Bonus read: "Did Obama keep his drone promises?," Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland (CNN).
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday and told him that the United States will not be able to provide any future financial assistance to Afghanistan unless the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the two countries is signed (Levin). Levin, who is in the country for a week-long trip, added that he was struck by all of the positive changes he’s seen in Afghanistan since he first started visiting about 12 years ago and that continued international aid was warranted to maintain the country’s progress.
Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi, Afghanistan’s defense minister, told reporters at a news conference in Berlin on Thursday that he’s optimistic that the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) will approve the BSA when it meets next month (Pajhwok). The jirga will review the agreement, which will determine the size and scope of the U.S. mission post 2014, and determine whether or not it should be signed. Among the many issues they will consider is the one of jurisdiction – whether U.S. troops who remain in the country and are accused of crimes will be immune from Afghan law or not.
Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) announced on Thursday that it had received 313 complaints challenging the initial list of presidential and provincial council candidates, the vast majority of which had been filed by Kabul residents and disqualified candidates (Pajhwok). While the IECC did not say how it was going to address these complaints, rejected presidential candidates gave the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) 48 hours to explain why they had been disqualified from running (Pajhwok). The former candidates, who have formed a union of sorts, said their documents should be vetted by the IEC with their representatives present. They also said that if their concerns were not addressed, a "future line of action" would be announced.
Intelligence operatives with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security detained 21 children in Laghman province on Wednesday who were allegedly being taken to Pakistan to receive suicide attack training (Pajhwok). According to Nasrullah Nasrat, the agency’s provincial spokesman, the children – aged between 7 and 12 – were picked up from various places in Nuristan province, and then moved through Laghman.
Responding to a Washington Post report that said CIA documents showed coordination between the United States and Pakistan on the U.S. drone program, former Pakistani prime minster Yousuf Raza Gilani said it was "totally absurd" to suggest that his government had condoned US drone strikes inside his country (AP, Dawn, Post). Gilani, who was in office from 2008 to 2012, added that: "During my government, there was no such support given to drone strikes whatsoever." He also claimed that the permission for the strikes had been given before his tenure, a reference to former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf, who has admitted to authorizing U.S. drone strikes will he was in office and is already charged with four different crimes related to his time in power, may be facing more. Shahid Aziz, a retired Lt. Gen. and one of Musharraf’s former aides, told reporters on Thursday that his former boss should be charged with extrajudicial murder for his role in the covert U.S. program (The News).
The drone program was one of many items discussed on Wednesday when current Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with President Obama (AP, Dawn, ET, NYT). Sharif told journalists after the meeting that Pakistani concerns over the drone strikes had been raised and that "hopefully soon the drone issue will be resolved according to the wishes of [the] Pakistani people" (Dawn, ET). While Obama did not mention the program in his post-meeting comments, he did say that the relationship between the two countries is based on "the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity" (RFE/RL).
Apology not accepted
The Supreme Court of Pakistan decided on Friday to indict defense secretary Asif Yasin Malik for contempt of court after he failed to hold local government elections in all 43 Cantonment Boards despite repeated instructions to do so from the court (Dawn, ET). In Pakistan, cantonments are permanent military stationed areas that are administered by boards, which formulate policies for local development and civil services and act as autonomous statutory local bodies. The last elections were held in 1998 and the boards have been without public representation for 14 years, in violation of the constitution. The decision comes after Malik changed his stance on proposed laws that the Election Commission of Pakistan says will continue to delay the local government elections in the cantonment areas. Malik apologized to the court in Islamabad on October 22 and asked for more time to hold the elections, but Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry refused to accept his apology.
World Polio Day, a day dedicated to eradicating the poliovirus, was marked around the world on Thursday and while the disease has been mostly contained, it is still endemic in Pakistan (Dawn, ET). Pakistan recorded a 79% decrease in polio cases in 2012 and completely eradicated one of the three types of the poliovirus that year, but attacks on polio teams and a Taliban ban on immunizations in North and South Waziristan have led to a spike in diagnoses. Almost 90% of the 46 polio cases documented this year occurred in children from areas where the vaccination is effectively banned, creating what Dr. Elias Durry, head of the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication team, says is a "vaccination gap."
Courage in Journalism
Afghanistan’s Najiba Ayubi was one of three women honored on Wednesday with the Courage in Journalism award from the International Women’s Media Foundation on Wednesday (AP). Ayubi is the director of The Killid Group, an independent news organization, and is a co-founder of the Afghan Independent Media Consortium. She has faced threats from many sources while pursing her work, some of which included gunman showing up at her home and anonymous threats to harm her family. She has also been publicly defamed in a country where simply being a woman and working can present many challenges. Nour Kelze, a Syrian photojournalist, and Bopha Phorn, a Cambodian investigative reporter, joined Ayubi in receiving the awards.
– Bailey Cahall and Emily Schneider