US army investigating plane crash in Taliban-held area

Afghan National Army forces go towards the site of an airplane crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan January 27, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 January 2020

US army investigating plane crash in Taliban-held area

  • The Taliban said it had shot down a US military plane
  • US officials said they were still investigating the cause of the crash

KABUL: A US military aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, a Taliban spokesman and Afghan journalist affiliated with the militant group said.
Tariq Ghazniwal, a journalist in the area, said that he saw the burning aircraft. In an exchange on Twitter, he told The Associated Press that he saw two bodies and the front of the aircraft was badly burned. He added that aircraft's body and tail were hardly damaged. His information could not be independently verified.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a US airforce plane crashed in the Ghazni province. He claimed the crash killed “lots" of US service members. The militant group often exaggerates casualty figures.
Ghazniwal said the crash site was about 10 kilometers from a US military base.
US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for US Central Command, declined to comment when told about the Taliban claim. She earlier acknowledged American military officials were investigating reports of a crash in Afghanistan. She said that it remained unclear whose aircraft was involved in the crash.
Riordan declined to immediately comment further.
However, pictures on social media purportedly from the crash site showed what could be the remains of a Bombardier E-11A aircraft, which the US military uses for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan.
Images on social media purportedly of the crashed plane showed an aircraft bearing US Air Force markings similar to other E-11A surveillance aircraft photographed by aviation enthusiasts. Visible registration numbers on the plane also appeared to match those aircraft.
The so-called Battlefield Airborne Communications Node can be carried on unmanned or crewed aircraft like the E-11A. It is used by the military to extend the range of radio signals and can be used to convert the output of one device to another, such as connecting a radio to a telephone.
Colloquially referred to by the US military as “Wi-Fi in the sky,” the BACN system is used in areas where communications are otherwise difficult, elevating signals above obstacles like mountains. The system is in regular use in Afghanistan.
Local Afghan officials had said earlier on Monday that a passenger place from Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines had crashed in the Taliban-held area of the eastern Ghazni province. However, Ariana Airlines told The Associated Press that none of its planes had crashed in Afghanistan.
The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled. The number of people on board and their fate was not immediately known, nor was the cause of the crash.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the plane went down around 1:10 pm local time (8:40 am GMT) in Deh Yak district, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of the capital Kabul. He said the crash site is in territory controlled by the Taliban. Two provincial council members also confirmed the crash.
But the acting director for Ariana Airlines, Mirwais Mirzakwal, dismissed reports that one the company's aircraft had crashed. The state-owned airline also released a statement on its website saying all its aircraft were operational and safe.
The mountainous Ghazni province sits in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains and is bitterly cold in winter. The Taliban currently control or hold sway over around half the country.
The last major commercial air crash in Afghanistan occurred in 2005, when a Kam Air flight from the western city of Herat to Kabul crashed into the mountains as it tried to land in snowy weather.
The war, however, has seen a number of deadly crashes of military aircraft. One of the most spectacular occurred in 2013 when an American Boeing 747 cargo jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Bagram airbase north of Kabul en route to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. All seven crew member were killed. The US National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that large military vehicles were inadequately secured and had shifted during flight, causing damage to the control systems that "rendered the airplane uncontrollable."


Let’s come together to tax tech giants, say G20 officials eyeing $100 bln boost

Updated 41 min 19 sec ago

Let’s come together to tax tech giants, say G20 officials eyeing $100 bln boost

  • OECD says this could boost national tax revenues by a total of $100 billion a year
  • Financial leaders, from the world’s 20 largest economies, talks in Riyadh this weekend

RIYADH: Leading world economies must show unity in dealing with aggressive “tax optimization” by global digital giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, G20 officials said on Saturday.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is developing global rules by to make digital companies pay tax where they do business, rather than where they register subsidiaries. The OECD says this could boost national tax revenues by a total of $100 billion a year.
The call for unity appeared directed mainly at the United States, home to the biggest tech companies, in an attempt to head off any stalling on the rules until after the US presidential election in November.
“There is no time to wait for elections,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told a tax seminar on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers.
“This needs leadership in certain countries,” Scholz said, looking directly at US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, sitting next to him at the seminar.
The taxing of digital firms and the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy are among the hot topics being debated by G20 financial leaders, from the world’s 20 largest economies, during their talks in Riyadh this weekend.
The OECD wants to set a minimum effective level at which such companies would be taxed and seeks agreement by the start of July, with an endorsement by the G20 by the end of the year.
“A coordinated answer is not the better way forward, but, given the alternatives, the only way forward,” OECD head Angel Gurria told the seminar.
A draft G20 communique, seen by Reuters, showed financial leaders will endorse the OECD approach to the issue in their final statement on Sunday, backing the need pay tax where business is conducted and the need for a minimum rate.
They will also “reaffirm committment to reach a consensus based solution by end of 2020.”
The OECD efforts were stalled late last year by last-minute changes demanded by Washington, which many G20 officials view as reluctant to deal with a potentially politically tricky matter before the presidential election.
Mnuchin said OECD countries were close to an agreement on the minimum tax level, which he said would also go a long way to resolving the issue of where tax is paid, although he warned that some aspects of the tax proposal could require approval by the US Congress.
“I think we all want to get this done by the end of the year, and that’s the objective,” Mnuchin told the seminar.
Mnuchin sought to reassure G20 delegates that a US proposal to add a “safe harbor” regime to the tax reform effort — which has drawn criticism from France and other countries — would not let companies simply opt out of paying taxes.
“It’s not an optional tax,” he said. “You pay the safe harbor as opposed to paying something else. People may pay a little bit more in a safe harbor knowing they have tax certainty.”
US officials say their proposal would help address lawmakers concerns and smooth passage of legislation that might be required for US implementation of new global tax rules. In essence, they argue, it would allow a multinational enterprise to elect to pay more foreign tax in exchange for better terms in the event of disputes over taxes, and easier administrative procedures.
But many questions remain.

MORE CLARITY NEEDED
French Finance Minster Bruno Le Maire told reporters it remained unclear exactly what the US proposal would entail.
“We’re still in the process of assessing what it really means,” he said, adding, “It’s not a non-starter for the French government. It’s fair and useful to give all the attention to this new proposal.”
European Union Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told Reuters there was still hard work ahead.
“It’s good that there is a commitment to find a solution, but ... it’s not there,” he said, adding that he would meet with Mnuchin for bilateral talks later Saturday.
Scholz told reporters Germany remained skeptical. “I think we shouldn’t start with letting companies choose which taxes they want to pay. This is leading to nowhere,” he said.
Several European countries, including France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Britain and Hungary either already have a plan for a digital tax or are working on one, creating the risk of a highly fragmented global system.
“You cannot have in a global economy different national tax systems that conflict with each other,” Mnuchin said.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Feb. 14 he would be ready to pay more tax in Europe and would welcome a global OECD solution that would make the levies uniform.