Daily brief: Taliban suicide bomber targets Indian embassy in Kabul

A baleful blast A Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into the outer wall of the Indian embassy in Kabul this morning as people were arriving to work in the capital, killing at least 12 and wounding more than 80 (BBC, Al Jazeera, AFP, Reuters, AP). This is the fourth attack in Kabul since the ...

579731_091008_91569552a2.jpg
579731_091008_91569552a2.jpg

A baleful blast

A Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into the outer wall of the Indian embassy in Kabul this morning as people were arriving to work in the capital, killing at least 12 and wounding more than 80 (BBC, Al Jazeera, AFP, Reuters, AP). This is the fourth attack in Kabul since the August 20 presidential election, and the second major attack on the Indian embassy in the last 15 months, following a July 2008 suicide bomb which left 60 dead (Pajhwok, CNN, Bloomberg, New York Times). Insurgents may be targeting the the heavily fortified capital more frequently lately because of the publicity such attacks attract, and Reuters features a useful timeline of major attacks there (Reuters).

A baleful blast

A Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into the outer wall of the Indian embassy in Kabul this morning as people were arriving to work in the capital, killing at least 12 and wounding more than 80 (BBC, Al Jazeera, AFP, Reuters, AP). This is the fourth attack in Kabul since the August 20 presidential election, and the second major attack on the Indian embassy in the last 15 months, following a July 2008 suicide bomb which left 60 dead (Pajhwok, CNN, Bloomberg, New York Times). Insurgents may be targeting the the heavily fortified capital more frequently lately because of the publicity such attacks attract, and Reuters features a useful timeline of major attacks there (Reuters).

The Kabul blast comes at a sensitive time for the Obama administration, which is making moves to reframe its strategy in the region to focus more on al Qaeda in Pakistan and less on the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to government officials (New York Times). At a three hour national security team meeting yesterday that focused on the Pakistani dimensions of the conflict, Obama reportedly remained undecided about top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops, which he has had in hand for more than a week (AP, McClatchy, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, BBC).

Trumpet’s loud alarms

Rajiv Chandrasekaran has a detailed account of the divide between military and civilian understandings of what resources are required to achieve the president’s goals in Afghanistan, citing agreement on the goals and divergence on the means (Washington Post). An administration official reportedly said that some senior members of U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security team are suffering from “sticker shock” at the high cost in troops and resources for the counterinsurgency strategy in the country, and today’s must-read provides a primer on the debate narrative over the last ten months.

To combat Gen. McChrystal’s assessment that “there are more insurgents per square foot in correction facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon is creating a military task force to oversee a planned overhaul of detention operations in the country (New York Times). The Pentagon plans to close the decrepit prison at Bagram air base in November and replace it with a new 40-acre complex.

The U.S. and NATO have found that training Afghan security forces to assume full responsibilities is a stark challenge, and a July U.S. inspector general’s report found that only 24 of 559 Afghan police units are ready to operate without international help, alongside 47 of 123 Afghan National Army units (AP). Training efforts have been slowed by rampant corruption, lack of discipline, widespread illiteracy, and some ethnic tensions, and a police training initiative will receive more than $1 billion in funding next year (Wall Street Journal).

Exploring hidden frauds

Controversy around Afghanistan’s fraudulent August 20 presidential election continues to swirl, as U.N. officials try to defend their neutrality after the Washington Post reported yesterday on U.N. data showing major discrepancies between votes reported and voter turnout in several Afghan provinces (AP, BBC, Washington Post). The U.N. apparently kept the data confidential, variously because it was “difficult to corroborate” and because only Afghans can file formal complaints about the election.

The helping hand

Pakistan’s government is fighting back against the country’s powerful military and political opposition, which have voiced strenuous objections to conditions attached to a U.S. aid bill that would provide $1.5 billion a year for five years in assistance (AP, Dawn, AP, Washington Post). In an unusual public statement yesterday, Pakistan’s military leaders protested against the “clauses impacting national security,” referring to the requirements that Pakistan cooperate in dismantling nuclear supplier networks and make a sustained commitment to combat militancy in the country, among others (BBC, New York Times, The News). President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has the final say over whether to accept the money, and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said he is working on building consensus on the Kerry-Lugar Bill (AP Pakistan).

In what is believed to be the first time that bodies of suspected Taliban militants have been found murdered outside the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan, six were found dead on the border between Kurram and Hangu (BBC). And the bodies of 15 Taliban turned up in Swat earlier today, in suspected extrajudicial killings (Dawn, AFP).

With flying speed

Pakistan International Airline announced yesterday that it is dropping prices and increasing the weekly number of flights between Islamabad and Kabul (Pajhwok). It will now cost $320 to fly round trip between the two capitals, compared to $570, and $240 down from $480 between Kabul and Peshawar.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.