TIME Afghanistan

Taliban Suicide Bombers Kill 7 in Kabul, Wound 21

Afghanistan
Afghan security forces guard the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on Oct. 1, 2014 Massoud Hossaini—AP

Wednesday's attacks involved two suicide bombers targeting buses carrying Afghan troops in the country's capital

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — Taliban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul early Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 21, just a day after the signing of a key U.S.-Afghan security pact.

The long-awaited deal allows U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of 2014, ending the uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over the fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Wednesday’s attacks involved two suicide bombers targeting buses carrying Afghan troops in the country’s capital.

The first attacker hit a bus with Afghan National Army officers in west Kabul, killing seven and wounding 15, said the city’s criminal investigation police chief Mohammad Farid Afzali.

The second attacker, who was also on foot, blew himself up in front of a bus in northeastern Kabul, wounding at least six army personnel, Afzali said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the security pact with America has only motivated the group and given the Taliban “more morale” to fight the enemy.

“They need to give more sacrifices to make their homeland free,” Mujahid said, referring to Taliban fighters.

In a separate statement to media, the Taliban denounced the Bilateral Security Agreement as an “American plot” and said that “such fake documents will never hold back the lawful jihad,” or holy war.

In Kabul, dozens of Afghan security forces sealed off the attack sites, littered with broken glass, as military ambulances took the victims to hospital. Worried Afghans passed by, on their way to work.

Under the security pact, along with a separate deal signed with NATO, about 10,000 American troops and several thousand more from other NATO countries will stay to train and advise Afghan forces after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

There are also serious questions about the ability of the Afghan security forces to take on the militants, even with a residual U.S. force remaining in the country.

In other violence, two police officers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle late Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province. Five policemen were also wounded in the attack, Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor said Wednesday.

The U.S.-Afghan pact was long in the making. U.S. officials had first warned their Afghan counterparts that if the security accord was not signed by the end of 2013, the Pentagon would have to start planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

But when the year ended, the White House moved back the deadline, saying then-President Hamid Karzai needed to sign off within weeks. Karzai surprised U.S. officials by ultimately saying he would not sign the accord and would instead leave that task for his successor.

But the results of the race to replace Karzai took months resolve, finally coming to a conclusion on Monday with the swearing in of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as Afghanistan’s second elected president.

Ghani Ahmadzai signed the security agreement Tuesday, nearly one year after the White House’s initial deadline.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan, U.S. Sign Long-Awaited Security Pact

Ashraf Ghani Afghanistan
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani looks on as he listens to teachers during his visit to the Amani High School in Kabul on Sept. 30, 2014. Wakil Kohsar—Pool/Reuters

Update: Sept. 30, 11:37 a.m. ET

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Afghanistan and the United States signed a security pact on Tuesday to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year, ending a year of uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over responsibility for the country’s security.

Afghan, American and NATO leaders welcomed the deal, which will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends Dec. 31. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign it despite U.S. threats of a full withdrawal in the absence of legal protections for American forces. U.S. officials have said that the delay in the deal’s signing does not affect plans for next year.

President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who was sworn into office a day earlier, told a crowd assembled at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul for the signing ceremony that the agreement signaled a fundamental shift for the positive in the country’s relations with the world.

“This agreement is only for Afghan security and stability,” he said in comments broadcast live on state television. “These agreements are in our national interest. The Bilateral Security Agreement will pave the ground for Afghanistan to take control,” he added.

President Barack Obama hailed what he called a “historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan,” according to a White House statement.

“This agreement represents an invitation from the Afghan Government to strengthen the relationship we have built over the past 13 years and provides our military service members the necessary legal framework to carry out two critical missions after 2014: targeting the remnants of al-Qaida and training, advising, and assisting Afghan National Security Forces,” it said.

More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Newly appointed Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the actual document. A second agreement allowing NATO troops to stay in the country was signed during the same ceremony.

Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has assumed a post akin to prime minister after signing a power-sharing agreement with Ghani Ahmadzai, also welcomed the security deal.

“It has been signed after very careful considerations,” he said, adding that “the BSA is not a threat to our neighbors. It will help strengthen peace and stability in the region.”

Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai struck the power-sharing agreement earlier this month after a prolonged dispute over alleged voting fraud in June’s presidential runoff. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security pact, and the prolonged uncertainty over who would succeed him, had delayed the signing.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the agreement, saying it outlined the group’s new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

“We remain committed to help finance the Afghan security forces through 2017, to help Afghanistan to further strengthen its institutions, and to further develop our political and practical cooperation with Afghanistan through our Enduring Partnership,” he said in a statement.

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Adviser: Afghanistan to Sign Troop Deal Tuesday

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that Afghanistan will sign a deal Tuesday to allow American soldiers to remain in the country past the end of the year.

John Podesta, speaking to a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said he didn’t know if newly inaugurated President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai would be the official signing the deal for Afghanistan.

Podesta said he would sign it on behalf of the U.S.

The deal will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

The announcement comes after Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan’s new president, replacing Hamid Karzai in the country’s first democratic transfer of power after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country’s north and south.

In his first speech, Ghani Ahmadzai called on the Taliban and other militants to join the country’s political process and lay down their weapons. However, extremist violence Monday killed at least 12 civilians and police officers as foreign forces prepare to withdraw from the country at the end of the year.

“We are tired of war,” Ghani Ahmadzai said in a televised address. “Our message is peace, (but) this doesn’t mean we are weak.”

U.S. officials previously had said they expected Ghani Ahmadzai or an official in his government to sign the security agreement with the U.S. shortly after his inauguration. Both Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah said during their campaigns they would sign the deal.

TIME Afghanistan

New Afghan President Sworn In After Disputed Vote

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai speaks during a news conference at his resident in Kabul on Sept. 10, 2014 Massoud Hossaini—;AP

"We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable"

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan’s new president, replacing Hamid Karzai in the country’s first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country’s north and south.

Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Afghan finance minister, wore a dark black turban popular in the country’s south as he swore in his two vice presidents and then Abdullah.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, spoke first and thanked Karzai for his service and the people of the country for casting votes in the millions despite the threat of attack from Taliban militants who tried to thwart the election process.

“We are committed as one in the national unity government,” Abdullah said. “Our commitment will be fulfilled together as unified team to create national unity.”

Ghani Ahmadzai then congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power, and he thanked Abdullah for making the national unity government possible.

“We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable,” Ghani Ahmadzai said.

Karzai — the only president Afghanistan and the West have known since the invasion — wore a wide smile as he greeted his presidential guards upon entering the palace. Karzai has said he is glad to be stepping down after more than a decade of what the U.S. ambassador recently said was one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

The inauguration caps a nearly six-month election season that began when ballots were first cast in April. A runoff election in June between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah stretched on for weeks as both sides leveled charges of fraud. The United Nations helped carry out what it said was the most thorough recount in its history, a count that reduced Ghani Ahmadzai’s vote percentage from 56 percent to 55 percent, but still gave him the win.

But the real power struggle was taking place in marathon talks between the two sides, often brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials. The political deal the sides agreed to created the new position of chief executive that Abdullah will now fill.

U.S. officials have said they expect Ghani Ahmadzai to sign a security agreement with the U.S. shortly after his inauguration to allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

Even as the inauguration unfolded in the heavily guarded presidential palace, two bomb attacks took place on the road connecting the country’s main airport with the palace. One roadside bomb did not result in any deaths or injuries, but a second attack about a kilometer (half mile) from the airport by a suicide bomber killed six or seven people, police officer Abdul Latif said.

A bigger attack took place in the eastern province of Paktia. Police Capt. Mohammed Hekhlas said that a car bomb exploded near a government compound as gunmen attacked, sparking a gun battle that killed seven Taliban militants. Another police official, who gave his name as Azimullah, said four police officers and two civilians also were killed.

The inauguration took place eight days after the political deal was signed between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah. Though Kerry played a big role in the political deal, the short notice of the inauguration date and events elsewhere in the Middle East did not allow him to attend. Instead, the U.S. was represented by John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama. Other notable guests included Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

TIME Afghanistan

Senior Democrat: We Should Be Proud of Afghanistan Progress

Levin Briefs On Investigation Into Private Security Contractors In Afghanistan
Carl Levin, retiring chairman of the armed services committee, thinks Americans have a "distorted" view of what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D—Mich), chairman of the armed services committee, says things are getting better all the time in Afghanistan

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, is leaving the Senate after 36 years. He spent Wednesday’s breakfast with a bunch of defense reporters responding to their questions on the U.S.-led attacks against Islamic militants and the Pentagon’s budget crunch.

Levin is no bomb-thrower or partisan hack. When we offered him the chance to say a final word at the end of his final breakfast with us, we listened:

Thank you for the years that we’ve been having breakfast together. I guess my one request, which I have feelings about, is our view of Afghanistan. I’ve been there a dozen times…they’ve made some amazing progress…The people of Afghanistan, by al measure, are glad we came. Eight million kids in school now, versus 800,000 kids under the Taliban; 40% girls, 40% women teachers. Universities now have formed.

Kabul, you can move in. Yea, there’s bombings and they’re covered all the time, and I understand it. But is it a glass half full? I think at least half full and I think, more importantly, it’s getting fuller…

I feel so strongly that the American public view of Afghanistan is distorted—it’s highly negative, they feel we failed. They have a right to feel some real satisfaction because we didn’t fail—quite the opposite. They haven’t succeeded yet, but with our help they have made some real strides, and it doesn’t come through.

So my plea would be, since this may be my last opportunity, would be to somehow or other cover the positives that have occurred in Afghanistan…

I just quote these public opinion polls: Americans, 70% or 65% think we have not achieved anything. In Afghanistan it’s 70 or 80% think we have. How does that happen that the people who are in the middle of that war think we’ve really done some good, and the people who are 10,000 or 15,000 miles away think we haven’t?

Particularly our troops and their families, they’ve got a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have.

The American people, taxpayers, have a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have…

I’m just going to hope that somehow or other [ex-defense secretary Robert] Gates’ point, his statement, will no longer prove to be true after a couple of more years. The statement that he made was that Afghanistan is the only war he’s ever seen that the closer you get to it, the better it looks.

I believe that that’s true, and I hope a couple of years from now, when I find a way to visit Afghanistan, that we’ll not only see more progress, but the American people finally realize that `Hey, it was worth it.’

 

 

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Afghanistan
Carl Levin, center, on a 2011 visit to Afghanistan. U.S. Navy / Getty Images
TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Finally Has a New President

AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai signs a power-sharing agreement with unseen rival Abdullah Abdullah at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Sept. 21, 2014. Wakil Kohsar—AFP/Getty Images

Ghani Ahmadzai will serve as president of Afghanistan after signing a power-sharing deal with Abdullah Abdullah, who will become the country's chief executive

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal on Sunday that makes one president and the other chief executive, ending months of political wrangling following a disputed runoff that threatened to plunge the country into turmoil and complicate the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Ending an election season that began with first-round ballots cast in April, the election commission named Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the winner and next president. But the commission pointedly did not release final vote totals amid suggestions that doing so could inflame tensions.

Ghani Ahmadzai and new Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah signed the national unity government deal as President Hamid Karzai — in power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban — looked on. It took weeks of negotiations to form a power-sharing arrangement after accusations of fraud in the June runoff vote.

The candidates signed the deal at the presidential palace, then exchanged a hug and a handshake.

“I am very happy today that both of my brothers, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in an Afghan agreement for the benefit of this country, for the progress and development of this country, that they agreed on the structure affirming the new government of Afghanistan,” Karzai said after the signing.

The deal is a victory for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who first got the candidates to agree in principle to share power during a July visit to Afghanistan. Kerry returned to Kabul in August and has spent hours with the candidates, including in repeated phone calls, in an effort to seal the deal.

A White House statement lauded the two leaders, saying the agreement helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis.

“This agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan. We continue to call on all Afghans — including political, religious, and civil society leaders — to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm,” the White House statement said.

Jan Kubis, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, said the uncertainty of the past months took a heavy toll on Afghanistan’s security, economy and governance. NATO said in a statement that it hoped both leaders could move forward “in the spirit of genuine political partnership.”

The decision not to release vote totals underscores the fear of potential violence despite Sunday’s deal. One of Abdullah’s final demands was that the election commission not release the vote count because of the fraud he alleges took place.

Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, chairman of the election commission, said the final ballot counts have been shared with both candidates and that the commission would announce the numbers publicly later.

A Ghani Ahmadzai supporter — Halim Fidai, a former governor — said Sunday that Kubish, the U.N. representative, told the commission not to release vote tallies. A U.N. official who insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said the allegation was not true and that the U.N. was only facilitating dialogue between the candidates and the election commission regarding the release of the results.

A senior U.S. official said the vote result is transparent but may be released slowly over fears of violence. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified publicly.

Ghani Admadzai supporters and election commission reports circulating on social media said that the final vote gave Ghani Ahmadzai roughly 55 percent and Abdullah roughly 45 percent.

The four-page power sharing contract says the relationship between president and chief executive — a position akin to prime minister — must be defined by “partnership, collegiality, collaboration, and, most importantly, responsibility to the people of Afghanistan.”

It spells out the powers for the new chief executive position: participation with the president in bilateral meetings, carrying out administrative and executive affairs as determined by presidential decree, and parity in selection of key security and economic ministries.

The deal specifies that the president leads the Cabinet but that the chief executive manages the Cabinet’s implementation of government policies. The chief executive will also chair regular meetings of a council of ministers.

An inauguration ceremony to see Ghani Ahmadzai replace Karzai as president and swear in Abdullah as chief executive was expected within days. Abdullah’s spokesman Fazel Sancharaki said the event could be held on Sept. 29.

As talks dragged on, Abdullah’s mostly northern supporters had threatened to form a parallel government or react violently to any outright victory by Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official whose power base is in the country’s south and east. Ghani Ahmadzai said he always maintained that ethnic politics in Afghanistan demand some sort of power sharing deal and not a winner-takes-all government.

Abdullah believes he won the first round of the election in April with more than 50 percent of the vote, which would have precluded a runoff. But the official results showed him winning about 45 percent of that vote in a crowded presidential field of 10.

He also believes he won a June runoff with Ghani Ahmadzai. But initial results totals showed Ghani Ahmadzai with about 56 percent of the vote. After the recount the election commission invalidated 1 million of the approximately 8.1 million cast in the runoff, according to the un-released vote counts, suggesting that fraud was indeed widespread.

Though the White House statement said that “respect for the democratic process” is the only viable path forward for Afghanistan, the next Afghan government to many has the appearance of a product of more of negotiations than vote tallies.

A power-sharing deal was almost sealed about a week ago, but Abdullah then demanded that no vote totals from the runoff be released.

The U.S. official said the United States government believes the new president was declared as the result of quantitative electoral results from many millions of legitimate votes and that though a political agreement was made to form a unity government the government is headed by a president decided upon by an electoral process.

U.N. and Afghan election officials spent weeks auditing the runoff results after allegations of fraud, a common occurrence over Afghanistan’s last two presidential elections. Abdullah’s side maintained the fraud was so sophisticated it was undetectable.

The U.S. has been pushing for a resolution so the next president can sign a security agreement that would allow about 10,000 U.S. forces to remain in the country after combat operations wrap up at the end of the year. Karzai refused to sign it; Ghani Ahmadzai has said he will.

The 13-year war against the Taliban has largely been turned over to Afghan security forces, a development that has seen casualties among Afghan soldiers rise significantly this year.

The U.S. and international community will continue to fund the Afghan army in the coming years but the Afghans themselves will have to fend off Taliban attempts to again take over wide areas of the country.

TIME

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TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Bomber Attacks NATO Convoy in Kabul Killing 3

U.S. troops carry the dead body of a member of an international troop at the site of suicide attack in Kabul
U.S. troops carry the dead body of a member of an international troop at the site of suicide attack in Kabul September 16, 2014. Omar Sobhani — Reuters

Taliban claims responsibility

Updated: Sept. 16, 2014, 2:51 a.m. E.T.

A suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Kabul Tuesday morning, killing three NATO soldiers and injuring 16 civilians.

The explosion took place around 8 a.m. local time in heavy traffic on the airport road near the Supreme Court, according to the BBC.

Witnesses said a vehicle from the convoy was completely destroyed in the attack, and injured soldiers were seen receiving first aid soon after.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place amid uncertainty and controversy over Afghanistan’s recent presidential elections. The elections have been dogged by allegations of fraud.

The nationalities of the soldiers in the convoy are not yet known, reports said.

TIME Afghanistan

Miscommunication Blamed for Deadly U.S. Mistake

(WASHINGTON) — Avoidable miscommunication between U.S. air and ground forces led to a “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan that killed five U.S. soldiers and one Afghan in June, according to a military investigation report.

The incident was one of the deadliest friendly fire episodes of the war, which began 13 years ago next month.

As a further reminder that the war is still deadly, even as U.S. forces prepare to end their combat mission in December, the Pentagon on Friday said Army Spc. Brian K. Arsenault, 28, of Northborough, Massachusetts, died Thursday of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

The “friendly fire” investigation report released Thursday by U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan, cited a collective failure by soldiers, commanders and air crew members to execute the fundamentals of the mission. As a result, the five Americans and one Afghan were mistaken for the enemy and were attacked with two laser-guided bombs from a B-1 bomber.

A two-star Air Force general led the investigation. Many details of the report were blacked out before its public release.

The B-1 bomber crew was executing an authorized order, but the crew members were faulted by investigators for not taking reasonable precautions to ensure they knew where friendly forces were located. Despite discrepancies in reported U.S. troop locations — suggesting that something may have been amiss — the air crew did not take necessary steps to validate its information before launching the bombs, the report said.

Unidentified members of the ground forces, which included an Army Special Forces unit, were faulted for incorrectly communicating some troops’ positions and for not knowing that the B-1 bomber’s targeting gear is incapable of detecting friendly marking devices of the type used by U.S. ground forces in the June 9 operation. These failures led to the mistaken conclusion that the targeted U.S. and Afghan soldiers were insurgents.

“The key members executing the close air support mission collectively failed to effectively execute the fundamentals, which resulted in poor situational awareness and improper target identification,” the report concluded.

In response to the report, the Army said it is considering whether any tactics should be changed to minimize chances of repeating mistakes that led to the deaths. It also forwarded the report to the commander of Army Special Operations Command to decide whether any punitive action should be taken. Two of the soldiers who died were members of the 4th Special Forces Group; the three other Americans were from conventional units and were working with the Special Forces on the ill-fated mission.

The Air Force said it would study the report before deciding on any disciplinary action.

The June incident happened in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan at the end of an operation led by the Afghan army and supported by Army Special Forces. Their aim was to disrupt insurgents and improve security for local polling stations in the Arghandab district in advance of the June 14 Afghan presidential runoff election.

From an altitude of about 12,000 feet, the B-1 bomber was providing what the military calls close air support while U.S. and Afghan ground troops were moving out of the area at the conclusion of their operation.

The six soldiers who were killed had moved from their group’s main position in a valley to higher ground on a ridgeline in order to maneuver on insurgent forces. Muzzle flashes seen at their position on the ridgeline were mistaken for signs of rifle fire from insurgents, in part because the movement of the six was not properly communicated to those coordinating with the B-1 crew. And when the B-1 crew said their targeting pods had detected no U.S. marking devices at that location it was decided that targets must by insurgents.

“While this complex combat situation presented a challenging set of circumstances, had the team understood their system’s capabilities, executed standard tactics, techniques and procedures and communicated effectively, this tragic incident was avoidable,” the partially censored report concluded.

The five Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Jason A. McDonald, 28, of Butler, Georgia; Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena, California; Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio; Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Washington, and Pvt. Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Illinois.

The Afghan killed in the attack was identified by Central Command as Sgt. Gulbuddin Ghulam Sakhi.

The deaths were an example of how battlefield mistakes caused by confusion or miscalculations can have profound consequences. Friendly fire is a problem as old as warfare, and although technological advances, training and combat experience have lessened the frequency, it still poses a threat to U.S. and allied forces.

“War is a very human endeavor, and mistakes inevitably will occur,” retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, an Iraq war veteran and now professor of military history at Ohio State University, said after the June incident.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Militants May Join ISIS Says Their Commander

The link-up could pose a renewed threat to an already fragile Afghanistan

An Afghanistan-based militant group with links to the Taliban is considering aligning itself with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the BBC reports.

Commander Mirwais of the Hezb-e-Islami, a group notorious for its brutality, called ISIS fighters “great mujahideen,” and told the BBC his group was waiting to see if ISIS met the requirements for a true Islamic caliphate. “We pray for them,” he said, “and if we don’t see a problem in the way they operate, we will join them.”

Hezb-e-Islami, along with the rest of the Taliban and its allies, are in conflict with an Afghan government in the midst of a leadership crisis. A winner of the recent presidential election has yet to be named, as the voting is being audited.

Mirwais said the current government was weak and had no control in rural areas, adding that the group will “continue to fight until we establish an Islamic state.”

Kabul-based politician and intelligence expert Amrullah Saleh told the BBC that politics and society in Afghanistan had changed too much for the Taliban to retake power. But a link-up between Afghan insurgents and extremist ISIS fighters could pose a renewed threat.

[BBC]

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