Bonus read: "Talking to the Taliban: Hope over History?," the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and the New America Foundation, report found here.
Ambassadors from Afghanistan and Pakistan traded sharp accusations at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday, each criticizing the other of not doing enough to address the presence of terrorist safe havens on their lands (Dawn, ET, Pajhwok, Reuters). Zahir Tanin, the Afghan U.N. envoy, told the council that "terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist on Pakistan’s soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy." Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, Masood Khan, responded by saying that he rejected Tanin’s argument "root, trunk and branch." Khan argued that there were terrorists operating "on both sides of the porous border" and that many attacks in Pakistan were actually planned on Afghan soil. It was the latest diplomatic setback for the region in a week full of them.
Ambassador Tanin also told meeting attendees that the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar is to be used for peace talks only (Pajhwok). He stated that "any other activity or function undertaken by or with the Taliban office outside the Afghan-led peace talks purposes is unacceptable, " and reiterated that "the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sole sovereign and legitimate authority" in the country, a direct reference to the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" signs that were posted at the Taliban office and prompted the halt of talks earlier this week (NYT).
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report Thursday detailing heightened security risks to Western workers and companies in Afghanistan over increasing complaints of non-payment by local subcontractors (Post). These subcontractors, of whom 90 percent are based in Afghanistan, allege that U.S.-based businesses working in the country are not honoring their contractual agreements, namely paying the subcontractors for work performed. As a result, the SIGAR report documents threats to "blow up a compound of U.S. contractors and government agencies," detonate suicide bombs, pull weapons on employers, kidnap employers, and damage property in an effort to collect payment.
In anticipation of next year’s presidential and provincial council elections, Ziaul Haq, the secretary of the Independent Election Commission, announced that official registration for candidates will begin September 16 (Pajhwok). He also said that 53,000 eligible voters have been registered during the latest registration drive, a quarter of them women. The elections are scheduled for next April.
Pakistan distanced itself from tensions between the U.S. and Afghan governments over the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar, by saying Thursday that it "recognizes the government of President Hamid Karzai as the legitimate government of Afghanistan" (Dawn, ET). Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudry said that Pakistan’s support for the Taliban office was "in keeping with [its] consistent call for a peaceful and negotiated solution in the Afghan conflict," and reiterated the government’s official position that an all-inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue is required for successful reconciliation.
At least 14 people were killed and 32 were injured Friday when a suicide bomber attacked a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar (BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT). Rural Shafiullah, the Superintendent of Police, said there were originally three attackers, but two fled after they faced resistance from security personnel guarding the mosque. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred during the Friday sermon.
Provincial lawmaker Mohammed Sajid Qureshi, his son, and a passing civilian were shot and killed Friday by unidentified gunmen outside a mosque in Karachi (AFP, ET). Qureshi, a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and his son were returning home from Friday prayers when the attack occurred. The MQM has announced three days of mourning in response to the killings.
One month after launching an operation against militants in the Tirah Valley, Pakistani security forces hoisted the national flag atop the historic Bagh Markaz mosque Thursday (Dawn, ET). A statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations office said the area had been successfully cleared of militants, and the 50,000 residents who had fled to safer locations were encouraged to return home.
More than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment have been shredded, cut, and crushed into scrap metal as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 (Post). Because complicated rules govern equipment donations to other countries, and few would even be able to retrieve it from Afghanistan, military planners have destroyed equipment worth more than $7 billion, turning it into scrap metal the Afghans use in construction projects or as spare parts.
– Bailey Cahall