Daily brief: Rival militant factions battle in South Waziristan

Saving us the trouble Militants from two rival factions have apparently started battling each other in the rugged tribal area of South Waziristan, fueling rumors of insurgent infighting following the reported death of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. drone strike last week (Wall Street Journal). The clashes, between supporters of Mehsud ...

582218_090813_marines22.jpg
582218_090813_marines22.jpg

Saving us the trouble

Militants from two rival factions have apparently started battling each other in the rugged tribal area of South Waziristan, fueling rumors of insurgent infighting following the reported death of the Pakistani Taliban's leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. drone strike last week (Wall Street Journal). The clashes, between supporters of Mehsud and a militant group led by the government-backed Turkistan Bitani, left at least a reported 70 dead (Dawn).

Saving us the trouble

Militants from two rival factions have apparently started battling each other in the rugged tribal area of South Waziristan, fueling rumors of insurgent infighting following the reported death of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. drone strike last week (Wall Street Journal). The clashes, between supporters of Mehsud and a militant group led by the government-backed Turkistan Bitani, left at least a reported 70 dead (Dawn).

Bitani, who used to support Mehsud but turned away from him recently as Mehsud focused on sending suicide attackers to targets in Pakistan, operates in Tank, on the border of Mehsud’s territory of South Waziristan (New York Times). The Pakistani army reportedly sent helicopter gunships to pound the some 300 Taliban fighters attacking the pro-government warlord’s stronghold (AP).

The horse race

Afghanistan’s presidential election, a week from today, has sparked an increase in Taliban violence and intimidation of the some 17 million registered voters in the country (New York Times). The militants have threatened to cut off the fingers of any Afghans who vote, identified by the telltale inkstained finger, and the Taliban allegedly have a campaign of 200 suicide bombers planned for election day.

Concerns about election security are particularly acute in the Pashtun belt, a site of constant clashes between coalition forces and insurgents (Independent). A U.S. Marine offensive begun yesterday in the strategic city of Dahaneh, in Helmand province, continues as coalition forces try to regain control from the Taliban, create conditions that will allow Afghans to vote next week, and sever smuggling routes (AP). Marines expected another day of intense fighting as they pushed deeper into the town.

The brother of incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai has allegedly been busted by British forces for stockpiling tons of raw opium at his ranch in Kandahar (Islamic Republic News Agency). A summary of the original report, published in print today by a German newsmagazine, can be viewed here (Stern). Western experts and diplomats have repeated accused Ahmed Wali Karzai of being intimately involved in Afghanistan’s notorious drug trade, though he has always denied it (New York Times).

President Karzai has offered cabinet positions to his two primary challengers in the presidential race, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani (AP). Neither has accepted, and there are fears of street violence from the supporters of the presidential losers, though if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the election will go to a runoff.

Cat and mouse

U.S. Marines in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, sometimes use themselves as bait to tease out Taliban attacks (Washington Post). The Obama administration’s counterinsurgency tactics, which emphasize protecting the population, mean that the use of airstrikes and artillery fire — which cause civilian casualties and often scare the Taliban back into hiding — must be limited.

And in further efforts to institutionalize counterinsurgency, a new Army handbook, a compendium of lessons learned from last summer’s battle at Wanat — when an Afghan police commander turned on coalition forces and sided with militants in carrying out a surprise attack — will be distributed to U.S. military units joining the fight in Afghanistan (New York Times).

The pipes, the pipes aren’t calling

The UK has refused visas to members of the Lahore Pipe Band, preventing them from competing in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland (BBC). A delegation of businesspeople and officials from Lahore was also denied visas.

AFP/Getty Images 

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