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Sunday, December 27, 2009

US drones kill and kill and kill

Missiles form US Predator drones struck a village in Pakistan over the weekend, killing at least 13 people. The attack coincided with reports of intensified operations by US assassination squads on the Afghanistan side of the border.
28 December 200

The drones continued hovering over the area, while a US B-52 bomber also conducted over-flights, terrorizing the local population, according to Pakistani media reports.

The deadly drone campaign has been directed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, using a clandestine airfield in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan and with CIA operatives sitting in front of video screens in Langley, Virginia, directing the missiles to their targets. The Pentagon is reportedly conducting its own drone attacks.

The Obama administration has sharply escalated the drone attacks, launching more than twice as many over the past year as the Bush administration carried out in its last year in office. The secretive nature of the CIA program is designed in large part to obscure the horrific toll in civilian lives inflicted through the firing of Hellfire missiles into Pakistani villages.

As with virtually all of these attacks, the US media parroted unnamed intelligence officials in claiming that the victims of the latest missile strike were all .militants,. without any corroboration of who had been killed.

The Lahore newspaper The News, citing figures supplied by Pakistani officials, reported in April that 687 civilians had been killed in approximately 60 drone strikes that had been carried out since January 2008. Given that fatality rate, with nearly 30 drone attacks having been launched since, the number of Pakistani civilians slaughtered in this fashion could easily have topped 1,000.

The New York Times reported Monday that the US military is making increasing use of its secretive Special Operations units as a key component of Obama.s Afghanistan .surge.. These forces.including the Army Delta Force and Navy Seals.are employed in finding and killing Afghans who are identified as leaders or supporters of the fight against the US-led occupation of their country.

Raids by Special Operations forces had been halted last February on the orders of the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Vice Admiral William McRaven. The raids were inflicting so many civilian casualties that they were generating popular support for the insurgents that outweighed the military importance of killing supposed leaders of the resistance. The suspension of these operations lasted only two weeks.

Now, General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has ordered that these attacks by Special Operations troops be greatly expanded. Before assuming command in Afghanistan, McChrystal had been McRaven.s predecessor as head of JSOC, where units under his command were implicated in the torture of detained civilians in Iraq.

The unleashing of these clandestine units against suspected leaders of the Afghanistan resistance will undoubtedly mean another sharp increase in the killing of civilian men, women and children.

The Times also reported that similar death squad operations are being mounted across the border in Pakistan, under the direction of the CIA.

Citing an unnamed official in Pakistan.s military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Times reported that there have been .more than 60 joint operations involving the ISI and the CIA in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan in the past year..

According to the paper, .the missions included .snatch and grabs..the abduction of important well as efforts to kill leaders..

The surge ordered by Obama will mean a sharp escalation of the violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, as well as an intensification of the social and political crisis gripping the entire region as a result of the US war.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan were included among the countries confronting the 10 worst humanitarian crises in an annual listing released by the French-based medical aid group, Doctors without Borders.

.Afghan civilians endured increasing levels of violence throughout the country. over the past year, the group reported. The fighting has brought the country.s health care system to the brink of collapse, and Afghans needing medical care .must now make an impossible choice: risk traveling hundreds of miles through a war zone to seek a medical care or allow a condition to worsen until it becomes life-threatening only to arrive at a health structure where services are greatly diminished..

US-led occupation forces, the report said, .have co-opted [medical] assistance for .hearts and minds. initiatives, occupied hospitals, and arrested patients in their beds..

Pakistan .was convulsed by intense violence throughout 2009,. the report stated, worsening an already desperate situation. .Across the country, people suffer from a general lack of health care, and Pakistan features one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the region..

The campaigns by the Pakistani military, egged on by Washington, created more than 2 million refugees from the Swat Valley and another 300,000 from North Waziristan, according to Doctors Without Borders. The military offensive forced the group to halt its medical assistance in Swat Valley, where it had supported the local hospital and provided ambulance services.

Hospitals and health clinics set up in displacement camps in neighboring districts were .overwhelmed,. the group reported, with patients suffering from .serious war-related injuries, among them children with gunshot- and explosive-related wounds..

The past year has also seen a precipitous rise in the number of US troops killed and wounded. Fatalities in Afghanistan for US occupation forces have reached 310 since the beginning of 2009, double the number killed last year. Roughly 2,500 American troops have been wounded during the same period, many of them suffering amputations and severe burns and head injuries resulting from roadside bomb attacks.

As US military commanders readily acknowledge, the pouring of 30,000 more American troops and tens of thousands more private military contractors into Afghanistan will mean a dramatic increase in the killing and dying produced by the eight-year-old US war.

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