A new video that appears to show Afghan soldiers beating a detainee under the gaze of American military personnel is starting to grab more attention. The footage has led two of our Observers to worry that crimes committed on the ground may go unpunished.
The video had reportedly been circulating on Afghan social media pages since September before being removed. It was subsequently obtained by Rolling Stone journalist Matthieu Aikins, who is currently investigating allegations that war crimes were carried out by US Special Forces in the country. The video shows what appear to be Afghanistan National Army [ANA] personnel pinning down a man already bound by the hands and feet, as he is repeatedly whipped. At the one-minute mark, the camera pans to reveal unidentified men who, judging by  their appearance and uniform, appear to be US soldiers. The men watch idly while the detainee’s torturers abuse him but do not take part in the beating.
It’s still unclear exactly when and where the video was shot. Speaking from Kabul, one of our Observers told FRANCE 24 that at least one of the men pinning down the detainee in the video – dressed in military fatigues – was very likely an ANA soldier.
A spokesperson for ISAF [International Security Assistance Force, the name for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan] told FRANCE 24 they were aware of the video and had referred it to the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, adding that “ISAF takes all allegations of improper conduct by ISAF personnel very seriously and is committed to investigating them.” The Afghanistan Ministry of Defense has also said it will investigate the incident.
According to the latest figures from ISAF, there are still around 86,000 coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan, including 60,000 American soldiers. They support some 187,000 ANA soldiers who have been gradually taking the lead in combat operations up and down the country.

“The US has shown a poor record in investigating such allegations”

Ahmad Quraishi is an Afghan journalist, based in Kabul. He wants the US to do more to prove it’s sincere about investigating allegations of complicity in torture and killings amongst its own troops.
A week ago the US Army was accused of complicity in the killing of 18 civilians in Nerkh province in Afghanistan. It is a matter of serious concern, but unfortunately the US has shown a poor record of investigating such allegations of abuse. If they show that they’re sincere in bringing their soldiers to justice, then the local people may warm to them little by little. If there is no investigation or prosecution it will reduce the confidence of ordinary people in both NATO and the Afghan government.
The people trust the Afghanistan National Army [ANA] more than the international troops. I myself have seen courts that the ANA has held against people accused of crimes similar to this, and they were given long terms in jail. I think the ANA has shown a better record than NATO troops in sticking to the law.
But in cases that have implicated US soldiers, there have rarely been prosecutions [in the US]. And when a prosecution is made, ordinary Afghans rarely hear about it: only about two million people here have access to the internet. To restore trust between its forces and the Afghan people, NATO needs to prove that accused soldiers are innocent. If they can’t, they need to say who they have prosecuted, and how long they have been sentenced for. Right now, we just don’t know what’s happening. This lack of information is part of the problem.
Article written by France 24 journalist Andrew Hilliar (@andyhilliar)

“All we can hope for is that it was reported to the Afghan leadership. Then let them handle it as they will”

Ernesto Haibi is a former US Army Medic. He retired in 2009, having served in Iraq. He says that as an occupying force in another land, it can be difficult for foreign soldiers to know how to react under such circumstances.
The unfortunate thing about situations like this is firstly that it’s their country. In a theatre like Afghanistan where we are essentially in someone else’s country you have to tread lightly. If the occupying forces in a country tell its soldiers what they can’t do, that reinforces an imperialistic sentiment. In a way, that would spoil relations. I don’t think it [the abuse] should’ve been done, but we have to be careful when it comes to what we call the status of forces agreement in these situations. We should try to stop this from happening, but unfortunately these Afghan soldiers may have been outside of our chain of command. If any NATO troops were indeed there, all we can hope for is that it was reported to the Afghan leadership. Then let them handle it as they will. But if they [the Afghan soldiers] did it for the sheer pleasure of torturing someone, they need to be punished severely.
It’s easy to look back and say to yourself that you should’ve intervened. At the very start of my tour [in Iraq], if I had seen what was going on in that video, I would’ve tried to stop it. But by the end of my tour, I would’ve just wanted to get out of there. War is hell, and by the time you’re half way through your tour, you just want to get home.
It’s not the first time American soldiers have come under scrutiny for their alleged conduct in Afghanistan. Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report in which it said there were now “hundreds” of allegations of “US complicity or participation in the abuse of detainees over the last decade in Afghanistan, Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay and in CIA custody in secret prisons.” The human rights organisation criticised what it called the US Government’s “meagre record” of “investigating and prosecuting human rights abuses allegedly committed by its forces” after 12 years in Afghanistan.