Timing is everything
The AP has a must-read detailing the strain caused by the timing of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, not just between the United States and Pakistan, but also between the CIA, who carry out the strikes, and the U.S. State Department (AP). The report tells the story of a frantic call from U.S. ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Munter, who must approve all drone strikes, to the CIA in an attempt to avert an imminent strike on March 17. That attack took place a day after CIA contractor Raymond Davis was freed from Pakistani custody, but CIA director Leon Panetta reportedly overruled Munter. An anonymous official said the strike, which Pakistan alleges killed up to 38 civilians, went forward because, "[the attack] was in retaliation for Davis…The CIA was angry."
The account also lists drone strikes following other key events over the past few months, including a trip to Washington in April by Pakistani spy chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha; a mid-May trip to Pakistan by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to smooth over relations in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden; and U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s trip to Pakistan at the end of May. The most recent attack took place Tuesday in North Waziristan, killing four suspected militants (AP, AFP, CNN, DT).
At least 11 more people have been killed in the past 24 hours in Karachi, and the paramilitary Frontier Corps have been given police powers in the city to help stamp out violence, powers already granted to the paramilitary Rangers (Dawn, AFP, ET, DT, Dawn, NYT, AJE, Dawn, Tel). The Tribune reports that the Rangers appear to be gearing up for an offensive to clear certain areas in Karachi, while Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) head Altaf Hussein said Tuesday that the attacks could become a "massacre or ethnic cleansing" (ET, ET, Dawn, DT). Violence has also reportedly broken out in the Surjani area of Karachi between ethnic Pashtuns and and ethnic Seraikis (ET).
In other news, two young boys in Quetta were killed Tuesday when explosives they were reportedly asked to carry by an unidentified person exploded (ET). Reuters’ Chris Albritton assesses the Pakistan-China relationship after Chinese officials lashed out following an attack they say was perpetrated by Pakistan-trained militants (Reuters). The movement to create a new Seraiki province in the southern Punjab, where many Seraiki-speakers live, has picked up steam in recent weeks (Dawn). A renewed American-led effort to halt the worldwide production of fissile nuclear material continues to face opposition at the United Nations from Pakistan, which has blocked further talks about the possible ban (Bloomberg). And finally, Nicholas Brulliard reports on the stalled efforts to recover from the destruction wrought by last year’s extensive flooding in Pakistan (Post).
Talks about talks
The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan held their fourth trilateral talks in Islamabad Tuesday (AP, Reuters, DT, ET, Dawn, ET, CNN). U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman urged Pakistan to be part of the Afghan peace process with the Taliban, while Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister Jawed Ludin said that his country would need Pakistani help to begin talks with Taliban leaders. And CNN reports on former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh’s claims that he presented then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf with detailed information in 2007 on al-Qaeda safehouses near where bin Laden would later be killed by a Navy SEAL team, only to be rebuffed (CNN).
Afghanistan’s government has ordered nearly 4,000 independent militiamen organized in so-called arbakai in the northern province of Kunduz to disband within 20 days, or be subjected to military action (NYT). And the country’s interior ministry announced Tuesday that they had broken up a "factory" for producing Afghan military uniforms (Pajhwok).
Two stories round out the day: Five Bangladeshis taken hostage near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif in December 2010 have been freed by their unidentified captors (Reuters). And as a result of a settlement in a class action lawsuit, more than 1,000 U.S. military veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will be entitled to lifetime medical benefits (Post).
The L.A. Times reports on a nascent but growing graffiti culture in Kabul, where spraypaint artists depict their views about politics, corruption, and the state of Afghanistan on the city’s blast walls and buildings (LAT). As one artist said, "You can’t find good-quality canvas in Kabul…But we certainly have enough walls."