The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: U.S. investigates deadly chopper downing

Daily brief: U.S. investigates deadly chopper downing

Moving forward

In televised remarks following the downing of a CH-47 helicopter carrying 30 U.S. troops Saturday, including elite Navy SEALs as well as eight Afghans, President Barack Obama yesterday promised to "press on" in Afghanistan, while a Pentagon spokesman said the helicopter’s destruction, believed to have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade, "does not represent any kind of watershed or trend" (Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, Bloomberg). Investigations into the incident are now focused on determining the necessity of sending such a sizeable force to help a U.S. Army Ranger unit pinned down by Taliban fighters, as the deaths have brought renewed attention to the role of Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan (Post, National Journal, AP, CNN, Guardian, CSM).

The bodies of those killed will arrive today at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, though the Pentagon has barred media coverage of the return, as the bodies have not yet been individually identified (Post, LAT, AFP, CNN, WSJ). And NPR reports on the challenge facing the military in rebuilding after such a loss of Special Operations troops, including those from the storied SEAL Team 6 (NPR).

In other Afghanistan coverage, the Times looks into the failure of many villages built to house Afghanistan’s returning refugees and internally-displaced persons, while TIME explores the legacy of recently-departed U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry (NYT, TIME). Roughly 200 Kuchi nomads protested in Kabul Tuesday after a lawmaker’s bodyguard allegedly killed a Kuchi as a result of a land dispute (AFP). And the Telegraph reports that Britain’s Prince Harry has received the permission of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth to return to active duty in Afghanistan (Tel).

New concerns

Continued violence in Karachi claimed at least eight people overnight, while Pakistan’s army leaders expressed concern for the first time over the violence and its economic impact following a Corps Commanders’ meeting Monday (Dawn, ET, BBC, AFP, ET, The News, DT, Dawn). In a bid to contain the violence, interior minister Rehman Malik announced Monday that all weapons holders in Karachi would need to obtain new permits, while the Sindh province home minister Manzoor Wassan said Tuesday that the United States had offered "equipment and other expertise" in confronting the city’s law and order problems (ET, DT, ET). Elsewhere, at least 150 people have been arrested in Quetta in connection to the killing this weekend of three police officers, while four Frontier Corps personnel were wounded when a bomb exploded near their vehicle in the Baluchistan city of Turbat (ET, Dawn).

Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Monday and Tuesday in Jeddah, and is said to have renewed past offers to sell heavy weapons to the country (ET, Dawn). Meanwhile, back in Pakistan Tuesday, Gilani extended an olive branch to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) to return to the governing coalition, as the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) is reportedly considering withdrawing from the Federal and Sindh provincial governments in protest over Sindh’s new local government law (Dawn, ET). And Dawn reports that according to anonymous sources, Pakistan’s government will introduce reforms within a week to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) that governs the country’s tribal areas (Dawn).

Heavy rains continue to lash Pakistan, killing four people across the country and even forcing the country’s president Asif Ali Zardari to cancel several meetings (Dawn, Dawn). And Dawn travels to the Swat Valley, where the area’s trout fisheries are finding it difficult to recover from last year’s flooding and the drop in tourism that followed several years of militant activity in the area (Dawn).

Four stories round out the day: Investigators have reportedly concluded that slain minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed because of a family dispute, despite claims of responsibility in the killing from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (ET). A federal judge in Miami on Monday denied a bail request from Pakistani-born U.S. citizen Irfan Khan, who along with his brother and father is alleged to have provided funds and other support to the TTP (Reuters). The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Pakistan Tuesday, cautioning travelers about visa troubles and possible harassment from Pakistani authorities (CNN, ET). And Reuters discusses the increasing violence against women in Pakistan’s tribal areas (Reuters).

Flashpoint

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have carried out a series of arrests of fellow police officers and army personnel following accusations that a civilian was killed in a staged gunfight Sunday, after which authorities announced that they had killed a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander (BBC). Other arrests were carried out in the investigation of the death in custody of a shopkeeper from the town of Sopore.

Art history

After months of political and bureaucratic wrangling, an exhibit of rare Buddhist art from Pakistan opened Tuesday at the Asia Society Museum in New York (Reuters). The works, many of which have never previously been shown in the United States, display some of the Buddhist art production that grew around what is now Peshawar nearly 1,800 years ago.

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