Daily brief: car bombs kill at least 30 in Kabul, Punjab
A blast in Kabul A suicide car bomber killed at least eight people this morning in Kabul in an attack near the home of a former Afghan vice president who is brother of the legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud and the Heetal Plaza Hotel, frequented by Westerners (AP, AFP, BBC, CNN, NYT, Bloomberg, Times ...
A blast in Kabul
A suicide car bomber killed at least eight people this morning in Kabul in an attack near the home of a former Afghan vice president who is brother of the legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud and the Heetal Plaza Hotel, frequented by Westerners (AP, AFP, BBC, CNN, NYT, Bloomberg, Times of London). A Taliban spokesman said he did know if the militant group was responsible for the attack, which occurred in a ritzy, heavily fortified area of Kabul and wounded 40 people after causing a fire to break out, in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital in six weeks.
The attack came as some 200 delegates gathered nearby at a three-day conference hosted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and intended to address the pervasive corruption in his government and concerns of the international community (AP, AFP, BBC, AP, Reuters). Karzai cautioned that reform will take years even as he defended the mayor of Kabul, who was recently convicted on graft charges.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday announced plans for a 68-nation conference in London in January 2010 to discuss the situation and future in Afghanistan, expected to be attended by Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others (Guardian). Brown included plans for two senior coordinators — one from the United Nations, one from NATO — to replace the embattled U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, who has faced criticism over his handling of the August 20 presidential election and reportedly intends to step down when his term is up in March 2010.
The logistics of war
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen held talks in Kabul yesterday ahead of the beginning of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 30,000-soldier increase in the Afghan theater, warning that violence is likely to get worse before it gets better and cautioning that militants have “dominant influence” in nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces (AP, AJE, BBC). Also yesterday, the second highest ranking U.S. general in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, said the troop escalation would likely take longer than initially expected, possibly as long as 11 months, and warned that “bad weather, limited capacity to send supplies by air and potential attacks on ground convoys carrying equipment for the troops from Pakistan and other neighboring countries” all pose substantial challenges for the increased deployment (NYT, WSJ). And earlier today, two NATO supply tankers were torched by suspected Taliban militants on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan (Pajhwok, Dawn).
Supplying troops once they arrive in the land-locked country is “the most difficult logistics assignment we have faced since World War II,” according to the director of the Defense Logistics Agency (Wash Post, WSJ). Top Pentagon official in charge of weapons purchases Ashton Carter commented, “At this phase, Afghanistan is a logistics war as much as any other kind of war,” underlining the challenge of supplying U.S. forces with the 500,000 gallons of fuel per day needed by a typical Marine corps combat brigade, for example.
The Taliban has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit prisoners in its custody in Afghanistan for the first time since the conflict began in what was called a “breakthrough” by the head of the ICRC in Kabul (AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC). The ICRC said it has twice visited three members of the Afghan security forces who are being held in the northwestern Afghan province of Badghis.
A market attacked
At least 22 people were killed when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives in a busy marketplace in Dera Ghazi Khan, a central town in Pakistan’s most populous province, the latest in a string of attacks by suspected Taliban militants that has left more than 500 dead since October (AP, AFP, Geo, BBC, AJE, Bloomberg, The News, Dawn, CNN). This attack illustrates several themes in the militants’ assaults: first, their desire to strike government officials, as lawmaker and opposition leader Zulfiqar Khosa was reportedly the intended target; and second, the reach of the extremist movement beyond the tribal areas.
Jane Perlez has today’s must-read describing how the Pakistani military has reportedly rebuffed calls by Obama administration officials to target the network of Siraj Haqqani, the strongest militant commander in Afghanistan and leader of some 4,000 to 12,000 Taliban fighters (NYT). Although U.S. and Pakistani officials agree that Siraj Haqqani — the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a top mujahideen fighter against the Soviets in the 1980s who is now reportedly confined to bed — is the most potent force fighting the United States, Pakistan is reluctant to attack him because the military views him as an asset and is concentrating on fighting the Pakistani Taliban.
David Headley, the Chicago resident and U.S. citizen accused of plotting or helping to plot attacks in Denmark and India, also scouted targets at one of India’s most sacred Hindu temples and in Bollywood, where he reportedly dated an actress during one of his lengthy surveillance trips in Mumbai (AFP). Headley’s alleged co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, reportedly offered his congratulations to the terrorists behind the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai (AP).
The Wall Street Journal reports on a police investigation claiming the five men from northern Virginia who were arrested in Pakistan last week on suspicion of attempted terrorist activities were deeply religious and wanted to join the fight against those they believed had wronged Muslims (WSJ). Yesterday Pakistani authorities blocked the deportation of the five men to the U.S. until a Pakistani judge reviews their case, and gave the Pakistani government until Thursday to submit a detailed report, though authorities prohibited the FBI from participating in the investigation (WSJ, Wash Post). However, a Pakistani government official has just granted police an additional ten days to question the five Americans (AP).
Spinning a yarn
In spite of a yarn shortage in Pakistan, spinners have reportedly recently booked $300 million worth of fresh orders from abroad (Daily Times). Pakistan’s textile industry has been hard hit by increases in the prices of raw materials and gas and electricity shortages.
Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.
Majid Saeedi/Getty Images
More from Foreign Policy
At Long Last, the Foreign Service Gets the Netflix Treatment
Keri Russell gets Drexel furniture but no Senate confirmation hearing.
How Macron Is Blocking EU Strategy on Russia and China
As a strategic consensus emerges in Europe, France is in the way.
What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal
Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.
Russia’s Boom Business Goes Bust
Moscow’s arms exports have fallen to levels not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse.