The South Asia Channel

5 U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

Bonus read: Peter Bergen, "Strange bedfellows – Iran and al-Qaeda" (CNN). Event Notice: "Talking to Terrorists," TODAY, March 12, 2013; 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF). Fatal flight Five U.S. troops were killed Monday night when their helicopter crashed in bad weather in southern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of Americans killed that day to seven, and making ...

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Bonus read: Peter Bergen, "Strange bedfellows – Iran and al-Qaeda" (CNN).

Event Notice: "Talking to Terrorists," TODAY, March 12, 2013; 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF).

Fatal flight

Five U.S. troops were killed Monday night when their helicopter crashed in bad weather in southern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of Americans killed that day to seven, and making Monday the deadliest day for the United States so far this year (AP, AJE, Reuters, CNN, NYT). Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel left Afghanistan at dawn on Monday, ending his first overseas trip as secretary, which was marked by militant suicide attacks and stinging barbs from Afghan President Hamid Karzai (NYT). Secretary Hagel frequently described events in Afghanistan with the phrase "it’s complicated," and reportedly managed to keep his cool during the eventful visit, both in public and behind closed doors.

The U.S. military said this weekend that it had stopped publishing data on strikes carried out in Afghanistan by unmanned aerial vehicles as part of its monthly reports on air power (Reuters). U.S. Central Command explained the decision in a statement saying the data was "disproportionately focused" on the drone strikes, which happen on only 3 percent of unmanned aerial vehicle sorties.

The suicides of two wealthy, educated sisters in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif have ignited locals’ debate over rising numbers of suicide attempts by women in the community (NYT). The city’s main hospital reports that it is receiving three or four female patients who have attempted suicide every day, up from one or two a month a decade ago. Some explain the rise by pointing to the clash between the traditional, conservative, male-dominated Afghan culture, and local women’s wealth and exposure to Western social norms.

Official targets

A roadside bomb killed three Pakistani soldiers who were part of a convoy traveling through the northwestern tribal district of Kurram on Monday (NYT, ET). After the attack, a military official said "the military pounded the hideouts of militants, killing at least 12." And on Tuesday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a police station in the Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killing two police officials and putting several others in the hospital in critical condition (AP, ET, CNN).

Unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed the District Election Commissioner, Ziaullah Qasmi, in the restive southwestern city of Quetta on Tuesday (ET).

That’s not fair

Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and top ranking Republican on the committee Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Hagel asking that a new "Distinguished Service Medal" for drone pilots not be ranked higher than combat awards like the Bronze Star and Purple Heart (Post). The senators want to acknowledge the service of officers who are not physically located on the battlefield – and drone pilots have reported very high incidences of PTSD – but worry that the medal’s status as it exists now could have an "adverse impact on morale."

— Jennifer Rowland

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