SF CHRP

SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.

Biographer Defended Petraeus’ Village Destruction Policy

Then outgoing Afghanistan U.S. commander David Petraeus with then incoming commander John Allen (photo by Joshua Treadwell/ISAF).

Over the recent controversy of former general and CIA Director David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell Gareth Porter, for the Inter Press Service, wrote an article over Broadwell’s defense of Petraeus’ village destruction policy while he was in charge of the military occupation in Afghanistan:

Paula Broadwell, whose affair with Gen. David Petraeus brought his career to a sudden end last week, had sought to help defend his decision in 2010 to allow village destruction in Afghanistan that not only violated his own previous guidance but the international laws of war.

n the late summer and early fall, commanders in those districts had been ordered to clear the villages of Taliban presence, but they had taken heavy casualties from IEDs planted in and around the villages.

As commander of Combined Task Force I-320th, Lt. Col. David Flynn was responsible for several villages in the Arghandab valley, including Tarok Kalache.

Flynn told Spencer Ackerman of the Danger Room blog in early February 2011 that, once he felt he had the necessary intelligence on IEDs in Tarok Kalache, he had adopted a plan to destroy the village, first with mine clearing charges, which destroyed everything within a swath 100 yards long and wide enough for a tank, then with aerial bombing.

U.S. forces completed the destruction Oct. 6, 2010, dropping 25 2,000-pound bombs on what remained of Tarok Kalache’s 36 compounds and gardens, according to Flynn’s account.

And in an interview with the Daily Mail nearly three weeks after Tarok Kalache had been flattened, Flynn revealed that he had just told residents of Khosrow Sofla that if they didn’t inform him of the location of the IEDs in their village within a few days, he would destroy the village.

Flynn later confirmed to Ackerman that he had told the residents, if they couldn’t tell him exactly where the bombs were located, he would have no way of disposing of them without blowing up the buildings.

The sequence of events clearly suggests that Flynn was using the destruction of Tarok Kalache to convince the residents of Khosrow Sofla that the same thing would happen to them if they didn’t provide the information about IEDs demanded by Flynn.

The destruction of Tarok Kalache was thus a “collective punishment” of the residents of the village as well as “intimidation” of the residents of Khosrow Sofla – practices that were strictly forbidden by the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons.

Article 33 of that agreement states, “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

The village destruction also contravened a central principle of the counterinsurgency guidance that had been promulgated by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal when he became the top commander in Afghanistan in 2009.

“Destroying a home or property jeopardises the livelihood of an entire family – and creates more insurgents,” said McChrystal’s guidance.

Petraeus had confirmed that prohibition in an August 2010 guidance, warning that killing civilians or damaging their property would “create more enemies than our operations eliminate”.

But Petraeus was under pressure from the Barack Obama administration to produce tangible evidence of “progress” that could be used to justify troop withdrawals. He needed to be able cite the clearing of those villages, regardless of the political fallout.

Petraeus himself clearly approved the general policy allowing the destruction of villages by Flynn and other commanders in Kandahar in late 2010. Flynn told Ackerman he had sent his plan up the chain of command and believed that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters were informed.

Carlotta Gall reported Mar. 11, 2011 that revised guidelines “reissued” by Petraeus permitted the total destruction of a village such in Tarok Kalache, according to a NATO official.

In a comment apparently reflecting Petraeus’s concern, she said the unit “could not afford to lose momentum”.

Broadwell claimed the residents had abandoned the village when the Taliban “conducted an intimidation campaign to chase the villagers out”.

The article portrayed Flynn as forced to choose between “suffering the tragic losses and the horrific daily amputees” to clear the four villages in question and destroying the IED-laden homes.

In a comment apparently reflecting Petraeus’s concern, she said the unit “could not afford to lose momentum”.

Broadwell claimed the residents had abandoned the village when the Taliban “conducted an intimidation campaign to chase the villagers out”.

Broadwell repeated an ISAF claim that the compounds were booby-trapped, but residents insisted to Noori that only some compounds had explosives.

Finally Broadwell claimed that the villagers who had lost their homes and gardens had told Petraeus and other visitors that “Flynn was their hero and they wanted him to move into the village with them.”

Then she acknowledged that villagers were “pissed about the loss of their mud huts”, adding cheerfully, “but that’s why the BUILD story is important here.”

Advertisements

Information

This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by and tagged , , .

Sign-up for our newsletter

%d bloggers like this: