Daily brief: U.S. believes Karzai will be re-elected

Diamonds and guns The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan has built a “fundraising juggernaut” that received $106 million in the past year from donors abroad and as much as $100 million from Afghanistan’s lucrative poppy trade, in addition to money from taxes, shakedowns, and kidnappings for ransom (Washington Post). Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau ...

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 17: President Hamid Karzai speaks to the media for the first time since full preliminary results were announced at the Presidential palace September 17, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Immediately after the President delivered his election message to the international media Italy suffered its deadliest attack in Afghanistan today, with about 2,800 soldiers in country. Six Italian soldiers and ten Afghans were killed, including 55 wounded as the blast hit in a mostly residential area of the city. While Karzai stated Thursday that some government officials were biased toward him in the election he defended himself and the integrity of the vote, against all the allegations of fraud and ballot box stuffing. At present, President Karzai has 54.6 percentof the vote, well ahead of his leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. However, the ongoing recounts and fraud investigations by the Election Complaints commission ( ECC) could drive Karzai's total below the crucial 50 percent, forcing a runoff election. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Diamonds and guns

The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan has built a "fundraising juggernaut" that received $106 million in the past year from donors abroad and as much as $100 million from Afghanistan's lucrative poppy trade, in addition to money from taxes, shakedowns, and kidnappings for ransom (Washington Post). Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau have put together a must-read oral history of the Taliban "in their own words" (Newsweek).

Diamonds and guns

The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan has built a “fundraising juggernaut” that received $106 million in the past year from donors abroad and as much as $100 million from Afghanistan’s lucrative poppy trade, in addition to money from taxes, shakedowns, and kidnappings for ransom (Washington Post). Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau have put together a must-read oral history of the Taliban “in their own words” (Newsweek).

A suicide car bomber killed several Pakistani pro-government tribal elders early this morning in Bannu, a district in northwest Pakistan that borders the violence-plagued tribal region of North Waziristan (Dawn, Reuters, AFP, BBC). And in one of the few things they agree on, both Pakistan’s military and the Taliban have asked civilians to leave South Waziristan, signaling that an offensive may be in the offing (AP). Pakistani officials told the Times of London that the U.S. has purportedly asked to carry out Predator drone strikes in the capital city of Baluchistan, Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban is believed to be headquartered, though some Western officials say the terrorist organization is moving some of its leaders to Karachi (Times of London).

Over the weekend, a trio of suicide bombings in Bannu, Peshawar, and the northern town of Gilgit killed at least 16 people and wounded some 150 more, underscoring militant resilience and determination to strike Pakistan’s cities (AP, New York Times, Pajhwok). The attack in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, took place outside a bank, while the bombing in Bannu occurred outside a police station, providing some insight into targets favored by extremist groups (McClatchy, Reuters, Los Angeles Times).

Talks of the nation

India and Pakistan have reached an impasse in their attempts to reinvigorate the peace process, after the two nations’ foreign ministers met in New York on the sidelines of last week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting (AP, Daily Times). India’s foreign minister, S. M. Krishna, expressed concern that Pakistan is still the home base for extremists who threaten Indian security, while Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said New Delhi is putting too much emphasis on the Mumbai terrorist attacks of last November. There are currently no plans for more high-level talks.

You work with the Afghan president you have

The U.S. and NATO have reportedly reached a “consensus” that incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai will probably “continue to be president” after last month’s fraud-riddled presidential election, whether through a runoff or with more than 50 percent of the vote (Washington Post, New York Times). And partial provincial election results were released over the weekend, showing that 251 men and 106 women were voted into office across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces (AP).

Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted his much-anticipated request for more resources to the Pentagon over the weekend, and it is expected to contain a range of options for U.S. President Barack Obama to choose from, including an increase of up to 40,000 more troops and a proposal to deploy troops already there to better effect (New York Times, Wall Street Journal).

There is no deadline set for determining a new strategy or committing more troops to the country, according to Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, but five meetings on the topic are scheduled for coming weeks (Washington Post). Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Germany over the weekend to receive a briefing from Gen. McChrystal on his resource request, and was joined there by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus and supreme allied commander for NATO, Adm. James Stavridis (Washington Post, AP).

Obama’s advisers are split on the efficacy of putting more boots on the ground in Afghanistan, which by the end of the year will have 68,000 American troops there (New York Times). Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sen. John Kerry, and Sen. Jack Reed are considered to be the most influential voices on the Afghan troop debate outside the White House, and all have expressed varying degrees of doubt about the wisdom of sending more soldiers there. And Afghans are similarly divided over the presence of foreign forces (Financial Times).

Military and communications offensives

Gen. McChrystal believes the U.S. must stop focusing so much on the oft-mentioned “hearts and minds” of Afghans, and hone in more on giving them “trust and confidence” in themselves and their government, and wants to change the concentration of the U.S.’s public relations efforts in the country (Washington Post). Evan Thomas has an excellent in-depth profile of the general that is another must-read for today (Newsweek).

The Taliban attempted to kill Afghanistan’s energy minister with a suicide bomb in the western province of Herat on Sunday in the militant group’s ongoing campaign to disrupt Afghanistan’s government (AFP, BBC, New York Times). Ismail Khan threatened to quit over the attack (AP, Al Jazeera). And the Taliban have reportedly opened a northern front against against German troops in Kunduz following orders from Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, though at least 18 Taliban militants were killed in the provincial capital on Saturday (Telegraph, AP). Violence in northern Afghanistan threatens a critical NATO supply line, and Afghan civilian deaths hit a record high in August (AP, AP).

Busted

Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant from Colorado accused of plotting to detonate explosives in the United States after receiving several months of training at an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan, reportedly planned to carry out his attack on September 11, 2009 in New York City (CNN, Bloomberg). But some analysts assess that al Qaeda and its affiliates are in a “pronounced decline” (New York Times). And though much is still unknown about the Zazi case, the New York Times has reported a thorough background piece on the erstwhile coffee vendor (New York Times, AP).

A lizard on your back

In a country better known for a violent insurgency, long-distance debt collection from wayward Americans has become something of a growth industry in Pakistan (Los Angeles Times). The best time of the month to hit debtors up is at the beginning, just after people get paid.

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Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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