The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Afghanistan world’s second-most corrupt country, says watchdog

The New America Foundation is seeking a Counterterrorism Fellow to work with Steve Coll and Peter Bergen. For more information visit here. New America is also seeking spring interns for the American Strategy Program and Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative. With bags of gold On the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Afghanistan is forming a ...

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The New America Foundation is seeking a Counterterrorism Fellow to work with Steve Coll and Peter Bergen. For more information visit here. New America is also seeking spring interns for the American Strategy Program and Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative.

With bags of gold

On the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Afghanistan is forming a new crime unit to address the pervasive corruption in the country after insistent calls from international leaders that President Hamid Karzai improve governance, a watchdog group has ranked Afghanistan the world’s second-most corrupt country, surpassed only by Somalia (AP, Al Jazeera, AP, BBC, Reuters). The full results of the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption by drawing on surveys of businesses and experts, are available from Transparency International (TI).

A new British Army field manual reportedly instructs soldiers to buy off potential militant recruits with “bags of gold,” though cautions that distributing cash must be done wisely to prevent the distortion of local economies, and also encourages “short-term, labor-intensive” projects in Afghanistan as the “best way” to disrupt extremist recruitment (Times of London, Telegraph). The manual, which will be taught to new officers, says that Army commanders should talk to Taliban militants “with blood on their hands” in order to speed up the end of the conflict.

Step by step

Last night at a banquet in London, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered to host an international summit early next year to discuss a “timetable” for transferring control “district by district” to Afghan security forces (Telegraph, Reuters, Guardian, Times of London, BBC, Financial Times). The head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said this morning that he expects “substantially more forces” for Afghanistan to be announced “in a few weeks,” though he too emphasized that the troop increase is part of a wider plan to hand over power to the Afghans (AFP, Reuters). And Iran’s foreign minister said yesterday that a regional approach to help “solve” Afghanistan is needed, citing Lebanon as an example (AFP).

Yesterday’s rocket attack on a bazaar northeast of Kabul that resulted in the death of 12 civilians and was presumably aimed at a nearby meeting of local leaders and French military forces highlights insecurity in eastern Afghanistan, according to a provincial police chief (AP, New York Times, AP, Pajhwok). A Taliban spokesman denied responsibility for the attack, which is not uncommon in cases that result in civilian casualties. An account of a battle between coalition forces with attack helicopters and Taliban militants in the eastern Afghan province of Zabul illustrates some of the details of war, and some Afghan interpreters working with British troops claim they are being “abandoned” after being wounded (McClatchy, Telegraph).

Into the caves

The Pakistani Army flew journalists this morning to Sararogha, a key strategic town in South Waziristan, on the one-month mark of the military operations to announce that the army has secured “major town and population centers” and killed more than 550 militants (Reuters, AFP, Geo TV, Pajhwok). Independent verification of claims in the region is all but impossible because reporters and aid workers are barred from the region except on occasional guided trips, and a Pakistani spokesman warned that Taliban fighters have escaped into neighboring tribal agencies. The chief of the Taliban in the Swat Valley, Maulana Fazlullah, told BBC Urdu that he has also safely escaped to Afghanistan (BBC).

A bomb today targeting a local police chief in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southern Baluchistan province, has killed one and wounded about eight others, demonstrating militants’ reach across the country, though the attack has not yet been claimed; Baluchi nationalists and the Taliban are active in the area (BBC, Dawn, AP, Geo TV, Pajhwok). Quetta police later arrested three alleged potential suicide bombers, aged 17 to 27, and recovered a large cache of explosives and weapons (Dawn).

Taliban militants blew up a girls’ school in Khyber earlier today, the third such attack in a month, underlining the extremists’ continued targeting of education in the country (AFP, Dawn, Pajhwok). Militants have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in recent years. And increasing violence in Punjab, home to Pakistan’s biggest bank and generating more than half of the country’s economic growth, has investors and businessmen worried (Bloomberg).

Top chef: Afghanistan

An American chef at a base in Kandahar, in Afghanistan’s insurgency-ridden south, is a long way from his previous career in the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, FL (ABC News). Though half a world away, soldiers in Kandahar say they feel more at home because of days like “Soul Food Thursdays” in Afghanistan.

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