The South Asia Channel

Obama Delays Troops Withdrawal From Afghanistan; Former PM Challenges Summons In Coal Scam; Pakistani Army Says Airstrikes Only Killed 30 Militants

Afghanistan Obama delays troops withdrawal from Afghanistan The United States will keep the 9,800 troops currently in Afghanistan on the ground through the end of the year, rather than reducing the number to 5,500 as planned, the White House announced on Tuesday (CNN, Post). The announcement came after a day-long meeting with Afghan President Ashraf ...

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US President Barack Obama waves with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (L) during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, March 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Obama delays troops withdrawal from Afghanistan

The United States will keep the 9,800 troops currently in Afghanistan on the ground through the end of the year, rather than reducing the number to 5,500 as planned, the White House announced on Tuesday (CNN, Post). The announcement came after a day-long meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In a news conference, Obama pledged to “continue to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations” in Afghanistan, but said that it was important to be flexible, adding: “This flexibility reflects our reinvigorated partnership with Afghanistan, which is aimed at making Afghanistan secure” (NYT).

Protests continue after mob kills woman

Bonus read: “A Lynching, Then Anger in Afghanistan,” Danielle Moylan (SouthAsia).

Thousands of people marched through Kabul for a second day on Wednesday, demanding justice for a woman who was brutally beaten to death by a mob after being accused of burning a Quran (RFE/RL). Men and women took to the streets carrying images of the bloodied face of Farkhunda, the 27-year-old victim of the deadly attack, which occurred on March 19. Claims that Farkhunda, who — like many Afghans — went by just one name, actually burned the Quran have come into question, and local authorities and the victim’s family say the attack grew out of a dispute between Farkhunda and male fortune tellers and healers at the shrine where she was attacked.

Fulbright scholarships for Afghans increased by 50 percent

Fulbright scholarships for eligible Afghans will increase by 50 percent over the next five years, according to a statement released by the White House on Tuesday. The increase, which will make the Afghan Fulbright program one of the largest in the world, comes in light of the “significant impact that education and cultural exchanges have had on Afghan and American society,” according to the statement. Obama also announced the establishment of an $18 million United States Agency for International Development scholarship program to support women attending universities in Afghanistan (Pajhwok).

India

Former PM challenges summons in coal scam

Indian former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to exempt him from appearing in a New Delhi court on April 8 in connection to a case where coal blocks — located in the eastern state of Odisha — were allocated to Hindalco, a Mumbai-based aluminium manufacturing company (Indian ExpressNDTV). The court had summoned Singh for offenses including criminal conspiracy and breach of trust. The national auditor claimed that hundreds of coal blocks were allocated without transparency when Singh was the prime minister. ​In 2014, India’s Supreme Court cancelled 214 out of 218 coal block allocations, which were declared illegal and arbitrary by the court.

Indian Navy’s aircraft crashes off the coast of Goa

An Indian Navy maritime surveillance aircraft crashed about 25 nautical miles off the western coast of Goa on Tuesday (Indian ExpressNDTVTimes of India). The aircraft crashed during a routine training mission, and more than six warships and several other aircrafts are involved in the rescue operations. While one officer was rescued by fishermen, two officers are still missing. According to preliminary findings, the plane developed technical problems before plunging into the sea.

Two-year-old sets national archery record

Dolly Shivani Cherukuli, a two-year-old girl from Vijaywada City, located in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, set a new national record in archery on Tuesday, according to the India Book of Records, a registrar of national and international world records in India (Indian Express, The Hindu, BBC). Shivani became the youngest Indian to shoot 36 arrows from both a distance of five meters and seven meters. Shivani’s father, Satyanarayana Cherukuri, runs an archery academy and trained his daughter after Lenin Cherukuri, his son and an international archer, died in a road accident in 2010. Satyanarayana said: “When we came to know that the baby was on her way we decided to mould her as an archer… The preparations started when she was in the womb itself” (NDTV). Satyanarayana also said that Shivani will now try to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

Pakistan

Pakistani Army says airstrikes only killed 30 militants

The Pakistani army said on Wednesday that airstrikes in the tribal region have only killed 30 militants near the Afghan border instead of the 80 earlier reported (APReuters). Those militants killed in the strikes belonged to the group Lashkar-e-Islam, which affiliated itself with the Taliban earlier this month. The casualties included the group’s spokesman, Salahuddin Ayubi, according to Pakistani intelligence officials (Dawn).

Government attempting to bring back YouTube

The Pakistani government is “keen” to make the video-sharing site YouTube publicly available again, State Minister for Education Baleeghur Rehman said on Tuesday (Dawn). Citing the large amounts of education materials available on the site, Rehman said that the government was serious about trying to restore access to YouTube, although he noted that objectionable content would still be filtered. The site has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012. 

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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