HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN –A soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) is facing serious disciplinary action, following a deadly friendly fire incident that occurred in Washir District, Helmand Province.
"If I could take it back I would," sobbed Private First Class (PFC) Asadullah Baryali, as he begged forgiveness from his platoonmates, many of whom were still recovering from the news that one of their own soldiers had shot and killed a Taliban insurgent that he tragically mistook for a US Marine.
"I should have known he wasn't American," PFC Baryali told Duffel Blog. "He didn't have an iPhone in his ear, was properly shaved, and wasn't saying 'fuck' every other word. He even spoke Pashto, which should have been a dead giveaway."
According to Taliban spokesmen, the insurgent, Abdullah Akhundzada, was part of a team of infiltrators who were wearing US military uniforms and driving a borrowed Afghan Army Humvee when they were stopped by PFC Baryali's platoon.
The precise chain of events is still unclear, but it appears that after Akhundzada identified himself as a US Marine, PFC Baryali raised his rifle and emptied the full magazine of his AK-47 at him.
All of the shots initially missed, but one ricocheted off the steering wheel, striking Akhundzada in the throat and killing him.
Immediately following the shooting, Akhundzada's men became furious at seeing their leader shot down like a common woman and raised their rifles at PFC Baryali.
The situation was tense until PFC Baryali's sergeant was able to defuse the situation by reminding them that they were all Afghans first and only enemies second. The soldiers then helped the Taliban emplace several IED's on the road before returning to base.
Akhundzada's commanding officer, Captain Mohammed Khan, said that ever since the accidental killing, his unit's morale has become dangerously low. While the Taliban could direct their rage at their comrades in the ANA, the soldiers had only themselves to blame.
"Accidents always happen, especially in the heat of combat," mused Captain Khan. "Sometimes you have only seconds to tell the difference between an innocent Taliban and an infidel foreigner."
Khan has his own tragic story to tell. Back in 2008 he threw acid on what he thought was a woman in a burka, only to discover it was a Haqqani Network terrorist in disguise.
"I can still remember him begging for mercy and pleading that he hadn't done anything," said Captain Khan, "but since he had a high-pitched voice and I couldn't see his face, how was I to know he was a man?"
Commanders have reported that PFC Baryali has been reduced in rank to private and put on extra working party details, including painting red mine-signal rocks to white and raking dirt at IED sites.