Event notice: Peter Bergen, Maj. Michael Waltz, and Shuja Nawaz will be discussing the Battle for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday, September 14 in DC. Details and RSVP available here (NAF).
Fighting fire with fire
Thousands of enraged Afghans and Pakistanis protested a small evangelical church’s plans, currently on hold, to burn Qurans on September 11 by burning American flags and chanting "Death to Christians" (BBC, Pajhwok, AP, AFP, Post). Insurgents have reportedly handed out pamphlets in some areas of Afghanistan comparing the Quran burning to Draw Muhammad Day earlier this year, and a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan said his group is telling people the planned Quran burning is on par with drone strikes (ABC, Newsweek). Thousands of Afghans hurled rocks at a small NATO base in the northeastern province of Badakhshan in protest, and according to the head of UNAMA Staffan de Mistura the country-wide protests could delay Afghan parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 18 (AFP, AP, Reuters, shape=”rect” target=”_blank”>Tolo).
The top U.S. and NATO intelligence officer in Afghanistan Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn is reportedly leaving his post for a senior position with the director of national intelligence, James Clapper (Post, AP). An insurgent commander who was reportedly planning attacks before the parliamentary elections has been killed in a NATO airstrike in Kabul district (AP).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Eid message said he hopes that Taliban leader Mullah Omar will "[join] the peace process, [give] up fratricide, [give] up bombings and blasts, [stop] causing casualties to Afghanistan’s children, women and men" (AFP, NYT). Karzai’s attempts to reach out to the Taliban have not been popular with Afghanistan’s minority Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara populations, who are concerned that the Taliban could return to power with civil war (WSJ).
A senior administration official told the Post that "Our big push to help build Afghan institutions for transparency and anti-corruption has had the dismaying effect of bringing a lot of stuff to light that has sparked political crises," highlighting the ongoing paradox of addressing corruption in Afghanistan (Post). Ashraf Ghani, former Afghan presidential candidate and former World Bank official, has urged Afghanistan to stress test its banking system in light of the crisis at the Kabul Bank (FT).
Weekend must-reads: Terry McDermott’s "The Mastermind," a profile of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (New Yorker); Newsweek’s al-Qaeda package (Inside al-Qaeda, Why bin Laden still matters); Ahmed Rashid’s National Interest cover story on Pakistan (NI).
Flood watch: 20 more villages in Sindh have been flooded, as more rain slows down rescue efforts in southern Pakistan (ET, Dawn, Dawn). The U.N.’s top emergency relief official, Baroness Amos, visited a relief camp in Nowshera yesterday and said she would seek more aid for victims of Pakistan’s floods, which have affected at least 21 million people (NYT). Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said small farmers affected by the flooding will get free seed and fertilizer to begin cultivation in areas where the wa
ter has receded (Dawn).
In honor of Eid, Indian authorities have lifted curfews across the Kashmir Valley, and separatists have called for a break in strikes (PTI, ToI). India is reportedly withdrawing an emergency powers act that gave Indian forces the right to open fire on anyone holding a "deadly weapon" (Tel). Some 70 people have been killed in clashes with security forces in Kashmir since June.
Serving up peace
Pakistani tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi is paired up with India’s Rohan Bopanna in tonight’s men’s doubles final of the U.S. Open, and the duo calls themselves the "Indo-Pak Express" and seeks to promote peace through sports (CNN, Reuters, Fox). They wear sweatshirts emblazoned with "Stop War, Start Tennis" when they play.