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tv   Fault Lines  Al Jazeera  February 26, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm EST

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for humanitarian goods like food and medicine. but the oil also found its way to saddam hussein's government. this is where you need to go for everything that we're covering. it's all right there, about sixty miles south of kabul to clear taliban from the area. there's nothing unusual about this. us special operations forces often accompany afghan soldiers on these sorts of missions. i was in afghanistan at the time of the operation.
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a source called me to tell me that soldiers had beaten a man to death. he also told me it was too dangerous to go to charkh, so i drove as close as i could - to the provincial capital. this is the video i shot just days after the operation. >> at first it seemed like another footnote in the war. but after i returned home to copenhagen, more details began to emerge from my contacts in charkh. then six months later the un
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came out with its 2014 report citing civilian casualties. i found a short reference to the operation in it. >> the operation resulted in 28 civilian casualties (15 deaths and 13 injured). >> fifteen dead. how could fifteen civilian deaths from a joint us and afghan military operation go by almost unnoticed to the outside world? the report said that the international and afghan security forces denied civilian casualties. i knew i needed to go back to afghanistan if i'd any chance of finding out the truth.
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in 2009, eight years into the war in afghanistan, the united nations started trying to systematically document civilian casualties. 2014 marked the deadliest year on record. i was back in afghanistan to piece together what i could about the fifteen civilians who were killed on august 3rd 2014. i'd been given photographs of some of the people who died. one of those is farid mohammad, a driver with four children. his mother had been with him on the morning of the operation. it was still too dangerous for me to go to charkh, so she came to meet me on the outskirts of kabul. it is extremely rare for a rural pashtun woman to meet with a man
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she's not related to. she told me that on the morning of august 3rd, she and her son were driving to visit her sister in a village in charkh district for the eid holiday. she saw some soldiers on the roads, but says it was peaceful out. >> amana spent a month in hospital recovering from the
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loss of her finger and wounds to her abdomen. her son farid mohammad died leaving behind his widow and four children.
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>> i learned from the un that of the fifteen civilians killed during the military operation, four of them were boys. >> one of them was 11-year-old ayman khan. >> ayman khan's 13-year-old brother zewarshaa told me what
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he remembers from that morning the two boys were out collecting wheat together. >> zewarshaa told me that he lay down beside his brother to hide afraid that he would be targeted by the soldiers on the ground or by the aircraft flying overhead.
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>> their father nouroz khan tried to come and collect his son's body. >> it was three hours nouroz khan said before he could reach his sons.
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>> while reporting this story, i interviewed over thirty eyewitnesses and family members of civilians who had been killed during the military operation. but i wanted to find out more about who was responsible. i scheduled an interview with the united nations office that had published the brief report about the deaths. but just a few hours before we were due to meet they pulled out. they told me that they stood by their findings, but wouldn't give me an on camera interview. i was bitterly disappointed. i was able to track down a journalist who told me that then president karzai had sent an envoy to investigate the civilian deaths. >> so this guy is the investigator? >> the presidential envoy promised that the civilian
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deaths would be looked into thoroughly. >> but the family members i spoke to told me that the promises made at the meeting were not kept. i tried to reach the presidential envoy several times. he didn't return my calls. but there was one official investigation that did take place. it happened not because of any official process, but simply because of the tenacity of one man: mohammad khan, an engineer from charkh. his brother mohammad razeq was killed during the operation and mohammad khan was determined to get justice for his death.
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>> on the morning of the operation, mohammad khan said charkh seemed quiet. there were military aircraft flying above at a high altitude, but he said that was normal. mohammad khan said that he and his brother mohammad razeq were out driving when they saw three women crying on the side of the road beside an injured man. khan would later find out that the injured man was a member of the taliban. mohammad razeq got out to see
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what was going on, then they were suddenly surrounded by afghan special forces. >> the brothers were taken to the house of a local doctor where the soldiers were detaining people.
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>> mohammad khan was detained in the doctor's compound all day. it wasn't until evening that he was allowed to see his brother. the soldiers had asked the doctor who owned the compound to take a look at mohammad razeq. >> i had tried to reach the doctor who tended to mohammad razeq as he took his last breaths, but he refused to talk to me about what had happened.
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but his son mansoor, who had also been there that day, came to kabul to meet me. >> there he is. >> how come it is not possible for your father to talk to us about it? >> mansoor told me that during the night afghan soldiers came into his house and occupied it.
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>> the soldiers told mansoor that they would hold people in his family's house for questioning. >> mansoor says he saw mohommad razeq and two other men being beaten by afghan soldiers. can you tell me whether it was the foreign or the afghan forces who were beating razeq?
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>> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change. >> i was back in copenhagen, but i couldn't get what the doctor's son had told me out of my head. a man beaten to death by afghan soldiers with american special operations forces laughing in the background. finally there was a breakthrough.
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wali mohammad, the military investigator who had looked into mohammad razeq's death, agreed to talk to me on the phone. >> wali mohammad spent a month investigating the case. seven afghan commandos were tried and convicted for their involvement in mohammad razeq's murder, including a company commander who was sentenced to 18 years in prison. >> according to my sources the
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us forces on the ground that day were navy seals and an od-a unit of army special forces. the navy seals were deployed to the village where mohammad razeq was beaten to death. i wanted to find out why they hadn't intervened to stop the beating. and what they knew about the fate of the other fourteen civilians who were killed that day. fault lines contacted the us department of defense and the special operations joint task force in afghanistan. they both referred us to natos mission in afghanistan. >> nagieb - resolute support has not received any formal allegation from the governement >> i didn't know exactly what they meant by "no formal allegations." we followed up and asked them if they'd received any reports of civilian casualties from the august 3rd operation. that was over a month ago. we're still waiting for their answer.
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i couldn't get any information from the us about their involvement in the operation, but i was able to track down an afghan lieutenant, abdul shafiq, who was a commander on the ground on august third. over the phone, i asked him about the us's role in the operation. >> but when i asked him about the other fourteen civilians who had died that day, he told me he didn't know anything about them.
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>> with some afghan officials denying civilian casualties and others breaking their promise to uncover what happened in charkh, and with the us military stonewalling us, it felt like neither the afghans or the us were interested in getting to the truth. us congressman alan grayson sits on the house foreign affairs committee. he agreed to talk with me over the phone to discuss my findings. >> the un they've reported that there were fifteen civilian deaths in this area according to
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the sources that we spoke to, the civilians that weren't killed in crossfire. >> you understand that by the time of last summer, generally speaking, the americans weren't involved in any live fire incidents, that they had delegated that to the afghans and as you explained earlier in this call were simply acting as quote advisors. >> i told him about mohammad razeq's case: that us forces were allegedly watching as mohammad razeq was beaten to death, but did not intervene to stop it. >> normally when such an incident occurs there is in fact an investigation by the us military. whoever the witnesses were, were they us forces or otherwise, it's tragic that no one intervened but lets not equate watching an incident like that with perpetrating it. >> congressman grayson, thank you very much for taking your time to listen. >> what i did find out was that for us forces on the ground in afghanistan there is no legal obligation to intervene.
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even if a civilian is being tortured and beaten to death in front of them by afghan soldiers. they are, however, supposed to report the crime. the us military wouldn't tell us if even that smallest of obligations was carried out. it seems remarkable that fifteen afghan families can lose loved ones in a joint us-afghan operation and over a year on fourteen remain in the dark as to exactly what happened. nouroz khan still doesn't know which soldier fired the bullet that killed his 11-year-old son, or in fact why.
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>> this week on talk to al jazeera--lawyer and executive director of the equal justice initiative, bryan stevenson. >> we have to stop telling the lies that we tell about who we are. we celebrate our history of slavery. we celebrate our era of terrorism. >> stevenson has spent his career fighting racism in the criminal justice system--the legacy of slavery and times of "racial terror" continue to impact the lives of african americans today. >> what we did to african americans between the end of reconstruction and world war ii rivals anything we read about in the mideast today perpetrated by isis. >> the lawyer and his staff have worked to help more than 100 wrongly condemned prisoners awaiting death. >> for every nine people we've executed, we've identified one innocent person on dea


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