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Morgan writes: "U.S. commanders have launched an investigation into video footage that appears to show an American service member firing into the cab of a civilian truck as the two vehicles pass on a road in Afghanistan, an action that could have violated the military's rules of engagement and may hamper the alliance with the Afghan government."

US soldier over Kabul. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Getty)
US soldier over Kabul. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Getty)


Leaked Video Shows a US Soldier Engaging in a War Crime in Afghanistan

By Wesley Morgan, Politico

11 January 18

 

.S. commanders have launched an investigation into video footage that appears to show an American service member firing into the cab of a civilian truck as the two vehicles pass on a road in Afghanistan, an action that could have violated the military’s rules of engagement and may hamper the alliance with the Afghan government.

The shooting briefly appears during a gritty montage of combat footage allegedly recorded by U.S. troops battling the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate. An anonymous user recently uploaded the video to YouTube under the title “Happy Few Ordnance Symphony,” then quickly removed it.

"The amateur video posted on a public website gives us serious concern," the U.S. Central Command told POLITICO in a statement. "The video in question is not official, not authorized and does not represent the professionalism of the service members of U.S. Central Command.

"We are conducting an investigation into this video, and will take appropriate actions as a result of this investigation," it added.

POLITICO could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video.

The 3-minute, 9-second video doesn’t say where it was recorded, but the YouTube caption suggested it was shot in 2017. In the past year, U.S. troops have been engaged in intense combat with the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province, the group’s main Afghan stronghold, where teams of special operations advisers are fighting alongside elite Afghan troops to wrest key districts from the militants.

The troops in the video wear uniforms typical of U.S. special operations forces like the Green Berets, SEALs, Rangers and Marine Raiders, and are seen firing machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets, miniguns, mortars and calling in air or artillery strikes. The video, which is also set to music, is typical of the unauthorized combat montages that some troops create to share among themselves, often using footage shot from helmet-mounted video cameras.

But in addition to the rare glimpse of such shadowy operations up close, the brief scene of the truck shooting, 20 seconds in, sets it apart.

The clip in question shows a military vehicle approaching a truck with a white cab and black cargo cabin, of the type Afghans often call “Jingle trucks.” Military sources identified the first vehicle to POLITICO as a version of the M-ATV armored vehicle specially outfitted for special operations forces.

The clip is filmed from the perspective of an individual armed with a shotgun who is standing in a rear hatch of the armored vehicle.

As the armored vehicle comes alongside the truck, the individual lowers his military-style shotgun and appears to fire into the truck's driver-side window, causing the glass to shatter.

The armored vehicle appears to continue on its way. It is not clear from the footage whether the driver was harmed. No recoil indicating the firing of the shotgun is clearly visible in the footage, nor is a shell or casing seen exiting the weapon.

Special operations veterans with experience in eastern Afghanistan, who reviewed the video at POLITICO’s request and agreed those depicted looked like special operations forces, said shooting a shotgun into the driver’s door of the passing truck raised potential red flags — possibly showing “an operator not doing the right thing."

But they were also cautious about drawing any firm conclusions without far more context. It was not possible to tell which unit the shooter was from, or anything else about why the event took place. In particular, they could not tell from the footage whether the shotgun shell was a “lethal” round or a less dangerous “non-lethal” one, such as one designed for breaching doors or windows.

“With the shotgun engagement, you figure it is a lethal round, as you are in combat, but from the video you cannot conclusively determine,” one former special operator with experience in Nangarhar said. “It could readily have been a beanbag, hammer, or other non-lethal round, as when it hits glass you are going to get a similar effect.”

Nevertheless, another former special operator, also with experience fighting in Nangarhar, said that his unit “never carried non-lethal rounds on mission” because it did not use shotguns for breaching purposes.

“It may have been an operator not doing the right thing and firing a non-lethal round just to be a dick,” the first veteran acknowledged. But he suggested other possible explanations.

If the special operations team was responding to an attack or threat from near the truck, he speculated, they might have been closing in on the vehicle from various directions in a larger movement not depicted in the brief video. More fire might have been exchanged than the video showed.

“You do not know if there were ground forces moving on the flanks,” he said. “It is hard for me to question the man on the ground.”

Still, Central Command, without addressing directly the shooting incident, expressed deep dismay about what the video appears to depict.

"I have reviewed the video and I am disappointed and also concerned that the American people, our Coalition partners, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people will believe that American service members are callous and indifferent to the horrors of war or the suffering of innocent people trapped in conflict," Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of Central Command added in a statement Wednesday. "I can assure you that this video does not represent the professionalism or humanity of the men and women of U.S. Central Command. We reject the unprofessional and callous message this video conveys."

The U.S. military headquarters in Kabul has lauded the Nangarhar mission as a rare success story in the stalemated war effort against the Taliban and other terrorist groups, citing recent success in winning some districts back from ISIS.

But it has come at a cost for the U.S. advisers. Of the 13 American troops killed by hostile action in Afghanistan last year, seven died in Nangarhar, and another Green Beret was killed in the province on Jan. 1.

Older and better trained than conventional troops, special operations personnel operate with more autonomy and in smaller numbers.

That less oversight has also led to periodic allegations of misconduct. In 2009, a top special operations admiral halted his troops' operations after a series of botched raids in eastern Afghanistan.

Those raids led to the deaths of local policemen and civilians, the wounding of a small girl, and protests from the Afghan government and U.S. embassy.


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+13 # bread and butter 2018-01-11 10:55
We'll find out who it was later, when he comes home and decides to do the same thing in an elementary school.

Isn't unquestioning support for the military great!

Isn't unquestioning support for the right of every lunatic to carry a gun great!
 
 
+7 # tedrey 2018-01-11 11:45
Every official comment here shows that the military is sorry the video went public. Not one comment expresses regret that the event occurred.
 
 
+8 # hiker 2018-01-11 13:17
"I have reviewed the video and I am disappointed... ." Sure you are. Disappointed it was seen.
 
 
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-11 13:36
If you just search Youtube for Us war crimes in Afghanistan (or anywhere), you'll find hundreds of videos. They show the most cruel and pathological behavior. If Americans really knew how their soldiers behave in other nations, they might change their views on the wars. But US mass media sanitizes all war. Raw footage is the only real news. The rest is propaganda.

It is always just so clear that US soldiers have been trained to hate the people they encounter. And these are all civilians. The US is not fighting any uniformed and trained military. They are just civilians trying to defend their homes and families.
 
 
+2 # bread and butter 2018-01-11 18:28
You said it. Unfortunately, we live in a country where we're required to worship members of the military as though they were gods. Given that fact, it literally attracts would-be mass murderers, so they can fulfill their urges while being called "heroes".

Little secret:

Some of the soldiers in Vietnam WERE baby killers.

Little secret #2:

The situation has gotten much worse, but you're not allowed to talk about it, or you hate America.
 
 
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-01-11 21:36
Strange, you know: we’re outraged by individual atrocities, but no one bothers about the War itself, which is nothing but a catastrophic assemblage of atrocities.
 

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