WikiLeaks: Pakistan edition
Partnering with Pakistan’s Dawn and India’s NDTV and The Hindu, the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks has released a new batch of U.S. diplomatic cables related to Pakistan (Dawn, Dawn, NDTV, Hindu). Chief among the cables is the news that Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani requested more "Predator coverage" of South Waziristan from then-CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, in early 2008, who said he did not have the resources and offered U.S. ground troops instead, which Kayani turned down for political reasons (Dawn). The Pakistani military has denied that Kayani wanted more drone strikes in Pakistan (ET).
One of the cables reports that in March 2006 the Pakistani Air Force was having a "hard time" trying to get airmen to trim their beards, and received monthly reports of "acts of petty sabotage" that Pakistani officials interpreted as Islamists’ efforts to prevent air power from being deployed in Pakistan’s tribal regions (NDTV). Pakistani national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani admitted to his Indian counterpart that Pakistan has contacts with "bad guys" and "one of them" could have carried out the summer 2008 suicide bombing on the Indian embassy in Kabul that left almost 60 dead (Hindu). Durrani denied the ISI’s involvement in the attack.
Also disclosed in the cables, the U.S. urged Kayani, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, and then-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to send Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha to Delhi following the deadly terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008, a move the Pakistani Army reportedly opposed (Hindu, Dawn, Hindu). Less than a year later, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad recommended a substantive increase in U.S. foreign military aid to Pakistan to address the country’s "conventional disadvantage vis-a-vis India" (Hindu). The cables detail a "political game of pass-the-buck" between Punjab’s PML-N leadership and the federal PPP government over the release of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the Mumbai attacks, from house arrest in June 2009 (Hindu, NDTV). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of "credible reports of advanced LeT planning" for attacks against India in the summer of 2009, and attempted to impress upon Pakistani leadership the importance of preventing them (NDTV).
The U.S. embassy also expressed disapproval of Zardari’s handling of his "showdown" with the Sharifs, part of the PML-N opposition, in early 2009 (Dawn). Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N leader of Punjab, reportedly told U.S. diplomats in March of 2009 that Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Chaudry, who was then removed from office, could be restored after some "face-saving," even as Nawaz Sharif was publicly refusing to back down from demands for Chaudry’s restoration (Dawn).
Dawn describes the process of analyzing nearly 5,000 cables, more of which will be released in the coming days (Dawn)
A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for a remote controlled roadside bombing targeting a U.S. vehicle from the consulate in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar that left one Pakistani passerby dead and 10 injured (ET, AP, Reuters, AFP, NYT, WSJ). Militants said the strike was revenge for the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In the tribal area of Orakzai, five people were killed in an explosion, and in Nowshera, two separate bombings left one dead and nine injured, including two Pakistani police officials (Reuters, ET, ET, Geo). In the southwestern district of Dera Bugti, in Baluchistan, unidentified militants blew up a gas pipeline (DT).
As Pakistani and Chinese leaders continue to exchange warm words during Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s current visit to China, China has promised to provide Pakistan with 50 additional JF-17 fighter jets on an expedited schedule (AFP, AP, WSJ, NYT). The jets are part of Pakistan’s effort to upgrade its aging fleet of American F-16s and French Mirages and to "to try to match the air power of neighboring India."
Pakistani and U.S. officials are continuing to try and mend ties in the wake of the surprise U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, as Obama administration envoy to the region Marc Grossman said in Islamabad that not every militant group fighting in Afghanistan will be able to be reconciled with the Afghan government (AP, AP).
Elsewhere on the bin Laden front, State Department lawyer Harold Koh has offered the Obama administration’s legal justification for the Abbottabad raid that left the al-Qaeda chief dead (ABC, Opinio Juris). U.S. officials say that no one will receive the $25 million reward for information leading to Osama bin Laden because the raid was based on electronic intelligence, not human sources (ABC). CIA head Leon Panetta has warned Agency employees not to leak classified information about the Abbottabad operation, stating that an "unprecedented amount of very sensitive" information has made its way into the press already (Post). The Post adds two more bin Laden stories today: Joshua Partlow explores what bin Laden’s death might mean for the al-Qaeda Taliban relationship (Post), and Karin Brulliard describes the "seething anger" within the Pakistani military rank-and-file at the U.S. raid (Post).
Some 1,700 Taliban fighters have turned in their weapons and joined the Afghan government’s program of reintegration in the last year, according to the British Major General Phil Johns, who is in charge of the efforts, who also said bin Laden’s death has prompted more interest in reintegration from low-level militants (AFP, Times). There are thought to be around 25,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. One of those reconciled is reportedly Maulavi Isfandar, a Taliban commander who oversaw the flogging and execution of a pregnant widow accused of adultery (Tel).
Hundreds of Afghans are reportedly demonstrating against the arrest of two sons of a local prayer leader in Logar province in a U.S.-led night raid (Pajhwok). Two children were killed in a bombing in Kandahar city (Pajhwok).
A study released yesterday at the Pentagon found that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are reporting plunging levels of morale and the highest rates of mental health issues in the last five years (CNN, AP). Almost 80 percent of Marines and soldiers said they had seen a member of their unit killed or injured, and around 20 percent said they had suffered a psychological problem such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Read the report here (pdf).
A package deal
A woman in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province has given birth to conjoined baby girls (Pajhwok). A hospital official said the girls, who share a stomach and a chest, must be sent abroad to be kept alive.