Diplomatic cables released by the web site Wikileaks reveal that since 2007 the U.S. has secretly been trying to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor, out of concern that it could be diverted for illicit purposes (NYT, Post). Other disclosures related to Pakistan show that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to Pakistan’s progress, commenting, "When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body;" a rail line between Iran and Pakistan is being delayed indefinitely because of Baluch insurgents in both countries; and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi called Zardari "dirty but not dangerous," and said his political rival Nawaz Sharif is "dangerous but not dirty" (Reuters, The News, Post, Daily Times, WSJ). Pakistan has defended its nuclear stance and criticized the release of the cables, which are expected to number around a quarter million (AP, Reuters).
Some of the cables also reportedly described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as "driven by paranoia" and an "extremely weak" leader; detailed an incident in which Afghanistan’s then-vice president was found carrying $52 million in cash during a visit to the UAE last year; and noted Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai’s allegedly corrupt business dealings (NYT, Post, AFP, WSJ). Karzai’s spokesman said U.S.-Afghan relations will not be affected by the leaks (AFP). "Such comments are not new," said Waheed Omar. A spokesman for the Taliban said the militant group is reviewing the cables and will try and punish any Afghan informants they capture (Tel).
Fake Taliban follow up
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff blamed British authorities for bringing the Taliban impostor to the presidential palace in Kabul, though reports are mixed as to whether Karzai and the impostor actually met; chief of staff Muhammad Umer Daudzai said yes, and Karzai and Afghan intelligence said no (Post, AFP, Tolo, Post, WSJ). U.S. officials reportedly believe the fake Taliban leader’s motivation was money. Bonus read: fake Taliban, real embarrassment (FP).
London’s Sunday Times reports that several female students at Kabul University were coerced into sex with their professors in exchange for better grades (Times). Professors at the university said they were aware of three colleagues who were suspended for sexually abusing female students but later returned to their positions.
Cops and elections
A man wearing an Afghan border police uniform reportedly opened fire on coalition soldiers during a training exercise in Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan earlier today, killing six service members (AFP, AP). On Saturday in Paktika, two suicide bombers wearing Afghan police uniforms detonated their explosives within 20 minutes of each other near a police headquarters, killing at least a dozen officers (AP). The Pentagon announced last week that all types of violent incidents except IEDs are up 300 percent from April to September 2010 over the same time period in 2007, though commanders asserted that the coalition is making modest progress in some areas (Reuters, NYT). Some Kandaharis are concerned that a NATO withdrawal could lead to civil war (Reuters).
Last week, Afghan election authorities announced the final results of the September 18 parliamentary contest, with the exception of Ghazni province where officials decided fraud and violence were so rampant that a "fair tally was impossible" (LAT). Within hours of the announcement, Afghanistan’s attorney general Muhammad Ishaq Aloko denounced the election commission for prematurely releasing results, and threatened to indict top election officials for "defaming the nation" (AP, NYT, NYT). Afghan authorities arrested nine people on Thursday on bribery charges, and are seeking a U.N. employee accused of leading a bribery ring (WSJ, NYT). Additionally, a Hungarian woman working for an election observer was reportedly videotaped seeking a bribe (Post).
The drone wars continue
Two drone strikes were reported in North Waziristan over the weekend, the second of which may have missed its target, allowing the alleged militants to escape (AFP, AP, CNN, Geo, ET; AFP, AP, CNN, ET, Geo). A Pakistani man who claims his father and brother were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike said he will file a lawsuit against the head of the CIA unless he receives damages of $500 million (AP). There have now been twice as many drone strikes reported in 2010 as there were in 2009, almost all in North Waziristan (NAF). Pakistani outlets reported that NATO helicopters flew into Pakistani airspace over Khyber on Tuesday and North Waziristan on Friday, which the alliance denied (Daily Times, Geo).
On Sunday, militants blew up a boys’ primary school in the Sandokhel area of Mohmand, and three Pakistani policemen were injured in a remote-controlled roadside bombing in a suburb of Peshawar (Daily Times, Daily Times). Around a dozen people were killed in a plane crash in Karachi on Sunday, the second crash there this month (AP, ET, AJE, Tel).
Transparency International, the anti-corruption watchdog, is reportedly facing threats from "high-level" government officials in Pakistan as the U.S. recently signed an agreement with TI’s Pakistan affiliate to monitor the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar civilian aid package (WSJ). TI has ranked Pakistan the world’s 34th most corrupt country.
A shootout in a crowded market in the Qamarwari area of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, left three militants and one Indian policeman dead earlier today (AP, AFP, ToI). Some 60 miles north, two alleged insurgents were killed in clashes with Indian security forces in the forested Handwara area.
Afghan Fried Turkey
Capt. Bo Reynolds, who commands a 120-soldier infantry company at Combat Outpost Honaker-Miracle in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley, directed his cooks to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving last week; "Everything is better fried, and that includes turkey," he explained (Post). In spite of technical difficulties and equipment shortcomings, the cooks were confident, with one asserting, "Sir, no question we can do it. Failure is not an option." The Post is running a slideshow of Thanksgiving in Afghanistan (Post).