The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday asked the tribunal for permission to resume a war crimes investigation into the actions of the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan in Afghanistan.
The ICC had spent 15 years investigating alleged war crimes in war-torn Afghanistan, but the probe was put on hold a year ago by the U.S.-backed Afghan government, which said it was conducting its own investigation before it fell to the Taliban last month.
The ICC is a court of last resort for war crimes investigations, when individual member countries are unable or unwilling to conduct their own probes. New ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said that since the internationally recognized Kabul government has fallen, there is a “significant change of circumstances.”
“After reviewing matters carefully, I have reached the conclusion that, at this time, there is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigations … within Afghanistan,” Khan said.
The ICC judges will now consider Khan’s request. Investigators had been examining alleged crimes by all sides in the conflict, including U.S. forces, Afghan government troops and Taliban fighters.
Khan said he wants to focus his investigation on actions of the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan, the offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist group operating in Afghanistan, and to “deprioritize” alleged war crimes by U.S. forces.
The earlier inclusion of alleged war crimes by U.S. forces had angered the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, which imposed sanctions on Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, over the issue. The U.S. lifted the sanctions on Bensouda earlier this year under the administration of President Joe Biden.
Khan said his new focus of an investigation was necessary because of the “gravity, scale and continuing nature of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the Islamic State” and the need to “construct credible cases capable of being proved beyond reasonable doubt in the courtroom.”
The ICC prosecutor said one focus of a new investigation would be the deadly August 26 attack on Kabul airport, an incident claimed by IS-K, in which 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghan civilians were killed.
Some material in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.