Afghan officials say they’ve got video of a man overseeing the torture of Afghan civilians. Exactly who ordered the man to torture is a matter of fierce dispute — and also helps explain this year’s erosion of trust between Washington and Kabul.
Allegedly, there’s a videotape in Afghan government hands showing a man named Zakaria Kandahari presiding over the torture of an Afghan civilian who, along with 15 others, recently disappeared from Wardak Province. According to the New York Times, Kandahari, an American citizen, is “seen conducting” the torture session and “supervising” others.
But there is great disagreement over who Kandahari actually is. The Afghans say that Kandahari leads a U.S. Army Special Forces unit recently kicked out of Wardak over allegations of torture, disappearances and executions. The U.S. military command says unequivocally that Kandhari was an interpreter for the unit, not a leader; that he’s not actually an American; and that the unit was not involved in any torture.
The video is only one component of the evidence Afghans told the paper they’ve compiled against Kandahari and the Special Forces A-Team that was in Wardak’s Nerkh District. A 16-year old named Hikmatullah said Kandahari picked him up on incorrect suspicion of being an insurgent. “Mr. Kandahari beat and kicked him until his shoulder was dislocated. He was released after three days, he said,” the paper reports, “but his brothers are missing.”
The suspicion helps explain why President Hamid Karzai abruptly called in February for U.S. special operators to leave Wardak Province. It took only a few weeks for Karzai, the recipient of CIA money, to soften his position: the elite troops immediately left Nerkh, but they’re still working out a timetable with the Afghan government to vacate Wardak entirely.
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