Daily brief: U.S. ambassador to Kabul cautions against more troops
The political balance U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. Karl Eikenberry reportedly sent two classified memos to Washington in the past week cautioning against sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows he is willing to address the pervasive corruption in his government (Washington Post, New York Times). This seismic intervention, coming ...
The political balance
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. Karl Eikenberry reportedly sent two classified memos to Washington in the past week cautioning against sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows he is willing to address the pervasive corruption in his government (Washington Post, New York Times). This seismic intervention, coming amidst reports that U.S. President Barack Obama was nearing a decision about the troops question, pits the former American commander in Afghanistan against the current top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who reportedly favors sending around 40,000 new troops to the country and is said to be “fuming” about Gen. Eikenberry’s cables (BBC).
At yesterday’s two and a half hour meeting in the White House Situation Room with Obama and his national security team, the president reportedly rejected all four of the options presented to him, instead asking for revisions to clarify when and how U.S. forces would turn over responsibility to their Afghan counterparts (AP, Wall Street Journal, Reuters). It was the eighth such meeting in recent months.
The president reportedly felt it necessary after yesterday’s meeting to clarify that U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is “not open-ended” and that Kabul must improve governance in the country, according to an administration official (AFP, CNN, Al Jazeera). Helene Cooper assesses, however, that the international community lacks sufficient leverage over Karzai and will not fully pull out of the country (New York Times). And analysts and officials alike lament the continued involvement of warlords in Afghanistan’s political system (AP).
Obama could announce his decision after his return from a diplomatic trip to Asia, possibly in the first week of December, though British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he has spoken with Obama and expects an announcement “in a few days” (New York Times, Telegraph, Reuters). NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserted yesterday that he expects allies to provide more resources for NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.
Tom Coghlan has today’s must-read about the Taliban’s propaganda efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining that the extremist group, which once shunned the trappings of modernity, has in recent years embraced the internet, releases glossy magazines and dozens of DVDs, and has even volunteered Taliban-themed ringtones for mobile phones (Times of London). And in Kabul, the “Obama Market” of food and supplies bought or stolen from U.S. military bases is thriving, though local shopkeepers claim most of the goods in their stores are cheap Chinese-made items with just a few American products to lure potential customers (McClatchy).
Taliban fighters are expanding their control of Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province, and militant leaders claim to have reopened schools and appointed local officials in the area, while some video footage shows Taliban brandishing what appear to be U.S.-made weapons (Al Jazeera). Some 150,000 Afghans have reportedly been forced to flee fighting across the country between the Taliban and coalition forces, particularly the war-ravaged southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan, creating a serious hurdle for the Obama administration’s plans to stabilize the country (Wall Street Journal).
A Pakistani public affairs officer working for the Iranian consulate in Pakistan was shot and killed in Peshawar, a town in northwestern Pakistan that has frequently been the site of militant attacks, though no one has yet claimed responsibility for the assassination (BBC, CNN, Dawn). Abul Hasan Jaffri’s death comes amid tensions between Pakistan and Iran over Iran’s allegations that Islamabad’s intelligence agents played a role in a deadly suicide bombing in Iran last month.
Police in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial capital, have arrested seven suspected members of the Pakistani Taliban after a shootout yesterday in a middle-class neighborhood (Reuters). The city’s police chief claimed the men were planning to target law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and recovered two potential suicide jackets. And 11 suspected militants are on trial in Spain after being arrested in January 2008 on accusations of plotting suicide attacks on Barcelona’s metro under the influence of erstwhile Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud (CNN, AP, Al Jazeera).
Voters in Pakistan’s Northern Areas headed to the polls to elect an assembly for their district, which has never officially been part of Pakistan proper but instead included in the Pakistani-controlled portion of the disputed Kashmir region (Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Nation, The News). Many of the 1.5 million residents of the cold mountain region of Gilgit-Baltistan oppose integration into Kashmir and instead want to be merged into Pakistan and declared a province, angering longtime rival India.
After disappearing more than a year ago during a battle between Taliban militants and a coalition patrol in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan, Sabi the black Labrador has been found and returned to the Australians’ base in the province (AP). More than 1,500 Australian troops are in Afghanistan and among them are dogs like Sabi used to sniff out roadside bombs; Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has just made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, as well (BBC).
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