The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Karzai vows to tackle corruption, pledges unity

Event notice: The New America Foundation is screening a powerful new film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Andy Worthington, attorney Tom Wilner, and AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen, on Monday November 9 in Washington, DC. See here for details and RSVP. The future in the instant A ...

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Event notice: The New America Foundation is screening a powerful new film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Andy Worthington, attorney Tom Wilner, and AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen, on Monday November 9 in Washington, DC. See here for details and RSVP.

The future in the instant

A day after being handed a second five year term as president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai vowed to battle corruption and called on “Taliban brothers” to “embrace their land,” to which the Taliban promptly replied that Karzai is a “puppet” and promised to continue their fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan (BBC, Telegraph, Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera, Pajhwok). Karzai echoed calls from U.S. President Barack Obama, who yesterday encouraged the Afghan president to get serious about tackling the country’s pervasive corruption and “write a new chapter” in the book of Afghan governance (AFP, BBC, New York Times, Guardian).

Karzai, who aligned himself with a cast of unsavory warlords during his presidential campaign, has been vague thus far on how he plans to address the corruption issue; he said that the “problems cannot be solved by changing high-ranking officials,” but rather stated he would review Afghanistan’s laws (New York Times). The relief in Kabul following yesterday’s announcement that Karzai would begin a new term was reportedly “instant and palpable” (Washington Post).

Diplomats and world leaders have reportedly urged the Afghan president to reach out to his rival, second place finisher Abdullah Abdullah, and Jonathan Landay reports that the Obama administration, allies, and Afghan officials are at work behind the scenes drafting a new ‘Afghanistan Compact’ of reforms and anti-corruption measures (Guardian, McClatchy). Karzai also faces an internal challenge from the Tajik governor of the northern Balkh province, who has largely kept the peace but supported Abdullah, reports Tom Coghlan (Times of London).

The two and a half month long election saga is winding down as Obama appears to be nearing a conclusion about whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and Karzai’s perceived legitimacy presents a critical challenge to the Obama administration (Washington Post, AP, Bloomberg). Obama is not expected to announce a new strategy for Afghanistan before he leaves for Asia on November 11 (Reuters). And the Pentagon is sending about 5,000 new, lighter all-terrain vehicles to Afghanistan that are armored enough to protect troops from the ubiquitous roadside bombs in the country but lightweight enough that they can travel over Afghanistan’s difficult roads (AFP, VOA).

A long war

A few hours after yesterday’s suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, another attacker blasted a police checkpoint in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, wounding at least seven policemen (AP, Al Jazeera, Dawn, Geo TV). The United Nations recently announced that it would withdraw its international staff from the restive northwest regions in Pakistan, after an attack in early October on a United Nations office in Islamabad left five aid workers dead (Independent, AFP, New York Times, Dawn).

Pakistani military spokesman Athar Abbas alleged yesterday that Pakistani security forces have found “substantial evidence” of Indian involvement in South Waziristan, the tribal area on the Afghan border that is the site of a current anti-Taliban offensive (AP-Pakistan, The News, Dawn). India has denied the accusations, and Abbas said that Pakistan will wait until it has “concrete evidence” to bring up the issue with New Delhi (PTI, Bloomberg).

A new public opinion poll released today finds that 51 percent of Pakistanis support the current operations in South Waziristan, though only one quarter of respondents said that Islamists were responsible for it, while 35 percent and 31 percent blamed the U.S. and the Pakistani government, respectively (Reuters). The full results of the poll are available from Gallup Pakistan (Gallup Pakistan).

A Taliban spokesman told the AP that the militant movement is “prepared for a long war,” and denied that the Pakistani Army has made substantial progress in defeating the Taliban on the battlefield (AP). The Pakistani military claimed that the militant strongholds of Sararogha, Makeen, Cheena, and Kani Guram have been secured, though independent verification of information in South Waziristan’s battle zone is impossible (Dawn, Dawn).

It wasn’t me

A Brooklyn imam yesterday pled not guilty to charges of lying to FBI agents about tipping off an al Qaeda associate in the U.S. (AP, Reuters, New York Daily News, AFP). Ahmad Wais Afzali, who has been allowed to go free on bail of $1.5 million, told reporters, “I have nothing to hide;” he is accused of telling Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant and resident of Colorado who allegedly plotted to detonate explosives in the U.S. after receiving training from al Qaeda members in Pakistan, that he was under investigation.

Playing games

A Polish provincial reconstruction team is planning to build more than 50 playgrounds for schools in the central Afghan city Ghazni (Pajhwok). The total cost of the playgrounds is expected to be about half a million dollars.

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Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

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