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August 24, 2010

A(nother) U.S. special forces night raid goes wrong


(Friends and relatives of three Afghan students killed in a recent raid by US Special Forces pray during a memorial for the trio earlier this month in Kabul.)

It began with an Aug. 12 press release from the US-led military in Afghanistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan (Aug. 12) - An Afghan and coalition security force killed several suspected insurgents and detained many more, including a Taliban commander, in Wardak province Wednesday.

The commander conducted improvised explosive device, direct fire and indirect fire attacks against Afghan civilians, and Afghan and coalition forces.

The security force targeted a series of compounds in Zarin Rhankhel in Sayyidabad district to search for the commander.

As the security force approached the area, several suspected insurgents showed hostile intent from one of the targeted compounds. The assault force engaged the threat, killing the men. After securing the compound, the assault force detained one suspected insurgent.

At a series of compounds nearby, Afghan forces called for all residents to exit each of the compounds peacefully and then secured the area.

After questioning the residents, the assault force identified and detained the commander and three additional suspected insurgents.

"This capture will severely degrade Taliban operations in the Tangi and Shehkabad district. Now one less criminal is on the streets endangering Afghan civilians with his indiscriminate IED attacks," said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. The security force protected the women and children throughout the search.

The press release was one in an endless stream coming from the US-led forces that often passes with little scrutiny.

In this case, the press release captured some attention because the killings sparked an angry, anti-American protest by Afghans who accused the US special forces of killing three young, innocent Afghan students who had just come home, hours before the raid, to be with their family for the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, prayer and contemplation.

As it turned out, the information in the press release proved to be inaccurate and, in many ways, misleading.

After checking the identity of the target of the raid, US officials now concede that they aren't sure that they have the right man. So, one less insurgent was not off the street, the Taliban operations were not degraded, and the three "suspected insurgents" appeared to be students and not militants at all.

And the suspected target of the raid wasn't even captured in the compound where the three guys were killed. The suspected commander was found in a compound 100 yards away.

While the press release creates the impression that US forces took fire from the "suspected insurgents" firing from a distance "as they approached the area," in fact, the three students were killed in a cramped room inside the compound where their family said they had gone to study for the evening.

The story told by the US military paints a dramatic picture of three brothers with one AK-47 who were shot, one after the other, as they tried in succession to pick up the lone rifle in the room.

Family members said they had no weapons in the compound and accused the US special forces of murder.

Blood stains in photos provided by the family suggest that the three were killed where they had been sleeping.

Night raids remain one of the biggest points of friction between the US-led military and Afghans.

A surge in special forces teams has created a dramatic spike in night raids. On average, the US military says, special forces teams are conducting more than 30 operations each day.

The US is quick to point out that, in most cases, the raids end without a shot being fired.

From Aug. 5, 2009, to Aug. 5, 2010, the American-led coalition said, the special forces team involved in the Wardak operation killed or captured 553 targets in 1,225 raids. The assault teams opened fire in only two of every 10 cases, the military said.

But it is not the raids that end without a confrontation that Afghans remember; it is the ones that end in dispute.

"He was not Taliban," Omid Ali, 21, said in broken English about his school friend Ismail Nemati, one of the three killed in the raid. "I want to say to President Obama: Afghanistan doesn't have hostility towards foreign forces, but, these mistakes, that is how they will be defeated in Afghanistan."


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The notorious cheap skate finally decided to have a party. Explaining to a friend how to find his apartment, he said, "Come up to 5M and ring the doorbell with your elbow. When the door open, push with your foot."
"Why use my elbow and foot?"
"Well, gosh," was the reply, "You're not coming empty-hangded, are you?"

Dear Dion Nissenbaum,


My name is Dawn Weleski, and I am one of the collaborators of Conflict
Kitchen: http://www.conflictkitchen.org

I am writing to you to ask for your cooperation with a project discussing
Afghan culture, everyday life, and politics, called Bolani Pazi. Please
feel free to participate as your time and comfort level will allow.

Bolani Pazi, an Afghan take-out restaurant that will be located in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, is the second iteration of Conflict Kitchen
(to open mid-October). The Afghan take-out restaurant will serve bolani
with a choice of four different fillings: potato and green onion, pumpkin,
lentils, or spinach. The bolani will be packaged in a custom-designed
wrapper that highlights the thoughts, perceptions, and opinions of Afghans
both in the U.S. and in Afghanistan. While the take-out restaurant is
serving Afghan food, we will create programming that extends and deepens the
dialogue between everyday Americans and Afghans.

In an effort to collect quotes for the wrapper, I am writing to you with
a short list of questions that I would ask each of you (if you are an Afghan
that has even lived in Afghanistan or is currently living in
Afghanistan) to answer (LISTED BELOW). You many answer as many questions as
you wish. Additionally, if you have feedback on these questions, please
feel free to send it my way so that we can adjust our approach before we
send out to a larger group. Please send all answers to
dawnweleski@gmail.com. Please pass along these questions to other Afghans
that you may know.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions and concerns. Finally,
please allow me to extend me sincere appreciation for your participation.
This collaboration is the crux, the heart of the Conflict Kitchen project.


Dawn Weleski
Conflict Kitchen collaborator
U.S. cell: +1 724-681-3886
skype: dawn.weleski

***Please note that these questions were created to reflect those that
might be on the mind of the AVERAGE American.***

As a woman, what's your role in Afghan culture? In your family?
What do you do when you get together with other women?

What is your ethnic heritage?
How do you in general express your/their ethnic identity?
How do the differnt Afghan ethnicities relate to each other?

What is a essential food for all Afgan households, and how are these foods
acquired (cultivated at home, local market, imported from other
Do you get take away or street food often? What do you get? What is the
experience like?
What makes a good bolani?

What do you think of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan?
How has everyday life changed for you since the American occupation?
What perceptions do Afghans have of average Americans living in the U.S.?

What do you do for fun or leisure?

Describe the current Afghan government structure.
What's the most important issue that you would like your government to
What type of government do you see in the future for Afghanistan?

How available is public education in your community?
What informal education has shaped your lifestyle and value system?
Was your education secular or did it maintain some level of religious
What sort of education do you wish for you child?

How do Afghans find husbands or wives?
What's dating like in Afghanistan?

What are your feelings about the Taliban?
What are your feelings about Al-Queda?
What role, if any, do either of these groups play in your day-to-day life?

What role do cell phones and personal electronic devices play in daily
Afghan life?

What are your hopes for your children?
What are your hopes for your country?



Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from
countries that the United States is in conflict with. The food is served
out of a take-out style storefront, which will rotate identities every 4
months to highlight another country. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration will
be augmented by events, performances, and discussion about the the
culture, politics, and issues at stake with each country we focus on.

Kubideh Kitchen, our current iteration, is an Iranian take-out restaurant
that serves kubideh in freshly baked barbari bread with onion, mint, and
basil. Developed in collaboration with members of the Pittsburgh Iranian
community, the sandwich is packaged in a custom-designed wrapper that
includes interviews with Iranians both in Pittsburgh and Iran on subjects
ranging from Iranian food and poetry to the current political turmoil.

As a wounded and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, I can honestly say the military will lie about anything and everything. Our politicians and generals are getting away with murder. MURDER MOST FOUL. Wake up America, we are destroying our country from within with these foreign wars.

As a wounded and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, I can honestly say the military will lie about anything and everything. Our politicians and generals are getting away with murder. MURDER MOST FOUL. Wake up America, we are destroying our country from within with these foreign wars.

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Checkpoint Kabul is written by McClatchy journalists covering Afghanistan and south Asia.

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