Daily brief: 15 dead in two Peshawar suicide attacks in last day
Event notice: TODAY at 12pm Stephen Biddle, Gilles Dorronsoro, Peter Bergen, and Jessica T. Mathews will be discussing the U.S.’s strategy in Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Details and RSVP available here. More or less U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly moving closer to making a decision about the way forward in ...
Event notice: TODAY at 12pm Stephen Biddle, Gilles Dorronsoro, Peter Bergen, and Jessica T. Mathews will be discussing the U.S.'s strategy in Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Details and RSVP available here.
Event notice: TODAY at 12pm Stephen Biddle, Gilles Dorronsoro, Peter Bergen, and Jessica T. Mathews will be discussing the U.S.’s strategy in Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Details and RSVP available here.
More or less
U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly moving closer to making a decision about the way forward in Afghanistan, as his advisers are preparing three options to escalate the United States’ efforts in the country, all of which require between 20,000 and 40,000 more troops (New York Times). Speculation about Obama’s decision has been rife in Washington and abroad over the past several weeks, and the latest round asserts that the president is leaning toward sending some 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan (McClatchy, Independent).
U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones cautioned that Afghanistan could "swallow up" more troops sent to the country, and emphasized that solutions are not reached with soldiers alone (Der Spiegel, Telegraph, AFP). U.S. Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey told Meet the Press yesterday that more troops are needed in Afghanistan (Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MSNBC). And some Afghans are reportedly having serious doubts about whether more U.S. troops would help the country; nearly everyone interviewed advocated that instead of sending more international troops, the U.S. should boost Afghan security forces (New York Times).
Security in Afghanistan
Afghan and U.S. authorities are investigating whether a possible friendly fire incident in Badghis province on Friday caused the deaths of Afghan soldiers and police during a search operation for two missing U.S. soldiers (AP, Financial Times, BBC, Washington Post). Coalition forces are engaged in heavy fighting in both Badghis and Kunduz, two once-peaceful northern provinces overseen by European contingents of NATO where militant activity has recently surged (Wall Street Journal, Reuters).
Helmand province, in Afghanistan’s restive south, seems to have improved security conditions following thousands of additional U.S. troops deployed there this summer, though local residents are wary that the troops may leave the rural insurgent heartland for the Taliban to recapture (Los Angeles Times). Also in southern Afghanistan, Afghan justice officials are investigating claims that Taliban prisoners in Kandahar are on a hunger strike to protest bad food, water, and health care (AP). And several supply trucks in northern and eastern Afghanistan were set on fire by Taliban militants on Sunday afternoon, highlighting the challenges of supporting the war effort (AP, Pajhwok, AP).
Corruption, corruption everywhere
Afghanistan’s newly re-elected and embattled President Hamid Karzai told PBS’s Margaret Warner that corrupt individuals will have no place in his government, but placed some of the blame for Afghanistan’s pervasive corruption on international donors, claiming a "lack of transparency in the award of contracts," "no accountability of their contracts," and "serious corruption in implementing projects" (PBS, AP, Pajhwok, Wall Street Journal). Karzai’s reputation in Afghanistan was badly sullied by the fraud-riddled presidential election in August.
A city under siege
Two suicide attacks have struck the troubled northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar in the last 24 hours; earlier this morning, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in his rickshaw after being stopped at a police checkpoint on the road surrounding the city, killing at least three (AFP, AP, BBC, Geo TV, Reuters). Another blast in a Peshawar cattle market yesterday killed 12, including a local mayor who was allied with the Taliban until about two years ago, when he broke with the militant group over the targeting of civilians (CNN, Dawn, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, AP, BBC, The News). The attack seems to be part of a Taliban campaign to stem grassroots opposition to the movement, and the mayor Abdul Malik was reportedly targeted before (New York Times, The News, Wall Street Journal).
But when another suicide attack on a bazaar in Peshawar last week killed more than 100 people, mostly women and children, Pakistanis were incredulous that their fellow Muslims could carry out such atrocities (Washington Post). Most of the anger from survivors, witnesses, religious leaders, and residents was directed not at the Taliban, but at India, Israel, and the United States.
The series of militant attacks that has plagued Peshawar and the rest of Pakistan is an apparent retaliation for ongoing Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold on the Afghan border, which according to the military have killed nearly 500 militants since the offensive began in mid-October (AFP). Pakistan’s Army is reportedly struggling to come up with clear post-offensive plans to run and rebuild the mountainous tribal region, and in today’s essential reading, Alex Rodriguez examines the complex relationships between the Taliban in Waziristan and the Mehsud tribesmen who live there (AP, Los Angeles Times).
And in the face of increased Predator drone strikes targeting militant hideouts in the tribal regions, al Qaeda is relying more heavily on local insurgent groups to house smaller, more mobile training camps for recruits (AP). Counterterrorism officials estimate that between 100 and 150 Westerners have traveled to Pakistan’s tribal regions to receive training from the "dozens" of camps there in the last year.
Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a must-read in the new New Yorker reporting that the Obama administration has been involved in "highly sensitive" negotiations with the Pakistani Army that would "allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis" with Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal (New Yorker). Pakistani military officials have angrily defended the security of the country’s nuclear weapons (CNN, Al Jazeera).
No standard gold
Traditionally opulent Pakistani weddings are losing some of their luster this year because of the rising price of gold and other essentials in a country shadowed by Taliban attacks (AFP). Matrimonial ceremonies can span 3 to 5 days and attract as many as 1,000 celebrants.
Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.