Daily brief: top commander, diplomat in Afghanistan defend Obama’s plan
Afghanistan hearings on Capitol HillToday, 10:00am: Gen. David Petraeus, Amb. Karl Eikenberry, and Jacob Lew, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Tomorrow, 9:30am: Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Amb. Karl Eikenberry, House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFA)Lockstep In yesterday’s hearings on Capitol Hill, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the U.S. ambassador to ...
Afghanistan hearings on Capitol Hill
Today, 10:00am: Gen. David Petraeus, Amb. Karl Eikenberry, and Jacob Lew, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC)
Tomorrow, 9:30am: Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Amb. Karl Eikenberry, House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFA)
In yesterday’s hearings on Capitol Hill, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the U.S. ambassador to Kabul Amb. Karl Eikenberry closed ranks in support of U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, knocking down rumors that the two men had disagreements over the president’s new policy, as Gen. McChrystal had advocated for 40,000 soldiers while Amb. Eikenberry questioned sending more at all (Wash Post, Reuters, WSJ, AP, NYT). Gen. McChrystal told Congress that he expects the results of the influx of troops to start showing within a year and predicted that the 30,000 new soldiers will “reverse” the Taliban’s recent momentum in the country.
On the much-discussed topic of Osama bin Laden, Gen. McChrystal stated, “It would not defeat al Qaeda to have him captured or killed, but I don’t think that we can finally defeat al Qaeda until he is captured or killed,” just days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. has not had good intelligence on the terrorist leader’s whereabouts for years (NYT, CNN, McClatchy, BBC, Reuters, AFP). The general said, however, that he could not guarantee the new strategy would lead to bin Laden’s capture or death because if the al Qaeda chief is in Pakistan, “It is outside of my mandate.”
The State Department will not be renewing an arrangement with a security contracting firm protecting the U.S. embassy in Kabul following an investigation that found guards engaged in lewd behavior and sexual misconduct in their living quarters and a “history of contract compliance deficiencies,” according to a State Department spokesman (Reuters, AP, The Cable). There are currently some 104,000 Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan, and they are expected to outnumber U.S. soldiers even after the 30,000 troop increase is completed (WSJ).
And after being found guilty of corruption charges on Monday and sentenced to several years in prison, the mayor of Kabul City Abdul Ahad Sahebi was promptly bailed out of jail and has continued running the city, free pending his appeal to a higher court (Pajhwok, AP, BBC).
Beyond his means
Pakistan’s troubled President Asif Ali Zardari reportedly has assets of some $1.5 billion around the world, including houses and bank accounts in the U.K., Spain, France, and the U.S., according to a report delivered yesterday to the Supreme Court from the country’s main anti-corruption body, a politically independent government investigative arm called the National Accountability Bureau (WSJ, The News, Times of London). The Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of an amnesty protecting Zardari and thousands of other officials from prosecution on corruption charges, and Zardari’s spokesman called the claims “no more than a regurgitation of decade-old unproven politically motivated allegations.”
Earlier today, Taliban militants dynamited two boys’ schools in Khyber agency, the site of a Pakistani military offensive, as the number of total militants killed during operations in South Waziristan since mid-October has risen to 589, out of estimates between 5,000 and 12,000 (AFP, Geo TV, Dawn). And yesterday’s bloody attacks in Lahore were reportedly the work of two suicide bombers, the second of whom detonated near an electricity pole, which caused a short circuit that led to a severe fire in the Moon Market area of the country’s cultural capital (AFP, NYT). More than 50 people were killed.
The FBI goes abroad
The FBI is sending a team of investigators to Pakistan and India to probe links with David Headley, a U.S. citizen accused of plotting to attack a Danish newspaper and of conducting surveillance on targets in Mumbai before the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian financial capital that left more than 160 dead (AP, The News, AP). The Wall Street Journal reports that Headley’s deceptive answers about his travels abroad to an airport inspector in August helped investigators start to unravel his alleged double life (WSJ, AP). The 49-year-old, who could face the death penalty if convicted of the charges against him, is due in federal court today.
Ringo, a bomb-sniffing black Labrador, has found 10 roadside bombs in the last six months while on patrol in Helmand province (LAT). When the 3-year-old puppy finds an IED, he is rewarded with playtime with his favorite chew toy.
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