Mark Sedwill, NATO’s top civilian representative to Afghanistan, said earlier today that the security transition to Afghan control in parts of the country could go into "2015 and beyond," commenting that 2014 is a "goal" which is "realistic but not guaranteed" (AP, Reuters, McClatchy). Ahead of this weekend’s NATO conference in Lisbon, Sedwill also asserted, "It is not helpful to have a Washington Post headline suggesting a week before the summit that there is friction between the president of Afghanistan and the alliance, or with the ambassador or the general, over the conduct of the strategy," referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent interview with the Post in which he called for a reduction in military operations and an end to night raids (Post).
Two-thirds of all enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan reportedly occur in the three provinces of Kunar, Helmand, and Kandahar, so those will likely be handed over to Afghan control last (AP). While NATO leaders will reportedly be told at Lisbon of the progress being made in Kandahar, attacks and doubts about the competence of Afghan security forces there continue (AFP). In some areas of Kandahar that were once controlled by the Taliban, U.S. forces have reportedly been using "armored bulldozers, high explosives, missiles and even airstrikes" to destroy heavily booby-trapped houses, which has mixed support from Afghan officials and residents (NYT).
In order to soothe the recent tensions with Karzai, the White House has reportedly promised to give Afghans greater control gradually over Special Operations raids, though it is "unlikely" that the U.S. will completely give up unilateral missions (WSJ). NATO and American officials lauded Canada’s announcement that it will continue to send trainers to Afghanistan after its combat role ends next year (NYT, Reuters). Canada currently has some 2,900 troops based in Kandahar.
Two rival religious leaders opened fire inside a mosque following a disagreement over who would lead prayers for the Eid al-Adha holiday in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan (AP). Eighteen people were wounded. In the southern port city of Karachi, three were killed and ten injured in firing incidents related to the theft of sacrificial hides earlier today (The News). And in Pakistan’s northwest, three alleged Taliban fighters were killed in clashes with Pakistani security forces in Shangla district (Daily Times).
Sources tell Pakistan’s Express Tribune that the al-Qaeda linked anti-Shia militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is in the process of splitting into eight geographically-based cells (ET). And two al-Qaeda figures, Umar Misri and Mohammad Mohammad, were reportedly arrested from the Sohrab Goth area of Karachi yesterday and sent to Islamabad for questioning (Geo).
Afti Ali, a Pakistani citizen who allegedly gave failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad nearly $5,000 "apparently without knowing how the money would be used," was charged yesterday in criminal court in Boston with immigration fraud and making false statements (Reuters, FBI). The Journal uses his case to explore the difficulties of tracking funds sent via the hawala system, an informal network of money transmitters (WSJ).
Indian security forces fired shots and tear gas in the air to disperse anti-India protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir after Eid al-Adha prayers in Srinagar, Anantnag, Ganderbal, and other towns across the valley (BBC, AP, AFP, PTI). No casualties have been reported.
Kabul PD Blue
The U.S. government is funding a television show on Tolo TV called "Eagle Four" about an elite unit of well-trained, good-looking Afghan cops in an effort to rally Afghans behind their security forces (WSJ). In the spring lineup is a reality show called "Birth of an Army" that will follow new recruits from training to battle.