News Afghan children play cricket on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, near to Alinghar, Laghman where the cricket players were shot by a gunman.

Authorities say the gunman rode on a motorbike and shot the group of men

Karzai in tears over Afghan violence

The beleaguered Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, broke down in tears yesterday as he denounced the violence ravaging his country.

Leading article: Still far from representative democracy

It is early days yet; elections in Afghanistan – at least the counts – have a habit of going on and on. But the initial signs from the country's second parliamentary election are not encouraging. Compared with the first parliamentary election, five years ago, or the presidential election last year, the cause of electoral democracy has hardly advanced. Indeed, it may have taken a step back.

Violence, fraud and cronyism keep millions away from Afghan poll

Almost as quickly as the international community rushed to praise Saturday's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, complaints of widespread irregularities began pouring in, echoing the protracted wrangle over vote-rigging that returned President Hamid Karzai to power last year.

Candidates kidnapped on eve of Afghan elections

Militants kidnapped two parliamentary candidates and 18 election workers ahead of today's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in the latest sign that the vote will be marked by bloodshed and intimidation.

Afghan elections: Campaigners fear sinister forces are behind sudden rise of women

The number of female candidates appears a triumph – but they could be warlords' puppets

Kim Sengupta: Insulting Islam can have lethal repercussions on battlefield

Identifying Western troops with the desecration of the most holy of writings would help insurgents to win support

Leading article: A light shone on the dark side of this war

The tens of thousands of secret US military documents passed to the Wikileaks website paint a far grimmer picture of the war in Afghanistan than our political leaders have ever conveyed. They show that Western forces are often scandalously careless of civilian life in that country. Some 140 incidents are recorded in which Afghan civilians were killed. They died in misdirected airstrikes, shooting sprees by panicking troops, or raids by Special Forces. And it not only the US military which has been responsible for such carnage. Polish, French, German and British troops are also recorded as killing civilians. While it is impossible to verify all that is contained in these documents, it is clear enough that appalling events have gone unreported by Western forces.

Kim Sengupta: Throwing cash at a corrupt government shows how the West is desperate for an exit

The Afghan military 'being responsible' does not mean Western troops will be out of the country in four years

Afghanistan withdrawal timetable agreed

Afghan forces should start taking responsibility for security in areas of their country this year and be in charge of all provinces by the end of 2014, an international conference agreed today.

Afghan deal reopens trade route to Pakistan and India

Forty-six years after talks started, Afghanistan has struck a trade deal with Pakistan opening a direct route to India and calling to mind its past glories as the crossroads of Asia.

'Afghan troops need better vetting and better conditions'

The new commander of British troops in Helmand talks exclusively to Kim Sengupta

Patrick Cockburn: Unlike Iraq, dressing retreat up as success will be difficult

The greatest difficulty facing the US and Britain in Afghanistan is not that the Taliban is very strong, but that the Afghan government is very weak. This does not seem to be changing, and it is this that creates difficulties in making concrete plans and dates for an American and British withdrawal.

Mortal tide calls entire US strategy into question

The patrol from No 1 Company, the Coldstream Guards, was pinned down in a field at Babaji in Helmand, an area supposedly "liberated" from the Taliban during Operation Panther's Claw. As we took shelter in a ditch an American B1 bomber, called in for air support, came in low, huge and menacing. It was there for a "show of force" to scare the Taliban, but not to bomb them, an example of "courageous restraint" stipulated by General Stanley McChrystal. The Taliban did not get scared and continued firing. " How about some courageous bombing instead?" shouted an exasperated young soldier.

Karzai earns just £355 a month

Afghan president Hamid Karzai earns $525 (£355) a month, has less than $20,000 in the bank and owns no land or property, according to a declaration of his assets yesterday by an anti-corruption body.

Cameron cancels Helmand visit amid attack fear

David Cameron was today forced to abandon a visit to British troops in a frontline base amid fears that the Taliban were trying to bring down his helicopter.

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