Daily brief: more than 100 dead in bloody attacks in Kabul, Peshawar
Oh inglorious war In the United Nations’ deadliest day in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Taliban militants wearing suicide vests attacked two guest houses used by U.N. staff in the heart of Kabul this morning, killing six U.N. workers and at least six others (Wall Street Journal, AP, Bloomberg, Dawn). The ...
Oh inglorious war
In the United Nations’ deadliest day in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Taliban militants wearing suicide vests attacked two guest houses used by U.N. staff in the heart of Kabul this morning, killing six U.N. workers and at least six others (Wall Street Journal, AP, Bloomberg, Dawn). The U.N. insisted that this will not deter the organization from working to rebuild the war-torn country (BBC). The Taliban in Afghanistan, who also fired rockets at the Serena Hotel and the presidential palace in Kabul this morning, are apparently making good on their threat to disrupt the runoff election between incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah, scheduled for November 7. Karzai is reportedly already hard at work fixing the second election, according to an unnamed election monitor (Telegraph).
October has been the deadliest month for the U.S. in Afghanistan since the war began with 55 troops killed, as eight U.S. soldiers died yesterday as a result of roadside bombs in Kandahar (AP, Washington Post, BBC, New York Times, McClatchy). IEDs are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of casualties in Afghanistan, and the number of effective IED attacks jumped from 19 in September 2007 to 106 last month (CNN, Stars and Stripes).
Mix and match
The casualties come as U.S. President Barack Obama continues to ponder the way forward in Afghanistan, and he is expected to make a decision “in the coming weeks,” according to the White House press secretary (AP). Obama’s advisers, no longer debating whether to send more troops to the country, are apparently coalescing around a strategy for what to do with the additional forces: protect about ten key population centers in Afghanistan (New York Times). One Obama official described the strategy as “McChrystal for the city, Biden for the country,” and the president is scheduled to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday, the seventh major session on Afghanistan in recent weeks.
The defense spending bill Obama is expected to sign into law today contains a provision to pay fighters who renounce the insurgency in Afghanistan, “just like the sons of Iraq,” according to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (AP). Reaching out to the “reconcilable” Taliban is part of the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan.
All in the family
In today’s must-read, the New York Times reports that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the incumbent president’s brother and a suspected drug kingpin, has been on the CIA’s payroll for much of the past eight years (New York Times). The agency reportedly pays Wali Karzai for helping them operate the Kandahar Strike Force, a paramilitary group used for raids against insurgents; for subletting a compound outside Kandahar City that was once the home of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar; and for setting up meetings between the agency and Taliban sympathizers. Wali Karzai denied the allegations, which he called “ridiculous” (AP).
The horror, the horror
A huge car bomb ripped through a crowded marketplace today in Peshawar, the capital of the volatile Northwest Frontier Province, killing at least 97 Pakistanis, most of them women and children (Geo TV, AFP, BBC, Bloomberg, Pajhwok, Wall Street Journal). The attack, which used as much as 330 pounds of explosives and has not been claimed so far, underscores the scale of Pakistan’s militant threat as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad yesterday for an unannounced three days of meetings (New York Times, AP, Dawn, AP). It is not unusual for attacks which kill lots of civilians to go unclaimed, and Secretary Clinton vowed that the U.S. will continue to back Islamabad in its struggle against extremists (CNN, Washington Post).
More than 300 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past few weeks as the Pakistani military presses onward in an offensive in South Waziristan, a militant-infested tribal region on the border with Afghanistan (Times of London, BBC). Haq Nawaz Khan and Karin Brulliard report that the residents of South Waziristan are afraid to support the Pakistani Army’s operations there partly out of fear of retribution from the Taliban (Washington Post). “We are silent in this whole drama. But that does not mean we are Taliban,” said an unemployed teacher from Makeen, the hometown of the late Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
The CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan are coming under fire from the U.N. official for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, as Philip Alston warned yesterday that use of the drones “may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law” (AFP, BBC, Reuters, AP). Alston encouraged the U.S. to be more forthcoming with details about the program.
The Chicago school
Two Chicago residents who were once classmates in Pakistan were arrested earlier this month for allegedly plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in 2005 (Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AFP, Copenhagen Post). Prosecutors said in court documents unsealed yesterday that David Coleman Headley, nee Daood Gilani, confessed that he received training from the Pakistan-based militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba and met at least once with Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani terrorist with purported links to al Qaeda (AP, ABC, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times). This is the latest example of a U.S. citizen traveling to Pakistan to receive training from militants there.
Headley purportedly made at least two trips to Denmark this year to carry out surveillance against possible targets, and his co-conspirator Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen who helped arrange his travel and hid the reason for it, is due in court for a bond hearing sometime today, while Headley is scheduled for a hearing on December 4 (CNN, AP, Chicago Tribune, Globe and Mail). The alleged plot reportedly called for “a combined arms attack” with explosives firearms and firearms, and authorities believe planning was in the final stages. The Justice Department’s full release detailing the case is available here (Chicago Sun Times).
A fund-raising mechanism?
Islamabad traffic cops issued some half a million tickets last year for total fines adding up to
around $1.6 million (The News). Some 40,000 tickets were written to drivers talking on cell phones, 75,000 for not buckling their seat belts, and nearly 60,000 for running red lights.
Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.