Daily brief: blast wounds acting governor of troubled Afghan province

Event notice: AfPak Channel editor and New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen is appearing on Capitol Hill this morning at 9:30am on a panel entitled "18 months and beyond: implications of U.S. policy in Afghanistan." Details here. East of Afghanistan Al Qaeda’s chief in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, praised the Jordanian doctor who killed ...

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Event notice: AfPak Channel editor and New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen is appearing on Capitol Hill this morning at 9:30am on a panel entitled "18 months and beyond: implications of U.S. policy in Afghanistan." Details here.

East of Afghanistan

Al Qaeda's chief in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, praised the Jordanian doctor who killed seven CIA agents and contractors at a base in Khost in a suicide attack on December 30, calling it "revenge" for those militant leaders killed by U.S.-operated drone strikes (AFP). Details are still leaking out about the blast -- two of those killed were reportedly Blackwater employees and analysts suggest that the Haqqani extremist network was closely involved with the attack, while the bomber's family remains confused (NYT, AFP, Times of London, Telegraph, NYT, ABC).

Event notice: AfPak Channel editor and New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen is appearing on Capitol Hill this morning at 9:30am on a panel entitled "18 months and beyond: implications of U.S. policy in Afghanistan." Details here.

East of Afghanistan

Al Qaeda’s chief in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, praised the Jordanian doctor who killed seven CIA agents and contractors at a base in Khost in a suicide attack on December 30, calling it "revenge" for those militant leaders killed by U.S.-operated drone strikes (AFP). Details are still leaking out about the blast — two of those killed were reportedly Blackwater employees and analysts suggest that the Haqqani extremist network was closely involved with the attack, while the bomber’s family remains confused (NYT, AFP, Times of London, Telegraph, NYT, ABC).

Also in Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, an explosion in his office wounded the acting governor, Tahir Khan Sabri, and several others in a sign of deteriorating security conditions there, while a suicide blast this morning in Gardez left some Afghan security officials dead (Pajhwok, BBC, AJE, AP, Reuters, BBC, Reuters, The News). And thousands of protesters took to the streets of Jalalabad after the blast yesterday of what is believed to be unexploded ordnance in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar that killed five Afghans, including two children, which occurred while U.S. and Afghan soldiers were inspecting a construction project and was blamed on U.S. forces (AP, Pajhwok, NYT).

A retired U.S. general, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, has issued an assessment to CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus and top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal that the U.S. should expect between 300 and 500 soldiers to be wounded or killed in Afghanistan every month in this year, peaking during the summer fighting season (Times of London). And the Pentagon’s press secretary said yesterday that the United States would like to see Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Parliament reach an agreement soon on Karzai’s picks for his cabinet ministers, in order to work on improving governance in the country (Reuters).

After Guantanamo

New Pentagon statistics reportedly show that up to 20 percent of former detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay are suspected or confirmed to have engaged in terrorist or militant activity after their releases, according to administration officials, up from around 14 percent last April (Bloomberg, NYT, AFP, ABC). However, an unclassified version of the new information has not yet been released, and the Pentagon’s methodology and figures have been criticized before (NAF).

The diplomat watch

Outgoing top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan Kai Eide yesterday told the U.N. Security Council in his final formal address to the body that "we will fail" if the strategy there relies too heavily on military force, and encouraged the reconciliation process between Afghans and members of the Taliban, while warning of "negative trends" in the country (Wash Post, NYT, BBC, AP). Eide, stepping down in March, was harshly criticized for his handling of the fraud-riddled Afghan presidential election in August 2009.

U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Richard Holbrooke is setting off for the region next week as part of "routine" consultations with members of each government (Reuters, FP). In Afghanistan he is expected to focus on preparations for the January 28, 2010 international conference in London, while in Pakistan he is reported to be meeting with the president, the prime minister, and the chief of the army.

And the U.S. embassy in Pakistan has issued a rare public complaint that its diplomats are being harassed and detained at Pakistani checkpoints as they attempt to travel around the country (AP). U.S. diplomats have also faced delays in recent weeks obtaining visas or visa extensions, reportedly reflecting Pakistani concern at a growing U.S. presence in the country.

Inside Pakistan

Embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari appears to have weathered the recent storm in Pakistani politics, as speculation that he would be forced to step down was rife at the end of last year (McClatchy). The confrontation had fueled concerns that Pakistan’s powerful military might intervene and force a new round of elections, although the chief of the army Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has repeatedly said he is not interested in politics.

And longtime South Asia correspondent Pamela Constable has another fascinating look at support for the Taliban — or lack thereof — in the cosmopolitan Pakistani city of Karachi (Wash Post).

Fighting fire

The U.S. has recently donated 32 fire trucks to Afghanistan, after a request from the Afghan Defense Ministry (Pajhwok). The vehicles will be spread across 16 fire stations in Afghanistan, and officials will receive ten days of training on how to use them.

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