TIME Afghanistan

4 Militants Die in Attack in Upscale Area of Afghan Capital

Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack in Kabul,Afghanistan
Mohammad Ismail—Reuters An Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack in Kabul on May 27, 2015

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized account

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — An all-night siege in an upscale neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed attackers, though no civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, an Afghan official said.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said that weapons had been seized, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three automatic rifles and a hand grenade.

Using his official Twitter account, Salangi said there were “no civilian or military casualties.”

The siege ended after 5 a.m. in a sustained barrage of automatic weapons fire and a series of huge explosions that resounded across the Wazir Akbar Khan district of downtown Kabul, home to many embassies and foreign firms.

Salangi had said earlier that the target of the attack appeared to be a guesthouse, but he gave no further details.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized Twitter account. They referred to the target as “belonging to the occupiers,” reiterating the insurgents’ message that foreign installations are specific targets in the Afghan capital.

The attack came amid intensified fighting across many parts of Afghanistan since the insurgents launched their annual warm weather offensive a month ago. A Taliban attack on a guesthouse in another part of the capital earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.

The United Nations already has documented a record high number of civilian casualties — 974 killed and 1,963 injured — in the first four months of 2015, a 16 percent increase over the same period last year.

The siege began late Tuesday, with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic weapon fire, and sounded to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse, which is favored by foreigners as the area is in the heart of the diplomatic district and close to the airport.

Police and a paramilitary Crisis Response Unit surrounded the area, blocked roads, took up positions on rooftops and parked armored personnel vehicles in the streets around the guesthouse. Police officers smashed lights throughout the neighborhood to cover their movements.

For about five hours, gunfire and explosions were sporadic, before a lull lasting more than an hour ended with a dawn volley of sustained gunfire and huge explosions that sent clouds of black smoke into the sky.

The guesthouse, once known as the Heetal Hotel, was damaged in a December 2009 suicide car bomb attack near the home of former Afghan Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud — brother of legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That 2009 attack killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.

The hotel is owned by the Rabbani family, who include the late Burhanuddin Rabbani who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996 and was assassinated in Kabul in 2011, and current Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Afghan security forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban attacks since U.S. and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year and the mission morphed into one of training and support. The new insurgent strategy appears to be aimed at forcing the government to spread its forces thinly across many regions of the country, to focus on security rather than developing the economy and creating jobs as it has promised to do.

Earlier on Tuesday, in Uruzgan province, officials said that a district has been under attack by militants for the past two weeks, with district chief Abdul Karim Karimi saying that since the fighting began 12 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded.

On Monday, militants killed at least 26 police officers and soldiers in ambushes in southern Helmand province.

TIME Afghanistan

11 Afghan Police Get Year in Jail Over Mob Killing of Woman

Defendants attend their trial at the Primary Court in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
Allauddin Khan—AP Defendants attend their trial at the Primary Court in Kabul on May 6, 2015

Farkhunda was brutally beaten to death after an amulet peddler falsely accused her of burning a Quran

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — An Afghan judge on Tuesday sentenced 11 policemen to one year in prison for their role in the mob killing of a woman in Kabul.

Judge Safiullah Mojadedi, presiding in Afghanistan’s Primary Court, found the policemen guilty of dereliction of duty. Another eight were released for lack of evidence.

The policemen were among 49 people charged over the death of 27-year-old Farkhunda, who was brutally beaten to death at a Kabul shrine on March 19 after being falsely accused of burning a Quran. Like many Afghans, she had only one name.

The attack shocked Afghanistan and reverberated around the world, highlighting the brutality women face in the country’s conservative society.

Earlier this month, four defendants were sentenced to death, eight to 16 years in prison, and 18 were freed for lack of evidence.

A mob attacked Farkhunda after an amulet peddler accused her of burning a Quran when she challenged him over selling his wares to women desperate to have children.

Chilling mobile phone videos recorded the horror of the last moments of Farkhunda’s life, as she was punched, kicked, beaten with wooden planks, thrown off a roof, run over by a car and ultimately set on fire on the banks of Kabul River.

Her death sparked protests in Kabul, with some demonstrators wearing masks bearing the image of her bloodied face. Mourners held candlelight vigils in her memory, even in Washington, as President Ashraf Ghani visited the U.S.

An Afghan presidential investigation later found that she had not damaged a copy of the Muslim holy book. Some public and religious figures said the attack would have been justified if she had in fact damaged a Quran.

The trial was broadcast live on national TV, reflecting wide public interest. But the speed with which the first sentences were announced — after just two full days of court hearings — angered many, including Farkhunda’s family.

The subsequent delay in announcing the verdicts for the police also raised concern about the possibility of political interference.

TIME Afghanistan

14 Killed in Afghanistan as Taliban Attacks Kabul Hotel

Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan
Mohammad Ismail—Reuters An Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan May 13, 2015.

At least two Indian nationals and an American were among the victims

Fourteen people, including 9 foreigners, were killed in an attack in Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul on Wednesday night after at least one gunman opened fire on a guesthouse, a government official said.

Fifty-four other hostages were rescued in the attack that only ended in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported. The assault began at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, when a gunman or gunmen opened fire at the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel, according to Kabul’s chief of police General Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

U.S. embassy spokesperson Monica Cummings told the AP in an email that a still unidentified U.S. citizen had been killed.

At least two of the other victims were Indian, and three other Indians were rescued and were being sheltered at the Indian embassy, a diplomat told Reuters.

The Taliban claimed responsibility on Thursday, with the militant group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claiming in an email to media that they had targeted the hotel because of the presence of Americans and other foreigners there.

A majority of the guests were at the hotel, located in the same neighborhood as a U.N. compound and the Indian embassy, for a party honoring a Canadian citizen, American attendee Amin Habib told the AP.

A Canadian spokesperson said all its embassy staff were “safe and accounted for.”

Mujahid said in the email that there was only one attacker wearing a suicide vest and armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and a pistol, contrary to the three attackers cited by the Afghan security authorities.

The attack bears similarities to two others carried out by the Taliban in Kabul in 2014, at a hotel and a Lebanese restaurant respectively, and is one of the most blatant assaults since the extremist group announced its spring offensive this year.

TIME Behind the Photos

Ad Agency and Photographer Work to Highlight the Home Front

David Guttenfelder photographed the front lines of an unexpected war zone

Each day, 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide on American soil.

That average, released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013, is at the center of a surprising new campaign, dubbed Mission 22, from advertising agency CP+B and the nonprofit veteran organization Elder Heart. The project is designed “to open the eyes of the American public,” says Daniel Pradilla, an associate creative director at the agency.

With the help of photographer David Guttenfelder, who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Associated Press, Mission 22 takes a novel approach to advocacy work by bringing the message directly to its public. “CP+B is a big ad agency that starts national conversations about products,” says Guttenfelder, “and they wanted to do something about this issue. They wanted to see if they could take the same approach to an ad campaign to the [issue of suicide among veterans].”

The campaign is devised around the stories of five veterans — William Busbee, Shawn Bleeker, Ryan Clapper, Brandon Ladner and Clay Ward — who committed suicide after their tours of duty. “More military men and women die at home each day than in our conflicts abroad,” Pradilla tells TIME. “That means that the deadliest battlefields aren’t remote deserts or faraway countries but our own living rooms, bedrooms, backyards and garages. These battlefields are unexpected. That makes you stop and think.”

The best way to convey that message, CP+B found, was to photograph these spaces and put the resulting images on billboards across the nation. “This work brings war to a place that is familiar,” says Pradilla. “Coming home is supposed to be completely safe. But then, you see David’s photographs and read these veterans’ stories, and you realize it’s not.”

Guttenfelder, who resigned from AP last year to go freelance, had wanted to cover the second half of his war story: the return home. When he got back to the U.S., after spending 15 years traveling the world from one hot spot to the next, he brought a group of photographers together, launched the Everyday USA account on Instagram and helped coordinate for the group to do a Veterans Day project with TIME last November.

But Guttenfelder wanted to do more. So, when he was approached by CP+B, he saw an opportunity. “They were looking for a photographer who had the same story [as these veterans] and who could meet the families and understand,” he explains.

The result, on a personal level, stunned Guttenfelder. “When I was meeting the families and going through this, I was surprised how much of a connection I felt with these people who took their lives because of the struggles that they faced when they came home: trying to find purpose, trying to deal with the horrible things that they had seen. [That connection] was more powerful than I had expected.”

“I would never try to compare my experience to someone who fought in a war,” he adds, “but I did spend my entire adult life covering war and violence and tragedy. I had a very clear purpose, a very strong sense of what my identity was. And to come home to the U.S. and to have to reinvent myself, it opened up a door to understand how confusing and difficult and painful it is for [these soldiers] to come back and not know what they’re supposed to do now. I understood it in a different way.”

Guttenfelder’s photographs are a departure for the former wire photographer: they are simple and quiet black-and-white portraits of the spaces where these veterans committed suicide. They tell a story of familiarity — one that anyone could grasp — and that was CP+B’s precise goal.

The advertising agency published Guttenfelder’s photographs in four national newspapers and magazines, and across 300 billboards in the U.S., including five in the towns where these veterans committed suicide. “To put a billboard on the street near the houses where this happened is not just about educating people, it’s about educating the people who go to the grocery store with these families,” says Guttenfelder.

CP+B has also produced a mini-documentary and an interactive website — with calls for action for veterans and their families — with a traveling exhibition planned for later this year.

For Guttenfelder, Mission 22 is also the beginning of his next personal project, one that will deal with suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder — another focus that, for the former conflict photographer, hits close to home.

Find out more about Mission 22.

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

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Judge Sentences 4 to Death in Mob Killing of Woman

Afghan security personnel escort defendants at the Primary Court in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 2, 2015.
Rahmat Gul—AP Afghan security personnel escort defendants at the primary court in Kabul on May 2, 2015

Afghanistan sentenced to death four men for the death of a woman who was beaten, run over with a car and burned before her bloodied body was thrown into the river

(KABUL) — An Afghan court on Wednesday convicted and sentenced four men to death for their role in the brutal mob killing of a woman in Kabul in March — a slaying that shocked the nation and spurred calls for authorities to ensure women’s rights to equality and protection from violence.

The sentences were part of a trial of 49 suspects, including 19 police officers, over the March 19 killing of the 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda who was beaten to death in a frenzied attack sparked by a bogus accusation that she had burned a copy of the Quran.

The trial, which began Saturday, only involved two full days of court proceedings — an unusual swiftness in the slow-moving Afghan judicial system.

Judge Safiullah Mojadedi handed down the four death sentences at Afghanistan’s Primary Court in Kabul on Wednesday. He also sentenced eight defendants to 16 years in prison and dropped charges against 18. The remaining suspects are to be sentenced on Sunday.

The defendants have the right to appeal their sentences. The charges included assault, murder and encouraging others to participate in the assault. The police officers were charged with neglecting their duties and failing to prevent the attack.

Farkhunda’s brutal killing shocked many Afghans, though some public and religious figures said it would have been justified if she had in fact damaged a Quran. A presidential investigation later found that she had not damaged a copy of the Muslim holy book.

Her last agonizing and brutal hours were captured on mobile phone cameras by witnesses and those in the mob that attacked her. The videos of the assault circulated widely on social media. They showed Farkhunda – who, like many Afghans, went by only one name – being beaten, run over with a car and burned before her bloodied body was thrown into the river.

The incident sparked nationwide outrage and soul-searching, as well as a civil society movement seeking to limit the power of clerics, strengthen the rule of law and improve women’s rights.

Farkhunda’s parents addressed the court before the sentences were handed down Wednesday, asking that the accused be dealt with according to the law.

Afghanistan’s judicial system has long faced criticism for its inability to offer the majority of Afghans access to justice. Women especially are sidelined, despite constitutional guarantees of equality and protection from violence, a recent report by the United Nations concluded.

The attack on Farkhunda was widely seen as symptomatic of the general low regard for women in Afghan society, where violence against women often goes unpunished.

TIME On Our Radar

Meet the Afghan Photographers Telling Their Country’s Stories

A new documentary showcases four Afghan photographers working in the war-torn country

With the strengthening of Taliban’s hold on Afghanistan in the 1990s, came the end of a long photographic tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, the ruling royal family practiced photography as a hobby, and a serious one at that. Habibullah Khan, the Emir from 1901 to 1919, set up a studio in the palace while organizing competitions and exhibitions. Decades later, box cameras had made their way into the streets, popularizing the postcard-format family portrait. Yet, today, an entire generation is left without pictures of their youth, let alone a visual history of their nation.

“A country without photographs, is a country without identity,” says Najibullah Musafer, a photojournalist who took great risks to document his homeland despite the prohibition. After seeing b-roll from Afghanistan that challenged their perceptions of the war-torn region, Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli, two American filmmakers, felt it necessary to connect with storytellers from the area committed to sharing more nuanced accounts of their country. Their curiosity prompted the documentary Frame by Frame.

The cast is composed of photographers that distinguish themselves not only by the compelling nature of their work, but also by their enthralling personalities. Beside wholehearted and wise Musafer, considered the grandfather of modern photojournalism in the country, there’s the trailblazing, industrious and thoughtful Farzana Wahidy, her calm and astute husband Massoud Hossaini, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, and Wakil Kohsar, the soulful up-and-comer.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of a movie,” says Wahidy. “At the time, I was trying to keep a low profile, mainly for security reasons and so that I could continue to do my work with as few hurdles as possible. But when I saw that they were going ahead with it, and with three men, I felt it was my duty to be in it.” The documentary makes clear how difficult it can be for her to gain access, especially given that photographing women, which she’s specialized in, remains highly taboo.

As the camera follows the quartet in their daily lives, and as they share stories from their past — the very stories that inform their gaze and shape their voice — a larger layered narrative emerges; that of a disrupted nation.

“Originally, we thought it would be a short film,” says Bombach. “But, as we were conducting the interviews, the complexity of what was happening, of what each photographer was going through, the heaviness of their past and how that affects how they shoot now, it became clear that it needed to be a feature length that would use human narratives to give a much better sense of what’s been going on in the past thirty years.”

Take Kohsar. As he shares memories from his childhood – fleeing Panjshir and seeking refuge in Iran – the plight of Afghan refugees under the Taliban regime comes to light. The footage of him working offers glimpses of issues such as the prevalence of drug addiction and of political disillusion. And, his struggle with an official who suggest that he takes a staged photograph of voters getting their election card – rather than allowing him in – is telling of a country where misinformation is widespread.

“I hope that an audience gets to see what it means to be a storyteller, to be seeking truth when people are putting barriers in front of you, to uphold your responsibility to your craft no matter what’s thrown your way and to seek beauty and justice through photography,” says Scarpelli, who was greatly inspired by how much humanity is bursting from each and every one of the protagonists’ images.

Frame by frame, these four photojournalists, as well as their colleagues, are building an indispensable visual history of these tumultuous times. “Afghanistan is in a very particular and uncertain place right now. Everyone is holding their breath,” says Scarpelli, echoing Hosseini’s worries, expressed in the documentary, that the world might forget Afghanistan again. Frame by frame, the movie reminds us why we should not.

Frame by Frame‘s international premieres is this week at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival.

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

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.

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