Daily brief: Pakistani military operation against Taliban stronghold looms
Event notice: Join David Loyn, author of In Afghanistan, and Peter Bergen, AfPak Channel editor, today at 3:30pm in Washington, DC for a discussion of Afghanistan’s recent history. The event will also be webcast here. Arma virumque cano The Pakistani Army is preparing a major military offensive against Taliban militants in the tribal region of ...
Event notice: Join David Loyn, author of In Afghanistan, and Peter Bergen, AfPak Channel editor, today at 3:30pm in Washington, DC for a discussion of Afghanistan’s recent history. The event will also be webcast here.
Arma virumque cano
The Pakistani Army is preparing a major military offensive against Taliban militants in the tribal region of South Waziristan, a known hotbed of extremist activity and the home base of former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August (New York Times, AP). Past military operations have been unsuccessful, and analysts are skeptical that the Pakistani Army will target all the militant networks in Waziristan and worry that Uzbek militants in the region pose a serious threat (Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy).
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an allegedly al Qaeda linked militant group active in Pakistan’s tribal regions, is believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in late August, though a Taliban spokesman has denied it (BBC, Reuters, AFP). Well-connected Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai reported two days ago that a man claiming to be Tahir Yuldachev’s bodyguard said the IMU leader had died and been replaced by another Uzbek militant called Abdur Rahman (The News).
In a 10 minute video posted on the social networking site Facebook, Pakistani soldiers can be seen apparently abusing captured militants by kicking, punching, and whipping the suspects, who writhe and scream (BBC, AP). Though the location, timing, and authenticity of the video are currently unknown, Pakistan’s security forces have been accused in the past of human rights violations and the Pakistan Army is investigating this case.
We need to talk
U.S. President Barack Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal to a meeting on Air Force One today, as debates about how to move forward in the country rage on in the administration (AP, USA Today). The 25 minute meeting was the first face to face encounter between Obama and McChrystal since the general was appointed to his post in June (New York Times).
In a speech yesterday in London, Gen. McChrystal was candid about conditions on the ground, encouraged his European allies to “show resolve,” and flatly said “No” when asked if he would support scaling back the American presence in Afghanistan (Washington Post, New York Times). He also speculated that between 50 and 80 percent of Taliban militants would probably stop fighting if given jobs, and again warned that the situation in Afghanistan is “serious” (Times of London, Al Jazeera). A video of his address is available from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
The U.S. Senate blocked an attempt yesterday to force Gen. McChrystal to testify before Congress about the direction of the war before Obama announces any decisions about future Afghan war strategies (AFP, AP). Obama and his national security team will meet for two more three hour meetings next week to consider the situation in Afghanistan, and some of his top advisers continue to press for a narrower mission (Washington Post).
At least five civilians were killed yesterday in an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, which was called in after a long firefight between insurgents and coalition forces (New York Times). The single precision-guided bomb reportedly struck a farmer’s house in the district of Nad Ali, and several militants were also killed (Pajhwok).
Open a listening ear
Many Afghans have advice for U.S. and NATO troops in their country, including negotiating with the Taliban and working within traditional governing structures (Los Angeles Times). Some Afghans also place much of the blame for current conditions in Afghanistan on their own leaders, but are frustrated with what they perceive as Western forces not listening to locals. The New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen and Sameer Lalwani suggest that the Afghan government should tax Western contractors who work in Afghanistan as a means to help generate more good will from Afghan citizens (New York Times).
Afghanistan is poised to enact legislation to allow women to prosecute abusive husbands, slowly pushing women’s rights forward in the socially conservative country (AP). The Elimination of Violence Against Women Act is expected to pass Parliament, but has been watered down along the way.
Two Islamist militant factions in Somalia, the allegedly al Qaeda-linked al Shabab and the more political Hezb al-Islam, are on the brink of a violent showdown in the Somali port city of Kismayo, after al Shabab announced last week that it would not keep to an agreement to share control of the port, which is a key source of revenue for the area (AFP, BBC, Reuters). At least $50 million in U.S. aid has reportedly been delayed because of fears it will be funneled to areas controlled by al Shabab (New York Times).
The next big thing: wine from the Kandahar region of Afghanistan?
Afghanistan’s insurgency-wracked southern province of Kandahar has exported more than 40,000 tons of grapes this year, generating some $8.1 million of revenue (Pajhwok). The grapes are shipped via Pakistan to some Arab countries, Dubai, Singapore, and Germany.
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