Raz Mohammad Khan and his adult son Abdul Jalil were shot dead in their home in the village of Sola, Oruzgan province, by Australian troops on August 31.
Claims by the Australian government and the US-led occupation forces in Afghanistan that the two men were insurgents have been refuted by villagers and US-appointed Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Occupation forces spokesperson US Air Force Captain Dan Einert described them as “military-aged”, the September 3 Sydney Morning Herald reported. Mohammad Khan was 70 years old.
The Australian attack on Sola was in response to the August 29 killing of three Australian soldiers in an Oruzgan patrol base. The three were part of the Training and Mentoring Taskforce.
As with an increasing number of occupation forces casualties, their killer was one of the Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers they were training and mentoring, identified as Sergeant Hekmatullah.
The death of two Australian special forces soldiers in a US helicopter, brought down by unknown causes, made August 29 the deadliest day for the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) since the Vietnam War.
The Sola operation, part of the as yet unsuccessful hunt for Hekmatullah, was “approved in accordance with normal processes” an unnamed ADF spokesperson told the September 3 Australian.
“During the mission, two suspected insurgents were killed and 12 people were detained,” the spokesperson said.
“The suspected insurgents were both positively identified as taking direct part in hostilities and were engaged in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
However, villager Sardar Mohammed told The Australian, “They were not Taliban, they were poor people.”
Sardar said he was at the village mosque for prayers, along with most of the villagers, when the Australian troops arrived in non-military vehicles.
“They brought everyone out of the mosque and houses and tied their hands. It was about 20 to 25 people and they started beating them a little bit. As soon as they captured me, they put a hood over my eyes.”
Sadar was one of 12 villagers — 11 men and a woman — detained overnight. The ADF claimed one of those detained was an “insurgent leader” who aided Hekmatullah’s escape.
A September 3 statement by Karzai’s office said: “The President condemns the operation as a breach of the memorandum of understanding signed between Afghanistan and NATO on the special military operations.”
The statement promised an “all-out probe into the incident so that (the) Afghan government can take a stand as required on the violation of the mutual agreement”.
Karzai was installed in power by the US-led invasion in 2001. He is the figurehead of a regime whose Afghan base is a patchwork of mutually antagonistic warlords, gangsters, terrorists and drug traffickers. None of these forces have any reason to tolerate Karzai other than his backing from the occupation forces.
The insurgents who are the supposed common enemy of this regime and the occupation forces are similar gangs themselves. Any given warlord, gangster, terrorist or drug trafficker decides whether he’s aligned with the Karzai occupation regime or the insurgency at any given time on purely opportunistic grounds.
An August 3 NBC News report described Karzai as the “Mayor of Kabul” on account of his lack of control outside the capital.
Asked whether the description was apt, head of the political science department at Kabul University Dr Wadeer Safi said: “A mayor is better off than Karzai because he can leave the city. Karzai is a prisoner in his palace.”
NBC put the same question to villagers in Charai Qamber, just eight kilometres southeast of Kabul, but outside Karzai’s control.
NBC said: “Mohammad spoke about the president of his country with a tone of disdain. He said Karzai has done nothing for his village or for the country as a whole — instead, he had made a few cronies in Kabul rich.
“While Mohammad said he did not like the Taliban, he thought his life was better before the US-led invasion …
“Babur … did [not] have a sense of security, even though they were just a few miles away from Kabul where there are checkpoints everywhere and heavily armed security forces.
“He also complained that his village did not have electricity or running water — villagers have to walk half a mile to a well near the academy. He spoke with contempt about America but seemed to be fond of Iran and Pakistan.”
With the US and its allies repeatedly announcing that in 2014 they will declare their mission successful and withdraw most of their forces, it is not surprising that Karzai tries to distance himself from the many killings of rural villagers in air strikes and raids by the occupation forces.
A spokesperson for Karzai, Aimal Faizi, told SBS Radio on September 4 that the killings in Sola had come to Karzai’s attention after a 1000-strong protest outside the local governor’s office.
Australian leaders have continued to claim the villagers were killed in combat. Defence minister Stephen Smith described them on ABC-TV’s Lateline on September 3 as “two insurgents removed from the battlefield”.
To back their claims, Australia and the occupation forces have cited Oruzgan provincial police chief, Matiullah Khan, whose forces are trained by the Australian military.
On August 13, the Sydney Morning Herald said 2010 Defence Department briefing papers obtained under freedom-of-information laws revealed that the Australian government’s concern about the publication of the “Afghan War Logs” on WikiLeaks, was revelations about Khan’s violence and corruption.
Australia’s ties with him “could adversely affect public perceptions of the campaign, [and] ADF operations in Afghanistan”, the papers said.
Australia continued to train Khan's private army, including in Australia, after the Dutch forces refused to work with him because of his involvement in drug trafficking, extortion and human rights abuses.
The October 29, 2010 SMH, reporting this, said abuses of which he was accused included a June 2010 massacre of 80 people, most of whom were carved up with knives. Khan was also accused of having “led hit squads that killed stubborn farmers who wouldn’t hand over land, livestock, and in some cases, their daughters”.
Last year, he was made police chief and his army became the local police forces. This was part of a nationwide project by the occupation forces to create an Afghan Local Police out of local warlord armies, reflecting that the occupation forces could not rely on the ANA.
ANA commanders are drawn from the elite of gangsters and warlords, but lower ranks are mostly motivated by poverty. Five million children in Afghanistan suffer acute malnutrition, infrastructure is nonexistent and employment limited.
The high number of Afghan civilians killed directly through occupation air strikes and raids, and indirectly through the violence and poverty it spawns, is the reason why ANA soldiers recruited from the rural poor are responsible for so many of the occupation force casualties — 45 so far this year.
With the occupying forces having spent 11 years “training and mentoring” the ANA and with only two years before the mission is to be declared completed, even normally pro-imperialist commentators are questioning the war. One example is the The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, in a September 6 editorial.
However, the billions of dollars spent on the military occupation and the embedded aid that has done nothing to alleviate poverty has been profitable to a vast industry of security contractors and infrastructure providers.
Furthermore, the Western aims in invading and occupying Afghanistan always had more to do with projecting power globally than anything in Afghanistan itself. An ignominious forced departure like that of US troops from Vietnam in 1975 would undermine this, which is why “staying the course” until the arbitrary 2014 deadline is so important.
In a September 4 opinion column, Sydney Morning Herald political and international editor Peter Hartcher explained why the carnage must continue: “To pull out now, after 11 years, and two years before the declared Australian and international timeline, would be a serious blow to Australia's national credibility, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, has pointed out.
“It would mean Australia was a country that could not keep its international commitments, a country that could be panicked by a handful of terrorists, a country that shrugs its shoulders after a decade of considered policy and the deaths of 38 of its soldiers and says it was all just a waste of time.”