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Pentagon Invents Taliban Atrocity in Khataba

U.S. Special Operations Command cover-ups turn Afghans against U.S. military and toward Taliban
Matthew J. Nasuti (Former U.S. Air Force Captain)
Monday 19 April 2010

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It was early morning on February 12, 2010, in the village of Khataba near the city of Gardez in Paktiya Province, Afghanistan. A local family was celebrating the birth of a child. Suddenly, gunfire erupted from a nearby rooftop striking two men, two pregnant women, their unborn children and an 18-year old girl. The two men appear to have been killed instantly. The women were injured and reported bled to death because the gunmen would not allow them to be taken to a local hospital. Other family members were forced out of the home and detained. The gunman turned out to be American special operations troops.

Realizing that they had killed seven innocent people, the Americans immediately began to create what would become a series of false stories and fabricated incidents. They would destroy evidence of this potential war crime and ultimately attempt to blame the killings on the Taliban. The killings might well have been accidental, but the cover-up was premeditated, intentional and criminal. It causes one to wonder what other alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda “atrocities” have been manufactured by the Pentagon, and how many other Afghan civilians have been killed by the American military, with the Taliban being falsely blamed. The credibility of the American military is at stake in this case.

This article seeks to unravel the facts. It sets out some of the lies and fabrications, and attempts to identify some of those responsible. This incident may merit the United Nations Security Council appointing a special prosecutor as it did in the case of the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Harari.

At approximately 4 a.m. on February 12, 2010, noises outside the compound of Hajji Sharaf Udin, prompting his son, the Zurmat District police chief (Mohammed Daoud) and his brother (Mohammed Saranwal Zahir), the provincial district attorney, to open the door of the compound to investigate. When the police chief saw that one of the exterior lights was out, he walked into the family courtyard where he was shot and killed. His assailant apparently was on a nearby rooftop. The police chief’s brother rushed to his rescue, along with three unarmed women.

One sniper shot them all. Two of the women (Saleha and Shirin) were pregnant and the third (Gulalai) was an 18 year old teenager. The women collectively were the mothers of 16 children.

The other occupants of the home were forced outside by gunpoint and interrogated. American forces sealed off the compound until approximately 11 a.m. (seven and a half hours later). After that, Afghan government officials were permitted to enter the compound. One eyewitness reported that the Americans were not wearing military uniforms. If true, such conduct would violate the rules of war.

Later that day, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in Kabul, issued a news release. We reprint it in its entirety:

“Joint Force Operating in Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery.”
“An Afghan-international security force found the bound and gagged bodies of three women during an operation in Gardez district, Paktiya Province last night. The joint force went to the compound near the village of Khatabeh, after intelligence confirmed militant activity. Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed.

Subsequently, a large number of men and women and children exited the compound and were detailed by the joint force. When the joint force entered the compound, they conducted a thorough search of the area and found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed. The bodies had been hidden in an adjacent room. The joint force immediately secured the area and requested expert medical support and will conduct a joint forensic investigation. Eight men were detained for further questioning.”

ISAF officials then briefed the news media and expanded on the news release. They stated that two “insurgents” had “engaged” (i.e., fired on) ISAF forces and had been killed. They stated that troops then discovered three women inside the compound. The women had been dead for a number of hours, they were stabbed and were discovered bound and gagged. ISAF officials initially implied that the women had been the subject of an “honor killing” by their relatives. Other officials later suggested that the women had been killed by the “insurgents” occupying the compound. As The Times (of London) reported on April 13, 2010, ISAF was clearly attempting to blame the killings on the Taliban.

On March 13, 2010, ISAF spokesperson U.S. Navy Captain Jane Campbell issued a second news release entitled: “ISAF Rejects Cover-up Allegation.” Captain Campbell repeated the initial story about the American soldiers discovering the bodies of three women. The story about the women being “bound, gagged and killed” was slightly modified. Captain Campbell now explained that “The women’s feet had been tied, and they had cloth straps that immobilized their jaws, evidently in preparation for burial.” This of course was not true as the Special Operations troops had shot and killed them.

On April 4, 2010, ISAF issued another news release, this one apparently drafted by Canadian Brigadier General Eric Tremblay. After two months, ISAF finally admitted the following:

  • Its forces had killed two innocent men and three women, and
  • There had been no fire fight.

General Tremblay made no mention of the unborn children that the Americans had killed. Tremblay stated the statements about the women being bound and gagged and killed was “due to a lack of cultural understanding.” [this of course is nonsense] Tremblay concluded by stating:

“While investigators could not conclusively determine how or when the women died, due to a lack of forensic evidence, they concluded that the women were accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men.”

Any lack of forensic evidence was solely the result of the military’s refusal to collect such evidence. It had absolute control of the crime scene for more than seven hours. On April 4, 2010, ISAF spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale, insisted to the Kabul news media that there had been no cover-up and that there was no evidence of any inappropriate conduct by any military personnel. He stated that the troops were acting on intelligence information from a reliable source.

Mohammed Tahir, the father of the 18 year Gulalai, told investigators that he witnessed American troops taking photographs and he saw one soldier with a knife trying to extract the bullets from his daughter’s body. Other witnesses present included Sayyid Mohammad Mal, who is the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University. His son was engaged to Gulalai.

ISAF officials revealed that the troops involved were American special operations forces and that they were not under ISAF command. It appears that the troops were either from Delta force, or more likely from Navy Seal Team 6. They were operating in Afghanistan under the immediate authority of Vice Admiral William McRaven, Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. Ultimately the troops were under the command of Admiral Eric Thor Olson, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base. Admiral Olson remains sequestered in his Tampa, Florida headquarters. He needs to show some leadership and integrity and hold a press conference. At that conference, Admiral Olson should:

  • Explain what occurred;
  • Provide details as to the orders that were issued to the troops;
  • Address each of the false statements;
  • Release the complete military report on the killings;
  • Identify those responsible for the killings and the false statements;
  • Explain why none of these military officials are being prosecuted; and
  • Provide information on the informant that provided the “intelligence” and what action has been taken against the informant.

There are seven issues here.

First: Were these killings an accident or were the killings so reckless and unnecessary so as to constitute seven murders?

Second: Why has it taken two months for the American military to admit that its troops killed the civilians in Khataba? The investigation should have taken hours - not months. Why will the military not admit to killing the two children?

Third: Regardless of whether the killings were accidental or reckless, the evidence is overwhelming that there was a cover-up. Admiral Olson needs to detail who was involved in this and who knew about it. No official who had any knowledge or complicity in any of the false statements deserves to still be in either ISAF or the U.S. military.

Fourth: What steps have been taken to prevent a recurance of this scandal? The public deserves more than a vague statement that ISAF will try to do better in the future.

Fifth: Why will the Pentagon not admit that, after nine years of warfare, it is still launching raids based on faulty intelligence? What is it doing to sanction or prosecute informants who deceive the military into attacking innocent civilians?

Sixth: Why is there silence from the American Embassy in Kabul. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry’s refusal to speak out regarding this scandal should destroy whatever credibility he has left.

Seventh: What is the impact of this scandal?


The killings and the cover-up, and the refusal to prosecute those responsible, may fuel the insurgency. On March 26, 2010, The New York Times published an article by Richard A. Oppel. Based on interviews with ISAF officials at Bagram prison, The New York Times was able to confirm that most of the Taliban prisoners in American custody had joined the Taliban to avenge the arbitrary arrests, prison abuses, killings, bombings and other outrages that have been carried out by American and ISAF forces.

By all accounts the Taliban was militarily and politically defeated by December 2001. What The New York Times article reveals is that American military heavy-handedness and blunders are largely responsible for reviving the Taliban and turning it into the 30,000+ army that it is today.

The irony is that the Pentagon, in 2001, established rules of engagement for its forces in Afghanistan which essentially permitted soldiers to kill anyone who they subjectively believed might be a threat. Those rules were designed to reduce American casualties. In actuality, those rules sanctioned the killing of an excessive number of noncombatants, which began a cycle of revenge which has continued for nine years. These rules of engagement may have ultimately increased American casualties and may jeopardize the withdrawal of American forces. Despite the growing evidence that its rules of engagement are escalating the war, the Pentagon has refused to modify them. The Pentagon still does not understand that excessive killing begets more killing. More killings only increase American casualties.

Prior to the Fall of 2001, the Taliban was a reclusive army of religious extremists. Today, they are a savvy, multinational insurgency, with broader support because their umbrella now includes nationalistic and anti-foreign forces elements, along with those seeking revenge for ISAF and American abuses, killings and secret prisons.

If history is any judge, the Khataba killings and their cover-up may have pushed family members, relatives, tribal members and others into the ranks of the Taliban. The impact on the battlefield from this scandal may continue to be felt for years.


The second impact is that ISAF and the Americans may find themselves with zero credibility in the future. This is not an instance where there was an exaggeration, or spin or a false statement or two. This is not the tale of a few bad apples. What occurred in the aftermath of these seven killings was a carefully orchestrated cover-up. The level of detail and the number of military officials who would have to be involved, is evidence of a systemic effort to blame the Taliban and others for civilian killings carried out by American special operations troops.

The refusal to appoint a general or flag rank criminal investigating officer exposes the high level of official support for this criminal conspiracy. The impact is nothing less than the loss of the moral high ground to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. If the American military can kill civilians and try to place the blame on others, then they have only themselves to blame if future statements of theirs are characterized as lacking in credibility. Incidents such as these aid the enemy and can change the course of a war.

It is not too late to fix this. General Stanley McChrystal should begin by firing General Tremblay, Captain Campbell and Lieutenant Colonel Breasseale and sending them home. Next he should release the full military report on the incident and third, he should appoint a four-star General or Admiral as, what the U.S. military calls, an “Article 32 Investigating Officer.” The criminal investigation should encompass the killings and the cover-up by ISAF and U.S. Special Operations Command. All these actions should be transparent and expeditious.

For more information go to:

www.salon.com - “U.S. forces’ horrifying Afghanistan coverup” by John Kepka.

www.afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com - “Man loses 5 family members in disputed NATO raid” by CNN correspondents Atia Abawi and Muhib Habibi.

www.cnn.com - “Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan “honor killing.”

www.timesonline.co.uk - US special forces tried to cover-up botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan” by Jerome Starkey.

www.nytimes.com - “Afghan Investigators Say U.S. Troops Tried to Cover-Up Evidence in Botched Raid” by Richard Oppel and Abdul Waheed Wafa.

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Forum posts

  • Some of us are never surprised about these American atrocities. Why? Perhaps in my case it is because I have lived in Iran and Afghanistan and closeby countries and I lived not as a rich American but as a person who went down to the bazaars, the mosques and the stores the same way a native does. I have always been an eccentric in my culture. I was the only one who marched with Martin Luther King when I was in High School in Ohio in 1964. Recently in my online High School classroom I mentioned there was extreme racism there. One of the rich popular girls got online to do the "cover-up" for their racism: she said I was just different and so I was accusing them of things they didn’t do like racism. She was white ........ soon a black girl emailed me to tell me all the racism she experienced there ......... you see I have noticed that Americans are great in forgetting and covering up their wrongdoings. Of course all humans are,, but with the help of the media and various "law enforcement authorities" there are Americans who are experts at cover ups of wrong doings. When they said Saddam Hossein had weapons of mass destruction, I turned to my daughter and said, "No he does not have weapons of mass destruction, they are lieing and they will go into Iraq and torture, Murder and kill." you see I know "them" very well because I study them all my life.

    There are various Afghani writers on here who have said Afghanistan needs America in order to develop and protect them. Those people might as well realize (and I am sure since there are so many Afghani immigrants to US that they know already what I say ).... that women are abused and treated unfairly here as well as anywhere; that American justice system is corrupt and full of black american convicts who never were guilty of the offense they were imprisoned for. The reason for that is that in America if you can’t afford to pay a good lawyer you are garbage in an American courtroom. You all know American women soldiers are raped and abused at war so you should also know that they are here too. In America when they do the statistics on poverty, women and children compose all most all of the poorest people in America. Yet America is so good at a cover up that people in Afghanistan look to America for moral guidance in matters of gender, law and justice and war. There is something you should know: bullies and murderers always can afford the best lawyers and win in court. And even if they are convicted, the terms of their punishment are much better than a poor person’s. Just ask me: at a young age a liar told the police I had the biggest drug stash in the world in my house. The full law enforcement brigades attacked my apartment like wolves and murderers AND FOUND NO DRUGS OR ANY OTHER LAW BROKEN. No problem, for them because as they say, "they will find something to accuse you of anyway". And then you have to find a lawyer and go up against the organized lies of the authorities. In my case they also set me up to be "raped" by a lesbian dyke in the holding cell while they watched. They had given me a glass of pineapple juice with drugs in it to make me pass out and then ................... after i passed out ....... ... i woke up knowing I had been "raped": due to the obvious symptoms in my body. ....... I didn’t say anything in the jail and just got out immediately. Then I told and found that many others had been done the same way but also called liars. This seems preposterous: "being raped by a woman" well if you are unconcious...
    So, almost 10 years later I saw the lesbian who had obviously done this as she was the only other person they put in my holding cell. I overheard her saying to someone: "the police pay me to push women’s female organs back up in them with my fist while they are unconcious"....whatever that crazy statement means. that is what felt like happened to me when I woke up. Good luck over there, you are going to need it.

  • A few days back i was watching a directory in a TV channel on News, Media and its affiliations with Politics and that how all the Spectacularly Huge Media in the west worked in the favor of U.S war criminals, on many occasions the embedded reporters would call a heart-shaking bombs and rockets scenes on cities as “Vow what a beautiful Fire Show”!!!!

    Leaving behind some few websites in Afghanistan, the rest of the Media is fully controlled by either U.K or U.S, if you dare to speak out the truth you would be shown the way to Bagram Prison in no time. The Media in the west is still and will always mislead the public in the favour of their visious military and political operations - well that is how they have designed business and politics together.

    Since long i have been noticing how the US citizens back home are criticizing Islam and Afghans esp. Pashtuns, i’ll give you some examples:

    In comments to the AP reports in Yahoo almost 80% of the Americans say muslims are terrorists, they are extrimists and fundematalists and most of them say Kill every one on the ground and nuke em!!!!!! but yet they don’t know who their heroes on the ground engage with, terrorists or pregnant women??


    in the recent edition of Oxford dictionary fundemantalim is described as, Strictly adhering to the ancient Fundamental principles or doctrine of any religion, ESP Islam - however in the old version of that it is not said ESP. Islam. Now lets look at the Webster dictionary describing Fundemantalism - a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching.

    It is because of the WESTERN MEDIA that the word fundamentalist is linked with other words like terrorist and insurgent, any one would simply be refered to a terrorist if called a fundamentalist.

    Mr. Nasuti, i tell you what - In Garamser district of Helmand province a group of U.S marines is based (talking of 2 years back) witnesses said they were like Vampires, killing was their profession and the week they didn’t kill some one, either insurgents or civilians, they wouldn’t enjoy the weekend!!

    While i totally agree with you, Mcchrystal must prosecute those involved in civilian deaths and fire those under whose command these crimes are committed.

    We need Media people like you to spread the truth, two thumbs up for the brave work!!


  • And yet in another fresh incident in Logar province where NATO killed civilians and detained some others on Sunday the 25th April tens of civilians protested against NATO. And in the same province last week civilians went on streets to protest another such incident.

    This is the third incident after one on Kandahar-Kabul road where International forces targeted a civilian Buss, where civilians go on protest. I am not counting the others, i.e one last week in Khost province where a teenage boy was shot-dead in his car.

    I just dont understand why they keep killing civilians?? And the Afghan government does nothing but to CONDEMN these acts. Where is the UN? the Human Rights Organizations??

    There must be pressure on both national and international level on these troops to stop these vicious crimes. And we need honest media to report these incidents.

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