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Inside the U.S. military’s raid against its own security guards that left dozens of Afghan children dead

Author: Brett Murphy

Affiliation: USA TODAY

Organization/Publisher: USA TODAY

Date/Place: January 1, 2020, U.S. 

Type of Literature: Report

Word Count: 16,800


Keywords: Armor Group, Azizabad raid, United States, Afghanistan, G4S


This report is the upshot of multiple investigations of the August 22, 2008 “Operation Commando Riot”  raid in Azizabad, Afghanistan. The problem emanated in 2007 when Armor Group, (affiliated with G4S) a private security company working on a Pentagon subcontract, hired two local warlords on the U.S. intelligence payroll to provide armed guards at an airfield on the western edge of Afghanistan. They fought each other for control of the weapons and money given out by the Armor Group. The tangle of espionage and tribal infighting eventually drew in the military units. The Armor Group’s reliance on the false information about Mullah Sadeq, a Taliban commander’s visit and Taliban meeting, turned the city into a graveyard. The breakdown in the U.S. military intelligence machine culminated with the raid itself—a team of U.S. soldiers and Marines fighting its own paid security guards. Some troops were never warned of Azizabad’s civilian population, and the special operation commanders who did not know subsequently unleashed devastating force from the air. Ground troops directed an American gunship to demolish house after house where at least one insurgent took cover, without knowing who else was inside. The U.S. military officials publicly hyped the August 22, 2008, Azizabad raid as a victory: claiming that a high value Taliban target had been killed, that collateral damage was minimal, and that the village was grateful. But they denied the fact of 90 civilian casualties –most of them children, women and warlord guards. The investigation later confirmed that Mulla Sadeq escaped by inside tunnels and only civilians died in the accident. The author concludes that Oliver North, a former Marine commander who was embedded with the Operation’s soldiers as part of his television show segment “War Stories”, sought to present an image of success and mask evidence of a civilian casualty disaster.

By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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