A US Blackhawk army helicopter flies over the mountainous area of Gorbuz district, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan [AFP]
Drawing information from top secret documents spirited away by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel reports that the “kill list” used by NATO forces in Afghanistan included low-ranking members of the Taliban along with drug dealers suspected of supporting them.
As the war in Afghanistan draws to a close after 13 years, new information is becoming available describing NATO conduct in the war-torn nation. According to the newly released documents, NATO maintained an extensive list — including up to 750 names at times – of Afghans (found here) slated for death, including mid- and lower-level Taliban operatives along with drug dealers who allegedly supported the insurgents.
Drawing on field reports and internal documents, Der Spiegel documents an attempted attack on a Taliban member named Mullah Niaz Mohammed — nicknamed “Doody” in reports — in 2011 that instead resulted in the death of a nearby child, while critically injuring the child’s father.
“Doody,” who was number 3,673 on the kill list, had been designated as a priority level three on a scale of one to four by NATO, meaning he wasn’t particularly important within the Taliban leadership structure. Spotted on the ground by the crew of a British Apache combat helicopter, the pilot and gunner were given the go-ahead to kill him, however poor visibility resulted in a launched Hellfire missile striking the child and his father instead. Realizing they had missed their target, the Apache pilot then fired 100 rounds at “Doody” with his 30-mm gun, critically injuring the man.
According to reports, the U.S. changed tactics in Afghanistan after President Barack Obama assumed office, focusing on fighting the Taliban insurgency with targeted attacks on Taliban members rising to between 10 and 15 a night. Those attacks were based upon lists maintained by the CIA and NATO, in a strategy called “escalate and exit” by the White House.
Under General David Petraeus, NATO forces focused on a three part strategy: a cleansing phase, in which the enemy leadership is weakened, followed by local forces regaining control of the captured areas. The third phase was focused on reconstruction.
When describing the “cleansing” phase, Michael T. Flynn, head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) intelligence in Afghanistan, reportedly told a group of German officials: “The only good Talib is a dead Talib.”
Smoke ascends after a Syrian military helicopter allegedly dropped a barrel bomb over the city of Daraya on Jan. 31.(FADI DIRANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary Barrel bombs are not especially effective weapons. They are often poorly constructed; they fail to detonate more often than other devices constructed for a similar purpose; and their lack of precision means they can have a disproportionate effect on civilian populations.
However, combatants continue to use barrel bombs in conflicts, including in recent and ongoing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, and they are ideally suited to the requirements of resource-poor states.
Barrel bombs are improvised devices that contain explosive filling and shrapnel packed into a container, often in a cylindrical shape such as a barrel. The devices continue to be dropped on towns all over Syria. Indeed, there have been several documented cases of their use in Iraq over the past months, and residents of the city of Mosul, which was recently …
In the final years of the Soviet Union, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began orienting his foreign policy toward Asia in response to a rising Japan. Putin has also piloted a much-touted pivot to Asia, coinciding with renewed U.S. interest in the area. A good expression of intent was Russia's hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2012 in Vladivostok, near Russia's borders with China and North Korea. Although its efforts in Asia have been limited by more direct interests in Russia's periphery and in Europe, Moscow recently has been able to look more to the east.
Shia loyal to the al-Houthi movement ride past Yemeni soldiers near Yaz, Yemen, in May. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
The success of a rebel campaign in northern Yemen is threatening to destabilize the already weak and overwhelmed government in Sanaa. After capturing the city of Amran, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, in early July, the rebels from the al-Houthi tribe are in their strongest position yet. The Yemeni government is developing plans to divide the country into six federal regions, and the rebels believe this is their chance to claim territory for the future bargaining.
The central government is nearly powerless to fend off the rebels; its forces are already stretched thin. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen before and still supports Sunni tribes in the north, but the risk of inciting a Shiite backlash or creating space for jihadists to move in could deter another intervention.
Followers of Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shiism, rul…