Daily brief: ‘Rogue’ Afghan policeman kills five British soldiers in Helmand

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. Today’s Wonk Watch: The October issue ...

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577631_091104_82456222a2.jpg

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.

Today's Wonk Watch: The October issue of West Point's CTC Sentinel has one of the best publicly available analyses on the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud (CTC Sentinel, 24 pp, pdf). If you would like us to consider featuring your research or testimony in Wonk Watch, please email it to tiedemann@newamerica.net.

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.

Today’s Wonk Watch: The October issue of West Point’s CTC Sentinel has one of the best publicly available analyses on the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud (CTC Sentinel, 24 pp, pdf). If you would like us to consider featuring your research or testimony in Wonk Watch, please email it to tiedemann@newamerica.net.

Tragedy in Helmand

Five British soldiers were killed and half a dozen wounded yesterday afternoon in Afghanistan’s troubled southern Helmand province after a “rogue” Afghan policeman opened fired, raising concerns about discipline within Afghan security forces and possible insurgent infiltration; a local official said the shooter was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban (New York Times, AP, Guardian, Times of London, BBC, CNN, Pajhwok). The attack makes 2009 the deadliest year for British troops since the Falklands War in 1982, and comes at a politically delicate time in the U.K.: Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s intelligence and security committee chairman Kim Howells, a former foreign affairs minister, just called for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan (AFP, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC).

Corruption in Kabul

Erstwhile presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, speaking publicly for the first time since he withdrew from the runoff on Sunday, slammed President Hamid Karzai’s re-election as having “no legal basis” and said that Karzai’s government will be unable to fight corruption or bring legitimacy (AP, BBC, AFP, Bloomberg). U.S. officials, Western diplomats, and other experts are also concerned that Karzai will prove unwilling or unable to address the pervasive corruption in Afghanistan, as demonstrated by the return of controversial Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum from Turkey earlier this week (McClatchy, AP).

U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly delivered an ultimatum to Karzai during his congratulatory phone call on Monday, telling the Afghan president that he has six months to reduce corruption or face losing U.S. support (Times of London). Abdullah’s representatives, meanwhile, were reportedly seeking power-sharing deals with Karzai before Abdullah stepped aside, and sent over a document to Karzai demanding 11 senior government posts for Abdullah’s supporters (Washington Post).

Violence and politics

Pakistani soldiers are reportedly fighting street by street through the militant-infested town of Ladha as part of the ongoing campaign in South Waziristan, which began October 17 and has killed nearly 400 militants according to the Pakistani Army (AP, AFP, Dawn, Reuters). A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said the militant group is making a “tactical retreat,” presumably to lure Pakistani troops deeper into the tribal region (CNN). Pakistan’s military is the only source of information about the battles in South Waziristan; journalists and aid workers are forbidden from visiting the area. The BBC provides a useful map of the current offensive in South Waziristan (BBC).

The ongoing siege of militant violence in Pakistan, which has killed some 2,400 Pakistanis in the last two years or so, has created something of a collective “state of trauma” among Pakistanis, according to a psychologist who has counseled victims of the attacks (AFP). After last week’s suicide bombing that left some 115 people dead, half of them poor women and children, at a crowded Peshawar marketplace, Pakistanis are reluctant to recognize that their fellow countrymen are behind these bloody attacks, turning instead to conspiracy theories and disbelief (New York Times). Sabrina Tavernise has today’s must-read on the aftermath of the Peshawar bombing.

Pakistan’s ruling political party has backed off efforts to win parliamentary support for an amnesty bill that would shield political leaders — among them current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, dubbed “Mr. Ten Percent” — from corruption charges (BBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Dawn).

Fashion week in Pakistan

Under the shadow of militant attacks, Pakistan’s fashion week is kicking off today with an opulent opening ceremony in the financial capital of the country, Karachi (AFP). More than 30 Pakistani designers are participating in the four day long event, which was originally scheduled for October but delayed due to security concerns.

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ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

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