The International Criminal Court approved an investigation into alleged war crimes by US military and intelligence and the Taliban in Afghanistan, NBC News reports.
“The prosecutor is authorized to commence investigation in relation to alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003,” said Judge Piotr Hofmański of the ICC’s appeals court.
The decision overturned a lower ICC court that blocked the investigation, calling the chances that it leads to prosecution “extremely limited.”
Lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that his office found reasonable evidence to believe that members of the US military and the CIA committed war crimes in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan and other partner nations. There is also reason to believe the Taliban committed war crimes as well, he said.
Pompeo slams decision:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision is a "truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body."
"It is all the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan — the best chance for peace in a generation," he said.
Pompeo previously vowed to repeal or deny visas to ICC officials who are investigating Americans.
"We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation," he said last year.
Move comes after peace deal:
The decision comes after the US and the Taliban signed a peace deal on Saturday, requiring the US to withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban cutting ties with terrorist groups and entering peace talks with the Afghan government.
But the US launched strikes on Taliban fighters after they renewed violence against Afghan forces.
"We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments. As we have demonstrated, we will defend our partners when required," said US Forces in Afghanistan Spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett, adding that the US has a “responsibility to defend” the Afghan forces.