An enlisted man who accused two Special Forces soldiers of illegally killing an Afghan man last year testified in a court Tuesday that he would not have agreed to make the accusation if he had known that a military investigation already concluded the killing was justified.Sgt. First Class Scott R. Haarer, a paralegal for the lawyer responsible for initiating the murder charges, said that if he had known about the investigation’s findings, “I would have requested that I not sign the document” that officially accused the two soldiers in June of premeditated murder….The hearing is meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to convene a court-martial for Capt. Dave Staffel and Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, the two Green Berets accused of killing a man the Army considered an “enemy combatant.”
On Captain Staffel’s order, Sergeant Anderson killed the man, Nawab Buntangyar, on Oct. 13 after a team of Special Forces soldiers discovered him walking outside his residential compound near the village of Ster Kalay, a few miles from the border with Pakistan. Special Operations commanders in Afghanistan had placed Mr. Buntangyar on a “Top 10” list of individuals to be captured or killed, according to other testimony heard Tuesday, because he had organized a local cell of suicide attackers and helped build bombs.
Yesterday’s International Herald Tribune throws some more colour into the picture:
To the Special Forces soldiers and their 12-man detachment, the shooting, near the village of Ster Kalay, was a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement. They said those rules allowed the killing of Buntangyar, whom the American Special Operations Command here has called an “enemy combatant.”
But to the two-star general in charge of the Special Operations forces in Afghanistan at the time, Frank Kearney, who has since become a three-star general, the episode appeared to be an unauthorized, illegal killing. In June, after two military investigations, Kearney moved to have murder charges brought against Staffel and Anderson – respectively, the junior commissioned and senior noncommissioned officers of Operational Detachment Alpha 374, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.
The soldiers’ cases also highlight the level of scrutiny that Kearney, who also ordered swift investigations into an elite Marine unit accused of killing Afghan civilians last March, has given to the actions of some of the most specialized and independent U.S. troops fighting Taliban and insurgent forces along the border with Pakistan.
Mark Waple, a civilian lawyer representing Staffel, said that the charges against his client and Anderson carry a whiff of “military politics.” In an interview, Waple said that Kearney proceeded with murder charges against the two soldiers even after an investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded in April that the shooting had been “justifiable homicide.”
A spokesman for Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg declined to comment on the shooting or the murder charges. Lieutenant Colonel Lou Leto, the spokesman for Kearney’s previous command, where the murder charges originated, also did not comment. Kearney was promoted in July to lieutenant general and became deputy commander of Special Operations, where a spokesman declined to discuss the case.
On Oct. 13, 2006, when Staffel learned that Buntangyar could be found in a home near the village where his detachment was guarding a medical convoy, he ordered a seven-man team to investigate the tip.
Driving toward Ster Kalay in two government vans, the Americans called the Afghan national police and border patrol officers to assist them, Waple said. Buntangyar had already been “vetted as a target” by U.S. commanders, as an enemy combatant who could be legally killed once he was positively identified, Waple said.
After the Afghan police called Buntangyar outside and twice asked him to identify himself, they signaled, using a prearranged hand gesture, to Anderson, concealed with a rifle about 100 yards away, Waple said.
From a vehicle a few hundred yards farther away, Staffel radioed Anderson, Waple said. “If you have a clear shot,” he told the sergeant, “take it.”
Confirming the order, Anderson fired once, killing Buntangyar. The U.S. team drove to the village center to explain to the local residents, “This is who we are, this is what we just did and this is why we did it,” Waple said.
The highest-ranking witness called to testify at the soldiers’ hearing Tuesday will be Kearney, though it is unclear whether he will comply with the request.
Also scheduled to testify is Sergeant First Class Scott Haarer, a paralegal on Kearney’s staff last October who, as part of the military justice procedure, signed the forms that charged Staffel and Anderson with murder.
‘Whiff of military politics’? No shit!
So anyway, if this chap Buntangyar was so very definitely a 100%, cast iron guaranteed terrorist mastermind, why not book him into Hotel Guantanamo for a quiet chat about his friends? Isn’t that what it’s for?