Event notice: Join the New America Foundation and the Heinrich Böll Foundation today at 12:15 pm EST for a discussion with Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul, author of the new book The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier (NAF).
During yesterday’s Senate hearing on the Afghan war, Gen. David Petraeus briefly collapsed, and was able to walk out of the room moments later to return in 30 minutes, saying he had been dehydrated (Wash Post, The News, Guardian, Tel, NYT, LAT, WSJ). Before the interruption, Gen. Petraeus offered "qualified" support for the Obama administration’s plan for the beginning of the Afghan drawdown, telling Sen. Carl Levin that "In a perfect world…we have to be careful with timelines." The Senate hearing will resume this morning at 9:00am and at 1:00pm, the House Armed Services Committee will hear testimony from Gen. Petraeus and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy (SASC, HASC).
The Pentagon is reportedly concerned that correspondents embedding only in the south of Afghanistan, where fighting is fiercest, is causing too much "downbeat" coverage of the war and "undercutting public sentiment before President Barack Obama’s strategy even has a chance to work" (Reuters). Yesterday in Kandahar city, Taliban militants reportedly assassinated the governor of Arghandab district, Haji Abdul Jabbar, who had been considered a "rare success story" for his "rising clout and his ability to rally many village leaders against the Taliban" (WSJ, Pajhwok, AFP, ABC, AP, Wash Post). Jabbar’s son and bodyguard were also killed in the remote-controlled roadside bomb.
C. J. Chivers reviews the status of the nascent Afghan police force in Kandahar, where there are only 800 to 1,000 officers, out of more than 100,000 Afghanistan claims to have on the books across the country (NYT). And two former Taliban ministers who are now involved in Afghan politics but claim to maintain lines of communication with the insurgency, Mullah Rahmani and Haji Musa Hotak, said the Taliban have been encouraged by recent discussion of removing some Taliban names from a U.N. blacklist (NYT).
For the next five days, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on his fourth trip to Japan, where he is expected to face harsh questioning about Afghan governance after Japan donated some five billion in aid over five years (AFP).
Lashkar-e-Taiba, the traditionally India-focused militant group that was responsible for the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, is reportedly targeting more Indian interests in Afghanistan, where the group is "active in six or eight provinces," according to a senior NATO intelligence official (NYT). Lashkar’s capabilities have grown since it expanded into Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has been able to exchange training and ideas with organizations like al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and the Taliban. Bonus read: Stephen Tankel on the LeT’s operations in Pakistan’s FATA (NAF).
A man on a mission: bin Laden huntin’
Gary Faulkner, the middle aged American construction worker who was arrested in Pakistan’s Chitral area with a 40-inch sword, a Chinese pistol, a dagger, and night-vision goggles on an alleged hunt for Osama bin Laden, is "not crazy, a "psychopath," or a "sociopath," according to his younger brother: "he’s a man on a mission" out to avenge the September 11 attacks (Reuters, AP, Wash Post, AJE, Times, Tel, Wash Post, WSJ). Faulkner, whose story has provided a wealth of comedic fodder for the blogosphere, has been examined by Pakistani doctors after his family warned that he has kidney problems, as does his target (AP, NYT). He is currently in Pakistani custody in Peshawar, where he will reportedly be given psychological tests (AFP).
As sectarian tension bubbles in Karachi, Pakistani authorities have banned public political meetings for the next month as a way to try and control the targeted killings that have plagued the city recently (BBC, Dawn). At least four more people have been killed across Karachi in the last day, and Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik implied "foreign elements" and "a conspiracy" are involved in the unrest, though did not offer any evidence (Daily Times, ET, The News, Sify). The government of Sindh has formed a committee to investigate the killings (ET).
Two years after a Pakistani military offensive allegedly cleared the northwestern tribal agency of Bajaur of Taliban militants, threats written on Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan letterhead warning locals to "repent for their sin" of falling "prey to government propaganda" appeared in areas of Mamoond and Khar (Daily Times, The News, AFP). Six militants were killed yesterday in Bajaur in Pakistani military action, and 11 surrendered in nearby Swat (Daily Times).
Cricket fever in Afghanistan
A new documentary called "Out of the Ashes" is premiering tomorrow at the Edinburgh Film Festival chronicling the rise of cricket in Afghanistan (Independent). Bodybuilding and buzkashi are also popular pastimes.