TIME India

Afghan President Wants His Nation’s Cricketers to Play ‘Home’ Games in India

Ashraf Ghani Afghanistan President
Andrew Burton—2015 Getty Images Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations on March 26, 2015 in New York City.

Afghanistan, a fledgling cricket nation, hopes for support from the sport's powerhouse

Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India next week, his first since becoming President of Afghanistan last year, has been highly anticipated for the many potential bilateral strides forward. While initiatives like a transnational road corridor will definitely be on the agenda, Ghani is hoping the visit will yield something even closer to his heart — a home ground for the national cricket team.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board has apparently been assured by the President that he will try his hardest to convince New Delhi to allocate an arena for the Afghan side to host matches, a representative for the board told Indian newspaper The Hindu.

“It will really help our players if India were to reserve a home ground for us,” said team manager Basheer Stanekzai. “Our players are good; they need exposure and facilities like camps.”

The growing enthusiasm for cricket in Afghanistan mirrors that of South Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, buoyed by the team’s rapid rise within the past decade. Afghanistan won its first World Cup match against Scotland earlier this year (along with the hearts of the cricket world) after qualifying for the 2015 edition of the sport’s marquee one-day event.

But the threat of violence in the war-torn nation deters international teams from visiting, and the Afghanistan side currently plays its home games at Sharjah in the UAE. The Indian government is already funding the construction of a stadium in the traditional Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, but Ghani will also be hoping for an open invite from India for his countrymen — at least as far as cricketers are concerned.

TIME Afghanistan

ISIS Claims Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan That Killed 35

Afghanistan
AP Afghan security forces members inspect the site of a suicide attack near a new Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, April, 18, 2015.

This is the first major ISIS attack in Afghanistan

At least 35 people died in a suicide bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday morning, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) claiming responsibility for what, if confirmed, would be the terrorist group’s first major attack in the country.

More than 100 people were wounded in the bombing outside a bank branch in Jalalabad in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province.

“Who claimed responsibility for horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Daesh [as ISIS is also known] claimed responsibility for the attack,” Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said during a visit to northeastern province of Badakhshan. He did not identify the source for the claim.

Separately, a militant group linked to ISIS reportedly released a picture of the alleged suicide bomber who struck the bank branch in Jalalabad as people queued up outside to collected their paychecks. The New York Times identified the branch as same one that was attacked in 2011. Responsibility for that bombing, which killed 38 people, was claimed by the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman denied responsibly for the suicide attack on Saturday, telling Reuters: “It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it.”

If confirmed as an ISIS attack, Saturday’s suicide bombing would mark a significant expansion of the terrorist group’s activities from its base in the Middle East. The attack comes against the backdrop of a significantly reduced presence of foreign troops in the conflict-ridden nation as international forces exit Afghanistan. In March, President Obama announced a slowdown in the pace of withdrawal of U.S. troops in the country, saying America would maintain a nearly 10,000-strong force in Afghanistan through 2015.

The announcement was made during a visit to the U.S. by President Ghani, who, in a speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, warned of the “terrible threat” posed by ISIS to the “states of western and central Asia.”

“Terrorist movements whose goal is to destabilize every state in the region are looking for new bases of operation,” he said. “We’re the front line. But terrorists neither recognize boundaries [nor] require passports to spread their message of hate and discord. From the west, the Daesh is already sending advanced guards to southwestern Afghanistan.”

The suicide bombing was one of three explosions that shook Jalalabad on Saturday morning, including what was reported to be a controlled detonation after authorities discovered motorcycle rigged with explosives.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Could End Up Charging CIA Officials With Murder Over Drone Strikes

A landmark case may open the door for a possible multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit launched by relatives of the alleged 960 civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan

A senior judge in Pakistan has ordered police to formally investigate former CIA agents for allegedly authorizing a 2009 drone strike.

If the case moves forward, it may subject the U.S. embassy in Islamabad to sensitive police investigations and even result in U.S. citizens for the first time being charged with murder for covert drone strikes in the South Asian nation.

Last Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered police to open a criminal case against former CIA Islamabad Station Chief Jonathan Bank and ex-CIA legal counsel John A. Rizzo for murder, conspiracy, terrorism and waging war against Pakistan.

The complainant is Kareem Khan, whose son Zahin Ullah Khan and brother Asif Iqbal were killed in an alleged December 2009 CIA drone strike in the mountainous Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.

The case was lauded as the “first of its kind for directly implicating and naming a CIA official” by University of Hull international legal expert Niaz Shah.

However, the Pakistani police appear unlikely to comply with the judge’s order, having already refused on two previous occasions. “[We] are appealing the case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” Islamabad police superintendent Mirvais Niaz told TIME on Wednesday, citing jurisdictional disputes.

Mirvais maintains that the local Waziristan authorities should investigate the incident as that’s where the deaths occurred; Khan, a journalist, argues that an Islamabad bench should try the case as that’s where he contends the decision to launch the strikes was made.

However, the case appears to rest on whether Pakistan’s political apparatus is willing to pursue a sensitive legal action that police say may imperil U.S.-Pakistan relations.

According to court documents seen by TIME, not only does Khan’s case implicate ex-CIA officials, it also calls for an investigation into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, where Khan believes the drone strike was ordered.

“The Pakistani government has questions to answer about why they have fought the filing of this criminal complaint if they are indeed opposed to the drone strikes,” said Jennifer Gibson, an attorney with international legal aid charity Reprieve. “They’ve been fighting it in court at every level.”

Even if the investigation receives the green light, bringing ex-CIA officials to trial will be an onerous battle in Pakistan. Should Bank and Rizzo fail to appear, one recourse is the international police body Interpol, which can extradite former CIA officials to stand trial, says Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the Pakistani attorney leading case. However, cases against CIA officials seldom succeed, even when Interpol is invoked, for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity. (In 2005, Italy unsuccessfully forwarded a request to extradite CIA agents to Interpol, an action repeated by Germany in 2007 with a similar result.)

“It’s very difficult to get the CIA to come to court in Pakistan,” Akbar told TIME in March.

The CIA removed Bank from Pakistan after he received death threats following his public identification in Khan’s initial $500 million civil lawsuit in 2010. He became chief of Iran operations but was removed for creating a “hostile work environment” and now works in intelligence for the Pentagon, the Associated Press reports. Rizzo, who Khan alleges authorized the strike that killed his family members, worked in Pakistan as a CIA lawyer and has since retired. Both are currently living in the U.S. and appear unlikely to return to Pakistan to stand trial.

CIA spokesman Christopher White declined TIME’s request for a comment on the case involving Bank and Rizzo.

As the case moves ahead, some see it paving the way for a possible multibillion-dollar class-action suit against U.S. officials. The U.S. has carried out more than 400 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, with the most recent on Sunday, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Since 2004, drone strikes in Pakistan have allegedly killed up to 3,945 people, including some 960 civilians. The U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan focuses on drones to uproot the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militants in Pakistan’s fractious tribal areas.

In 2013, the Peshawar High Court, whose rulings apply nationwide, declared U.S. drone strikes illegal in Pakistan and demanded compensation for civilian victims. Likewise, in April 2012, Pakistan’s Parliament issued a resolution that “no overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.” Neither the 2013 Peshawar court ruling nor the 2012 parliamentary resolution seems to have halted the U.S. drone campaign inside Pakistan.

Should the former CIA officials prove difficult to prosecute, civilians harmed by drones may pursue other legal channels. “The [drone victims] may also be able to sue the state of Pakistan for failing to protect them from harm caused by someone else. The state is responsible for protecting people and their lives,” said the academic Shah, who also serves as an advocate of the High Court in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the political will to pursue drone-related litigation remains shaky in Pakistan, where many believe “tacit consent” allows U.S. drone operations to continue. In 2012, U.S. officials familiar with the drone program told the Wall Street Journal that Pakistan clears airspace and sends acknowledgment receipts after the CIA faxes upcoming drone-strike alerts to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.

In an interview with TIME, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam rejected the principle of tacit consent as a “rumor” and said Pakistan was continuing to pressure the U.S., both in private and public meetings, to end the drone program, given the success of its own counterterrorism operation in Waziristan, Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

“Drone operations without our permission are violating our sovereignty, and they result in collateral damage — killing off large numbers of innocent civilians — which creates more resentment,” she said.

Nevertheless, in the leaked 2013 Abbottabad Commission report, the former head of the ISI appeared to publicly acknowledge Pakistan signing off on U.S. drone strikes: “It was easier to say no to them in the beginning, but ‘now it was more difficult’ to do so,” said the ISI’s former director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha. The classified document reported that “The DG [director general] said there were no written agreements. There was a political understanding.”

The veracity of the report was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry, but suppressed inside Pakistan, prompting an inquiry into how information was leaked.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. operates drones with the cooperation of foreign governments, in part to protect strategic alliances. In a 2013 speech at the National Defense University, which remains the Administration’s most comprehensive and recent public statement on drone policy, Obama said “America cannot take [drone] strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners and respect for state sovereignty.”

Still, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rebutted Obama’s speech a few months later, saying, “The government of Pakistan has made its position clear that drone strikes constituted a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, violative of international humanitarian laws, besides being counterproductive to our efforts for bringing peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”

Ultimately, the Islamabad High Court’s action may reveal more details of how the drone program operates in Pakistan and which state agencies, if any, interface with U.S. officials in the decisionmaking process. Pakistan’s courts, increasingly powerful and independent, have emerged as an important arena to wrestle for these answers.

For Khan, who is still desperate to learn who ordered the death of his brother and son, culpability is less important than accountability.

“The Pakistani government owes it to Kareem Khan, and the many other civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes, to honor the judgment. Justice and an end to drone strikes are long overdue,” said Gibson, the Reprieve lawyer.

In a statement after the judge’s order last week, Khan said, “I sincerely hope that authorities now will do their job and proceed against the culprits.”

TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Haunting Photo of a Starving Afghan Boy

Gul Ahmad, an infant boy suffering from acute malnutrition, is covered by his mother's scarf while being treated in the therapeutic feeding centre ward at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) administered Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capial of Helamnd Province in southern Afghanistan. Malnutrition, according to MSF staff, is a chronic problem in Afghanistan. In most cases it is not malnutrition that sees children admitted to hospital but an illness that has been brought on by the child's inability to fight off infection because its body is so degraded of vital nutrients. In infants in Afghanistan, malnutrition is often the result of mothers feeding their baby's formula or even tea instead of breast milk. The reason for this is generally a lack of access to information and education for new mothers.
Andrew Quilty—Oculi Gul Ahmad, an infant boy suffering from acute malnutrition, is covered by his mother's scarf while being treated in the therapeutic feeding center ward at the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) administered Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan on April 6, 2015.

“This photograph is certainly hard to look at,” says photographer Andrew Quilty

Andrew Quilty’s photograph is hard to read at first. Under this sea of orange, we can barely distinguish a form: an infant Afghan boy, named Gul Ahmad, who suffers from acute malnutrition.

His mother has covered him with her orange scarf, protecting him from the heat and the dust of the place.

Gul’s story is just one among many. Each month, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) treats 250 malnourished children at its Boost Hospital in the Helmand province; and recent UNICEF research predicts that hundreds of thousands children will suffer from severe malnutrition this year in Afghanistan.

When Quilty, an Australian photographer based in Kabul, visited the hospital, he saw dozens of women attending to their sick children and grandchildren. “In Afghanistan, for a man, photographing women is highly frowned upon and so the moment you enter a ward the mothers and grandmothers will instinctively wrap themselves in their scarves and often face in another direction,” Quilty tells TIME. “As a photographer, you really have to focus on the child individually, and also be patient and wait until the mothers understand that you don’t want them to prop their children up, turn them over or wake them from sleep so you’re able to take the picture they think you want to take.”

When Quilty first noticed Gul, his mother’s first reaction was to take the orange scarf away. “In that sort of case I try to indicate that they don’t have to do anything differently,” he says. “You already feel very disruptive being in the ward as it is, so I suppose you try to do what you can to minimize that disruption.”

Quilty’s eerie image speaks of the dire conditions in a country that has gone through successive conflicts since the late 1980s. “This photograph is certainly one of, if not the only image of my own that I’ve really found hard to look at,” he says. “I suppose it has something to do with the fragility or the innocence of this boy. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he appears to be all alone as well as obviously physically vulnerable. I think the orange scarf also has—in an abstract way—the effect of making Gul appear as if he was still in utero—in the most innocent stage of life.”

The photograph also makes Quilty angry, he says, especially after hearing his own Prime Minister speak about the end of the war in Afghanistan meaning hope for a brighter future. “It’s like, we came and left a giant mess but we’re out now so we can wash our hands of it,” Quilty says. “In Helmand, the fighting is only getting worse.”

Andrew Quilty is an Australian photographer based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in March, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Matt Black‘s work from Guerrero state in Mexico. Black has documented impoverished indigenous communities in southern Mexico for years. This latest work captures communities affected by rampant crime and poverty, including the disappearance of the 43 students from a school in Iguala. The black-and-white photographs are extraordinary and the accompanying short-film, which includes a moving letter from a mother to his lost son, is definitely worth watching. The reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

Matt Black: Guerrero and the Disappeared (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Watch “The Monster in the Mountains,” a short film based on Black’s work in Guerrero.

Adam Ferguson: The Deadly Global War for Sand (Wired) These stunning photographs document sand mining in India.

Lynsey Addario: India’s Insurgency (National Geographic) Addario’s pictures capture mineral-rich eastern Indian states, plagued by poverty and a continuing Maoist insurgency.

Josh Haner: The Ride of Their Lives (The New York Times) A fantastic year-long project that follows three generations of one rodeo-mad family | More on the Lens blog

Yuri Kozyrev: Cuba (TIME LightBox) TIME contract photographer’s beautiful work from the Cuban capital.

Mathias Depardon: Gold Rivers (TIME LightBox) Construction of the hydroelectric Ilisu Dam in Turkey threatens a cultural treasure.

Lynsey Addario: Afghan Policewomen Struggle Against Culture (The New York Times) A compelling series on Afghani women determined to make a difference.

Newsha Tavakolian: Stress and Hope in Tehran (The New York Times) These excellent portraits paired with insightful quotes give us a peek inside the minds of Iranians.

Eugene Richards: Lincoln (National Geographic) Richards’ photographs trail the assassinated president’s last journey home in 1865 and raise questions about his life and legacy.

Matteo Bastianelli: Young Syrian Refugee’s Journey Through Europe (MSNBC) The Italian photographer has documented a Syrian refugee’s life in Bulgaria and journey to Germany. | More on his agency’s website

TIME Afghanistan

Thousands Are Protesting in Afghanistan Over the Savage Lynching of a Young Woman

Her death is as a symbol of the injustice and violence faced by many, especially women, in the country

Large numbers of people took to the streets in the Afghan capital Kabul for a second day on Tuesday, protesting against the brutal death of a woman who was falsely accused of burning the Quran and killed by an enraged mob.

Men and women painted their faces red and carried banners bearing pictures of 27-year-old Farkhunda’s bloody face while chanting, “Justice for Farkhunda” and “Death to the killers,” reports the Associated Press.

Farkhunda, a religious scholar, was beaten and run over by a car before her lifeless body was burned and thrown into the Kabul River by a mob last Thursday.

She had been arguing with a local mullah about his practice of selling amulets to women at a shrine. During the argument, she was accused of burning the Muslim holy book and a crowd overheard and attacked her.

An official has confirmed that Farkhunda did not desecrate the Quran.

Demonstrators on Tuesday called for action against officials and religious leaders who initially said her death was justified.

A spokesperson for Kabul police, Hasmat Stanikzai, was fired over comments he made on social media supporting her killers.

According to AP, 28 people have so far been arrested and 13 police officers have been suspended over the incident.

Some demonstrators see Farkhunda’s death as a symbol of the injustice and violence faced by many people, especially women, in the country.

“She is an example of probably what has happened silently to many,” Amrullah Saleh, a political leader and former director of the state intelligence service, told AP. “She drew a line with her blood between those who want justice, rule of law, and those who are extreme in their views and who breed in lawlessness”

[AP]

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Slows Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan

President Obama said the U.S. will keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan this year, as that country’s leaders had asked he slow the process of removing troops by 2017.

“This flexibility reflects a reinvigoration in our partnership with Afghanistan,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Tuesday.

Obama had previously said he wanted to draw down the remaining 9,800 troops to about half that number by the end of the year, with the goal of having between 1,000 and 1,500 in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah have spent the past two days in Washington meeting with high-level officials and expressing gratitude for the American government’s assistance as he seeks to assert control in the country. The Afghan leaders’ trip to the U.S. have marked a bit of a new way forward between the two countries. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Monday referred to the relationship as “revitalized.”

Ghani said the flexibility will allow the country to accelerate reforms to ensure its security forces are better trained and focused on their fundamental mission and to ensure that they “honor human rights.”

“Tragedy brought us together, interests now unite us,” Ghani said at the press conference.

Obama noted that slowing the drawdown means more Americans will remain in Afghanistan who would have come home, but he stressed that the overall goal of returning most troops by 2017 hasn’t changed.

“Providing this additional timeframe,” he said, “… is well worth it.”

TIME Congress

Congress Boosts War Spending as Wars Wind Down

Paratroopers march up the ramp as they return home from Afghanistan at Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Chris Keane—Reuters Paratroopers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, march up the ramp as they return home from Afghanistan at Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, NC on Nov. 5, 2014.

The 2016 House and Senate budget proposals for war spending that moved toward a congressional floor vote this week were loaded up with tens of billions of dollars more than the Defense Department requested, representing the largest increase lawmakers have attempted to add to the executive branch’s requests for such funds.

These moves — which come as the Obama administration tries to wind down the U.S. war in Afghanistan and to steer clear of a large new incursion in Iraq — were pushed through by Republican lawmakers that since 2003 have received a total $8 million in contributions from the political action committees and employees of top defense contractors, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

The proposals emerged from a convoluted congressional debate that pitted pro-defense hawks against federal deficit hawks, with the former — backed by defense industry lobbying — emerging triumphant.

The impetus for boosting war spending is that Congress enacted strict controls on regular Pentagon spending in 2011 and alleviated them only slightly last fiscal year, making a cut likely unless the Pentagon and the defense industry found new funds elsewhere. Supportive lawmakers as a result turned to the only military account not subject to spending caps, namely the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), a funding category created in 2001 for temporary expenditures associated with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Center for Public Integrity reported in December, OCO over the years has become a slush fund for lawmakers and administration officials seeking to retain or expand military programs with no direct relationship to those wars.

But they’ve never sought to do it as blatantly or unashamedly as they did this month, when the Senate Budget Committee voted in a straight party-line vote to spend $96 billion in the OCO budget for 2016, and the House Budget Committee voted similarly to spend $94 billion. The amount appropriated for OCO in 2015 was $63 billion. While no precise listing of the additional programs to be funded under the Republican proposals has yet been released, lawmakers who favored the OCO increases did not assert that the extra funds were needed only for the wars.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) were the principal sponsors of the successful Senate amendment to grow the OCO account. In urging a positive vote, Graham — who is exploring a presidential run — provided a long but imprecise list of security threats: “Everything that you have in common, radical Islam hates, and if somebody doesn’t do something about it soon, they will come our way again,” he told the committee, adding that increases to the OCO account were needed “to defend the nation.”

Signaling a difference of views among Republicans, the House Rules Committee on Monday night approved two versions of the OCO provision, requiring a final decision on the House floor. One sets OCO spending at $94 billion but requires $20 billion of that sum to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, and another sets OCO spending at $96 billion while not requiring any offsets.

In total, the 67 current members of the House and Senate Budget and House Rules committees have received $15.6 million in adjusted dollars from the 2013 fiscal year top 75 defense contractors’ PACS and employees, from 2003 through the end of the 2014 election season.

On average, the top defense contractors gave Republicans $264,244 apiece while Democrats and Independents received $189,881. The lion’s share of contractor support went to the Senate Budget Committee’s 12 Republicans. The contractors’ PACs and employees contributed $5.7 million to their campaigns and leadership PACs, or an average of $472,219 per lawmaker.

Republicans on the House Rules committee received a total of $2.3 million, making them the second-highest average recipients of contractor largesse.

Graham received $760,244. The other sponsor of the amendment to increase the OCO fund, Ayotte, has less seniority than Graham but is one of the top average recipients of defense contractor contributions, calculated on a two-year basis, among the 67 committee members. First elected to the Senate in 2010, she’s raised $363,205 from the top contractors.

Two Senate Budget Democrats were also among the top 10 recipients of defense contractor contributions, though they voted against the Graham and Ayotte amendment. Hailing from a state that many defense companies call home, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia received $1,053,271 in adjusted dollars. He was followed by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the fourth highest recipient overall, who received $823,536 in adjusted dollars.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) disputed Graham’s claims during last week’s Senate Budget Committee hearing, saying the United States already spends more on defense than the next nine countries, and he rebuked his fellow senators for adding to the national deficit. “Republicans took us into protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and ran up our national debt by trillions because they chose not to pay for those wars,” he said in a prepared statement.

The Center calculated campaign contributions in 2014 dollars from the top 75 defense contractors, as ranked in fiscal 2013, using campaign data compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics as well as data from the Federal Election Commission.

This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. To follow their investigations into government spending and national security, follow them on Twitter.

TIME On Our Radar

Winner of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award Revealed

American photographer Heidi Levine wins the inaugural award

“I think it’s the highest honor I’ve ever experienced in my career,” says American photographer Heidi Levine, the first recipient of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award. “Yet, at the same time, I really feel heartbroken because of the circumstances in which this award was created.”

Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press (AP) photographer died a year ago when she and her AP colleague Kathy Gannon were shot by a uniformed Afghan police officer in Khost Province, Afghanistan. The International Women’s Media Foundation launched the award to honor Niedringhaus’ courage and dedication.

Levine was selected for her work covering last year’s conflict in Gaza, the most recent set of images she’s produced about the enclave since moving to the Middle East in 1983.“I’ve [always felt] this calling to bear witness,” she tells TIME. “I know that most people don’t understand why we do what we do; why we run forward when everyone else is fleeing; why we’re compelled to do this. And this award will help me continue to believe in what I’m doing and not give up.”

For the judges, who included TIME’s director of photography Kira Pollack, AP’s vice president Santiago Lyon and Michele McNally of the New York Times, Levine’s work showed that her “courage and commitment to the story” were unwavering. “She documents tragic events under dire circumstances while displaying a depth of compassion for the people she encounters,” the jury said in a statement.

Levin will receive her award, as well as a $20,000 cash prize, at a ceremony in Berlin on June 25.

The jury also gave honorable mentions to photographers Anastasia Vlasova and Rebecca Blackwell for their work in Ukraine and Central African Republic, respectively.

TIME Military

Afghan President Thanks the Pentagon … and U.S. Taxpayers

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the Pentagon courtyard Monday morning. DoD photo / Sean Hurt

Ashraf Ghani stops by Defense Department to acknowledge U.S. sacrifices

Nearly 14 years after the U.S. military forced the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan, the country’s new leader showed up bright and early Monday morning in the Pentagon courtyard to thank American troops and taxpayers for their sacrifices for his country.

Unlike Hamid Karzai, who served as Afghanistan’s president from 2004 to 2014, Ashraf Ghani is far more accommodating to U.S. concerns. He thanked the 2,215 U.S. troops who died in Afghanistan, the 20,000 wounded, and the nearly 1 million who served there.

“You have been in the most remotest valleys, and the highest peaks, and the parched deserts, and beautiful valleys, but also in most demanding situations,” he said. “When you wake up at night, sometimes you’re not sure whether you’re back there or here, but what gratifies me as the president of Afghanistan is what I’ve had the honor to hear repeatedly from American veterans, ‘I have left a piece of my heart in Afghanistan.’”

Ghani is in the U.S. this week to meet with President Obama and seek Washington’s continued help, both military and financial, to strengthening his struggling nation. He is spending much of Monday with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry discussing his nation’s needs at an Obama-free Camp David. Ghani knows how this game is played: he worked at the World Bank, two blocks from the White House, for more than a decade before returning to his homeland in 2002 following the Taliban’s overthrow.

Ghani said he hoped American veterans of the war in Afghanistan will someday return as tourists with their families so that Afghans “will be able to say thank you to each one of you personally, shake your hands, and invite you to our homes.”

Unlike Karzai, who could be taciturn, Ghani was good natured as he praised the U.S. generals who commanded the Afghan campaign. “Let me say these generals hardly get more than six hours of sleep. And thanks to Pentagon, most of the time, because of [overnight] video conferences, they don’t even get that,” he said to laughs from his chilly-morning Pentagon audience.

He praised Obama for his “sense of clarity” in ending the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan three months ago, and the U.S. role in creating “a proud Afghan security force that has dealt with the best of you and emulates the best of your example.” Nearly 10,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.

Finally, he thanked U.S. taxpayers for making “your hard-earned dollars available” to rebuild his country. The U.S. has spent nearly $700 billion in Afghanistan since 2001. Ghani pledged “to account for every single one of those dollars and pennies.” That will delight the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who has spent years trying to do just that.

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