Daily brief: market suicide attack kills dozens in northwest Pakistan
Fifth time’s a charm U.S. President Barack Obama’s cabinet-level council of advisers will meet again today, and they are expected to discuss troop levels for the first time (Wall Street Journal, ABC News). Peter Spiegel and Yochi Dreazen report that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request offers President Obama three ...
Fifth time's a charm
Fifth time’s a charm
U.S. President Barack Obama’s cabinet-level council of advisers will meet again today, and they are expected to discuss troop levels for the first time (Wall Street Journal, ABC News). Peter Spiegel and Yochi Dreazen report that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request offers President Obama three options, including one that would send as many as 60,000 extra soldiers to the fight.
Obama has reportedly asked Gen. McChrystal to delay a planned trip to Washington today to discuss his proposed troop increases (Washington Post). While some have privately lauded Obama’s deference to the military chain of command in debating the strategy in the Afghan war, many officers were unhappy with the apparent public rebukes of Gen. McChrystal delivered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones last week (Washington Post).
The debate over troops comes at a time when Obama’s advisers and party continue to be divided over the proper strategy for the war (CNN). In a sign that Vice President Joe Biden’s influence over the debate may be growing, administration officials have reportedly concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a political or military movement, and that U.S. forces in Afghanistan will seek to weaken, but not destroy, the group (Times of London, Washington Post, AP). Some suggest that a weakened Taliban will not pose a threat to the central Afghan government, and can be fractured and split from al Qaeda.
Of violent bouts
A suicide bomber in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan killed six security guards at a road construction site, while in western Afghanistan U.S. and NATO forces killed Taliban commander Ghulam Yahya Akbari and 11 of his fighters (AFP, Dawn). And U.S. forces have withdrawn from the remote eastern Afghan outpost in Kamdesh, the site of last week’s intense battle between coalition troops and Taliban militants that resulted in the deaths of eight American and four Afghan soldiers (AP).
And Afghan officials suspect the Taliban-affiliated network of Jalaluddin Haqqani of responsibility for the Indian embassy bombing yesterday that killed 17 and wounded as many as 76 (McClatchy). Officials also blame the network, based in tribal areas of Pakistan, for last summer’s attack on the same embassy, which killed more than 60 people and severely damaged the building (Los Angeles Times, New York Times).
A bomb ripped through Peshawar’s crowded Khyber Market this morning, killing at least 49 and injuring more than 100, and creating unspeakable carnage in the middle of the turbulent capital of the Northwest Frontier Province (The News, Dawn, Geo TV, BBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal). Officials believe a suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives, artillery shells, and machine gun ammunition set off the blast, Pakistan’s deadliest attack since TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a U.S. drone in early August (Times of London, AP, Al Jazeera). The attack occurred on the same day that Pakistani authorities announced the arrest of a suspect in Monday’s bombing of the World Food Program headquarters in Islamabad, and amid reports that suspected Taliban fighters attacked and destroyed a fuel truck outside Peshawar bound for international forces in Afghanistan (Guardian, Dawn).
Pakistani aircraft have begun bombing Waziristan in a prelude to a long-awaited offensive in the lawless tribal region in a campaign to clear Taliban forces from the militant stronghold (FT, Daily Times). The looming offensive has taken on added urgency as today’s Peshawar bombing demonstrated the reach of Taliban forces, even after several months of setbacks. Interior Minister Rehman Malik affirmed Pakistan’s resolve to clean up the Taliban in the troubled tribal area, saying, "We have no other option but to carry out an operation in South Waziristan… All roads are leading to South Waziristan" (Dawn).
In the past several months, Pakistan’s armed forces deployed a new tool in their fight against Taliban insurgents: drones of their own (Los Angeles Times). Rebuffed in their attempts to acquire American-made drones, Pakistani forces have reportedly bought and deployed drones made in Italy, and will soon be using drones developed and manufactured in Pakistan. And British forces are building a camp in southwestern Baluchistan to train Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps to fight the Taliban, in the first time foreign forces have been formally based in the southwestern province since Pakistan’s independence in 1947 (Times of London, AFP).
Despite lingering violence in the area, the Swat Valley will soon be reopened to tourists (Reuters). Once a popular honeymoon destination known as the ‘Switzerland of Pakistan,’ the northwestern Pakistani region is home to beautiful scenery and boasted the country’s only ski resort, before it was burned down by Taliban militants last year.
The leader of the erstwhile terrorist group the "Toronto 18," arrested in 2006, has pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up three sites in Canada in an attempt to push the government to withdraw from Afghanistan (New York Times). As with recent terrorism arrests in the United States, the plot was infiltrated early on by authorities, who neutralized the threat of attack before making their arrests. Excerpts from the court documents can be found here (National Post).
The peanut gallery
A Taliban spokesman has condemned Obama’s newly won Nobel Peace Prize, saying, "We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan" (AFP). A spokesman for incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai, on the other hand, called the award "appropriate."
Editor’s note: today’s AfPak Channel Daily Brief was prepared by Andrew Lebovich, a research associate at the New America Foundation, and Katherine Tiedemann.
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