Daily brief: top U.S. military chief suggests more troops needed in Afghanistan

Event notice: Tomorrow, September 17, 12:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.”Covering Afghanistan: What the War Really Looks Like 8 Years After 9/11,” in Washington, DC, with Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Karen DeYoung, and Susan Glasser. Details and RSVP available here. Fighting for the war The United States’ top military officer, Chairman of the Joint ...

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen testifies during his reappointment hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee September 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. Mullen was originally appointed by former President George W. Bush but has remained in his post as chairman under President Barack Obama, who has show support for Mullen.

Event notice: Tomorrow, September 17, 12:15 p.m. - 1:45 p.m."Covering Afghanistan: What the War Really Looks Like 8 Years After 9/11," in Washington, DC, with Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Karen DeYoung, and Susan Glasser. Details and RSVP available here.

Fighting for the war

Event notice: Tomorrow, September 17, 12:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.”Covering Afghanistan: What the War Really Looks Like 8 Years After 9/11,” in Washington, DC, with Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Karen DeYoung, and Susan Glasser. Details and RSVP available here.

Fighting for the war

The United States’ top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that more troops are “probably” needed and more time is “without question” needed to properly resource the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan (New York Times and Reuters). Adm. Mullen said that 2,000 to 4,000 additional military trainers are needed to “jump-start” the expansion of Afghan security forces, a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan (Washington Post).

Yochi Dreazen has a comprehensive piece about Mullen’s testimony that explains the growing political debate about the future of the Afghan war effort, which is shaping up with some prominent Republicans supporting increased involvement and Democrats on the skeptical side (Wall Street Journal and AP). Mullen also said yesterday that he considers Afghanistan’s “lack of governance…equal to the threat from the Taliban” in the country, highlighting concerns over the legitimacy of the August 20 presidential election (AFP).

As the ballot turns

One out of every seven ballots in the election — and one out of every three cast for incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai — is suspected of some form of fraud, according to the U.N.-backed body tasked with investigating the thousands of complaints of electoral fraud (New York Times and Times of London). Ballots from 10 percent of polling stations must be recounted, increasing the chances that Karzai will face a runoff against his primary competitor Abdullah Abdullah (Wall Street Journal and Independent).

Western officials are torn over how strongly to press Afghan officials to adopt stricter anti-fraud measures, highlighted as more details about the top U.S. official at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan’s abrupt departure from the country come to light (Washington Post and Guardian). Peter Galbraith, who reportedly pushed for stronger public response to the widespread vote-rigging than his boss Kai Eide, left Afghanistan on Sunday after a strong “disagreement” that Eide said was “best resolved by [Galbraith] leaving” (BBC).

Meanwhile, clashes between militants and pro-government forces continue in the country, as 27 suspected Taliban insurgents were killed by airstrikes yesterday in Kandahar, a southern province where support for Karzai is strong (AFP).

Deadly plastic

The Taliban have been building simpler and cheaper roadside bombs made of more plastic components that are difficult to find with portable mine-detectors, increasing the number of lethal attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to portions of a confidential Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization report (Washington Times). Taliban fighters are reportedly taking advantage of the fact that few of Afghanistan’s roads are paved, meaning soldiers must go on foot patrols along uneven terrain, by littering “Pakistan Alley” — a road so named because Taliban militants purportedly use it to bring over new fighters from the neighboring country — with the new roadside bombs.

A continuation of political commerce

The Pakistani military announced that it has arrested another important Taliban leader in the troubled Swat Valley, Sher Mohammad Qasab (The News and BBC). Qasab, who had a reward for his capture of one million rupees or about $12,050, was reportedly injured in the operation, and is a butcher by profession (AFP). The army says more arrests are expected soon.

Pakistan’s government is reportedly introducing sweeping changes to existing anti-terrorism laws to give more powers to law enforcement agencies and courts that deal with militancy, according to Pakistani journalist Ismail Khan (Dawn). The proposed amendments address topics from the amount of bail required to spring a suspected terrorist from custody, the forfeiture of property of convicted terrorists, and procuring and recording evidence via video conferencing for the protection of potential witnesses.

The Financial Times features a detailed double profile of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani, underlining several reasons for cautious optimism in Pakistan: Zardari has managed to stay in office during a very turbulent time in the country; he has partially re-oriented the threat perception in Pakistan from India to the Taliban; and the economy has stabilized somewhat (Financial Times). Zardari is planning to travel to New York next week with international financial backing on his mind.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty

Asda, the British equivalent of Walmart, is launching a line of clothes specifically targeted at women looking for traditional Asian clothing (BBC). The collection, whose prices begin at around $12, will include sequined and embellished Salwaar Kameez (traditional suits), Khurtas (tunics), Dapata (scarves) and Churidar (slim trousers).

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