of piece's when I relocated to Camp dwyer (Aug 2011), I had the equipment and scrape material to do so, prior to Dwyer I traveled from base to base. Not being able to work with my first love (metal work) I found myself drawing more and more , but I like 3D, I like building things...so my skills for creating sculpture morphed into collecting "found objects" (soda tab, lock washers, o-rings, AFG coins) and I would build jewelry (mainly earrings) I gave a pair to my girlfriend and sisters, and the they wanted MORE... I continued to make them and I started cannibalizing items I would find in Local afghan bazaars. I'm currently working on a 3rd generation earring.

Giant (Upcycled) Metal Arachnids & Insects in Afghanistan (Thanks, Noah!) Read the rest

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