Daily brief: NATO commander’s Afghan war assessment reportedly delivered today
The best defense… American intelligence and military officials have reportedly accused Pakistan of modifying U.S.-made Harpoon antiship missiles that would allow Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land; namely, India (New York Times). Pakistan has “categorically rejected” these assertions, which if true would likely spur another round of the South Asian arms race that ...
The best defense…
American intelligence and military officials have reportedly accused Pakistan of modifying U.S.-made Harpoon antiship missiles that would allow Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land; namely, India (New York Times). Pakistan has “categorically rejected” these assertions, which if true would likely spur another round of the South Asian arms race that the U.S. has been unsuccessfully trying to stop (AP).
Pakistani Army helicopter gunships destroyed a militant training camp for suicide bombers on Saturday in the troubled Swat Valley, the day before suicide bombers attacked police recruits undergoing training in Mingora, the main city in Swat (AP and LA Times). At least 16 recruits of the newly-formed Community Police Force were killed (Dawn and Daily Times).
In the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, Taliban militants set fire to several oil tankers at a backed-up border crossing into Afghanistan, the second attack on a supply line in a week (AP and Washington Post). These attacks raise concerns about the Taliban’s ability to hit crucial targets in spite of the death of their leader by a U.S. drone strike in early August and this spring’s Pakistani military offensive in Swat.
The Wire: Pakistan Edition
The Pakistani Taliban in Karachi is largely funded by organized criminal activity, according to Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times). Pakistani counterterrorism officials say that kidnapping for ransom may have been erstwhile Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud’s single largest revenue source, generating on average between $60,000 and $250,000 per kidnapping. Bank robberies have also been tied to the jihadist group, along with extortion and bribery.
Just can’t get enough
NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal may ask for 20,000 more international troops as part of his strategy review reportedly to be delivered later today, but no direct requests for additional U.S. soldiers are included, claims the BBC (Independent, BBC and New York Times). General McChrystal called the situation in Afghanistan “serious” and said it “demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort” (ISAF).
In the much-anticipated strategic assessment to Gen. David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, General McChrystal apparently refers to the U.S. military as “a bull charging at a matador [the Taliban] — slightly weakened with each “cut” it receives,” and writes that the Afghan National Army will not be able to take the lead for at least three years, and the Afghan National Police not for much longer than that (Guardian).
But determined to show that the war in Afghanistan is a critical component of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, the White House has assembled a list of some 50 metrics of progress for the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, due to be reported to Congress by September 24 (Washington Post).
Unsatisfied with the war’s progress, anti-war organizations are planning a restive fall, organizing protests, teach-ins, memorials, and other demonstrations against increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan (New York Times). For example, the women’s anti-war group Code Pink is setting up a trip to Kabul to encourage Afghan women to speak out against U.S. military involvement there.
The latest results in the August 20 Afghan presidential election give incumbent president Hamid Karzai 46.3 percent, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah 31.4 percent, and longshots Ramazan Bashardost and Ashraf Ghani 13.6 percent and 2.3 percent respectively (AFP and IEC). Karzai needs 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off (Reuters).
About 35 percent of the country’s votes have been counted, and nearly 700 complaints of fraud, misconduct, and corruption are considered serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote (Wall Street Journal). Some analysts assess that the fraud was systematic, especially given the reportedly low turnout among women, which could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election (New York Times and Washington Post).
An experimental initiative of the U.S. government called the Human Terrain System is placing anthropologists and social scientists alongside American troops in Afghanistan in an effort to better understand the culture and society of the country, including factors like local tribal structures, politics, and economics (Washington Post). In January, Central Command asked the project to increase the number of teams in Afghanistan from six to 13, as part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s emphasis on population-centric counterinsurgency.
The Taliban have gained reportedly control of three districts in two once-calm northern provinces in Afghanistan, Kunduz and Baghlan, threatening to disrupt important supply routes from Central Asia to the western war effort (McClatchy). But Americans are not the only ones with an interest in the area: al Qaeda-linked foreign extremists — Chechens, Arabs, Uzbeks, and Pakistanis — have been making their ways into northern Afghanistan, potentially to stir up trouble in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the operational planner of the September 11 attacks, turned into a treasure trove of information about al Qaeda’s ideology, aspirations, and plans after being subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture, according to CIA documents made public last week (Washington Post). However, it is impossible to know whether less coercive interrogation methods would have yielded the same information, and KSM says he provided some false statements under torture. Today, he spends most of his time in his 86 square foot prison cell at Guantanamo Bay praying.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union have spent more than 10,000 hours pursuing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from various government agencies to obtain documents like the CIA Inspector General’s 2004 report and others that revealed information about KSM’s interrogation (New York Times). Some 130,000 pages have been released so far, with the prospect of more.
Sex and the prison
A Pakistani judge has ruled that prisoners in jails must be allowed greater conjugal rights and visits from spouses, following a petition filed in 1992 that argues that the lack of conjugal visits is behind rising levels of homosexual sex and drug addiction in prisons (BBC). It’s unknown whether this will extend to captured militants.
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MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images
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