The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Obama’s Afghanistan war council to meet today

Event notice: Join David Loyn, author of In Afghanistan, and Peter Bergen, AfPak Channel editor, on Friday October 2 at 3:30pm in Washington, DC for a discussion of Afghanistan’s recent history. Details and RSVP available here. It wasn’t me The 24-year-old Afghan immigrant and resident of Colorado who is accused of terrorism conspiracy charges for ...

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Event notice: Join David Loyn, author of In Afghanistan, and Peter Bergen, AfPak Channel editor, on Friday October 2 at 3:30pm in Washington, DC for a discussion of Afghanistan’s recent history. Details and RSVP available here.

It wasn’t me

The 24-year-old Afghan immigrant and resident of Colorado who is accused of terrorism conspiracy charges for an alleged plan to detonate homemade bombs in the United States has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him (New York Times, Voice of America, Denver Post). Though Najibullah Zazi is the only one who has been publicly identified with involvement in the bomb plot so far, he is suspected of having at least three accomplices who have yet to be named, and the one-time airport shuttle driver’s next day in court is December 3 (AP, Los Angeles Times, CNN). Reporter James Gordon Meek has the answers to four commonly asked questions about the Zazi case (The New Republic).

Droning on

A U.S. Predator drone reportedly killed at least six militants, including some Arabs, in a small village about 12 miles east of the main town in North Waziristan, Miram Shah, in a strike early this morning (Reuters, AFP, Geo TV, The Nation Pakistan). And yesterday morning, another drone targeted a village about 2 miles from Miram Shah, which is home base for the Haqqani militant network, killing several suspected extremists and targeting the house of a known Afghan militant (AP, BBC, Dawn). There have been four drone strikes in North and South Waziristan in the last week, and more than 40 this year.

The BBC has obtained what is purported to be a video of the body of Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader who was killed by a drone strike in South Waziristan on August 5 (BBC). The video reportedly shows Baitullah covered in a white funeral shroud and attended by at least one man “stricken with grief,” and it’s unclear why the militant organization decided to release this video now. Yesterday, a Taliban commander claimed that the entire Taliban leadership is in Afghanistan, not Pakistan, saying, “Pakistan is not safe for us. More of our people have been captured in Pakistan than in Afghanistan so everybody is here [in Afghanistan] including Mullah Omar,” the head of the Afghan Taliban (Reuters).

And U.S. and international intelligence officials point to the drone strikes, in addition to the use of spies and more cooperation from local governments, as key reasons why al Qaeda’s effectiveness as an organization has diminished over the past several months (Washington Post). “Human sources have begun to produce results,” said the head of the United Nations’ al Qaeda and Taliban monitoring group.

Alive and well

The extremist organization behind last November’s terror attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is “largely intact and determined to strike again,” according to current and former members of the group and American, Indian, and Pakistani intelligence officials (New York Times). Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose members number as many as 150,000 according to an officer in Pakistan’s chief spy agency, experienced a jump in recruitment after the Mumbai attacks, and one senior Lashkar operative told the New York Times, “Our funds increased and more people wanted to join us.”

War council

U.S. President Barack Obama will reportedly be meeting today with some of his top advisers on Afghanistan, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus (Wall Street Journal, New York Times). The meeting will also include via video conference top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has not spoken to Obama since submitting his grim assessment of the war one month ago. Today’s meeting is one of five scheduled in the coming weeks designed to review the situation on the ground and consider options for the future.

Yesterday, NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen assured Obama in a meeting at the White House that the alliance will stay in Afghanistan “as long as it takes to finish our job,” though he did not offer any additional troops (Reuters, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera). And reciprocally, Obama asserted, “This is not a American battle, this is a NATO mission as well” (AFP).

Tragically, a young Afghan girl was killed in late June by a box of information leaflets falling from a British military plane over Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, in a case that the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating earlier this morning (Reuters, AP). The box failed to break open mid-air as planned and struck the girl, who later died of her injuries (BBC). Michael Evans details the case and writes that this is believed to be the first time a civilian has been killed by a box of information leaflets (Times of London). And Taliban attacks on Afghanistan’s roads and highways have made travel in the country treacherous (AP).

The comforts of home

North American fast food chains are doing battle at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, as McDonald’s was scheduled to build a restaurant there earlier this year to compete with the Burger King, Subway, and Pizza Hut already in place (National Post). KAF, one of the busiest airports in the world and a key link in the supply chain for the war in Afghanistan, also hosts a beauty salon and cafes.

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Rob Jensen/USAF via Getty Images

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