The U.S. military command in Kabul did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that an “enemy intelligence aircraft” crashed. However, he subsequently told The Washington Post that “our mujahideen [fighters] tactically crashed the plane.” He did not explain what tactics were purportedly used to bring down the plane.

Mujahid’s claim that Taliban fighters caused the crash comes just weeks after Taliban leaders presented U.S. negotiators with a proposal to reduce violence and restart peace talks.

Arif Noori, a spokesman for the governor of Ghazni province, confirmed the crash to The Washington Post but said he could not identify the type of plane except to say that “the aircraft belonged to a foreign company and all of the passengers on board were non-Afghans.”

Ahmad Khan Seerat, Ghazni’s police spokesman, said Afghan special forces were dispatched to the scene of the crash.

Despite initial reports that the aircraft might be a passenger plane, a spokesman for the Afghan Transportation Ministry, Ali Sena Saeed, said no civil aircraft in Afghanistan crashed Monday.

The video posted to social media appears to show the charred fuselage of an Air Force Bombardier E-11A, an electronics surveillance aircraft that helps boost tactical communications on the battlefield. The white plane in the video bears a distinctive star emblem on the engine paired with sky and dark blue stripes across its body.

The Washington Post could not independently verify the location of the crash.

According to Storyful, a social-media intelligence firm that verifies media content, the video from the Taliban-linked account also shows a serial number that appears to match the unique serial number in photographs and videos of a U.S. Air Force E-11A plane. The Air Force shared video of an E-11A plane taking off from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on Feb. 18, 2018.

The aftermath video appears to show the numbers 11-9 painted near the cockpit. While the rest of the numbers are burned off, the 2018 video of the E-11A BACN show the serial number 11-9358 is painted in roughly the same location as on the downed aircraft.

The E-11A’s mission in Afghanistan is essentially a flying radio tower that helps transmit communications between ground units and commanders, which is often a challenge in mountainous and rugged terrain.

“It’s like Wi-Fi in the sky,” a pilot told the Air Force news service in 2018. All E-11As with that payload are operated solely out of Kandahar Airfield, according to the Air Force.

Its payload was developed after radio communication problems contributed to the disastrous Operation Red Wings mission in 2005, when a team of Navy SEALs was attacked by a massive Taliban force in rugged Konar province.

Three SEALs were killed, and 16 Special Operations troops died when their helicopter was shot down on a rescue mission. The mission was later popularized in the book and film “Lone Survivor.”

Ghazni is a particularly volatile province in Afghanistan, with Taliban forces controlling or contesting several of its districts. In 2018, a Taliban-claimed roadside bomb in Ghazni killed three American troops.

The conflict in Afghanistan has intensified in recent months as U.S. and Taliban negotiators have sought to reach an agreement on a peace deal that would allow for the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops from the country.

There are around 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to the American military command in Kabul.

U.S. negotiators are asking the Taliban for a reduction in violence before peace talks can formally resume. Taliban leadership has submitted a violence-reduction proposal, but talks remain stalled.

George reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Alex Horton and Joyce Lee in Washington and Sharif Hassan in Kabul contributed to this report.



Source link