Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
US official claims ISIS fighters were hiding among Afghan civilians during deadly drone strike
JALALABAD/KABUL (Reuters) - A senior U.S. defense official in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul on Friday said Islamic State fighters were hiding among pine nut harvesters when a U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 32 people.
The attack occurred in early hours of Thursday in Wazir Tangi area of Nangarhar province, causing high civilian casualties.
Provincial Afghan officials on Friday said 32 men and children were killed and more than 40 were injured in the strike.
U.S. officials said the drone strike was conducted solely to target IS fighters in a densely forested area that is not inhabited by locals but offers a high yield of pine nuts to villagers residing on the edge of the forest.
"There were IS (fighters) there, but it appears during harvest season the locals cut deals with the IS fighters to act as harvesters," said a senior U.S. official who is privy to the counter-terrorism operations conducted by American forces in Afghanistan.
"We were not privy to this 'agreement' that puts them (IS fighters) amongst other harvesters. We are working through it now with the officials," he told Reuters.
Senior Afghan officials in Kabul said a probe was being conducted to assess the intelligence failure before planning the drone strike.
Javed, a survivor of the attack recovering in the Nangarhar Regional Hospital, said it was his second night in the forest when a drone struck his temporary shelter.
"Many people were injured," he said.
President Ashraf Ghani, while speaking at an election rally in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, promised measures to prevent civilian casualties in the war against militants.
Afghan forces, often backed by the U.S. military, have intensified ground and air operations against Islamist groups to protect civilians, government buildings, polling stations and a large expatriate population.
Operations such as the latest U.S. drone strike angered locals, who staged small protests against the foreign and Afghan forces.
"We cannot even protest on a large scale because IS or Taliban can target us easily, but the U.S. must admit they made a mistake," said Rahmatullah Sardar, a dry fruit trader in Jalalabad city.
IS fighters are seen as an even greater threat than the Taliban because of their military capabilities and strategy of targeting civilians. The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 IS fighters in Afghanistan.
Separately, the death toll in a Taliban truck bombing that destroyed a hospital in southern Afghanistan has risen to 39, nearly double the previous figure, with 140 wounded, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.
"Only two of those killed were security force members, and the rest of them are civilians, including women, children, patients and visitors," spokesman Gul Islam Syaal said of Thursday's attack.
The Taliban said the target of the attack in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, was a nearby building housing the government's intelligence department.
The Taliban have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since the collapse of peace talks with the United States this month, in the run-up to elections on Sept. 28 to dissuade people from voting.
(Additional reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi. Orooj Hakimi in Kabul; Writing by Paul Carsten, Rupam Jain in Kabul; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Steve Orlofsky)
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.