The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Pakistani Taliban chief reported ‘wounded’ in drone strike
Event notice: Tuesday January 19 the New America Foundation will be hosting Major Jason Amerine and Eric Blehm, the author of The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan, at 12:15pm. Details here. Close confusing call Taliban sources have reportedly said Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud was wounded in ...
Event notice: Tuesday January 19 the New America Foundation will be hosting Major Jason Amerine and Eric Blehm, the author of The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan, at 12:15pm. Details here.
Close confusing call
Taliban sources have reportedly said Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud was wounded in the alleged drone strike that occurred yesterday in the village of Pasalkot in North Waziristan (CNN, Reuters, Times of India, Daily Times). Taliban sources initially said that Mehsud had survived the attack unscathed. Dawn is reporting that Mehsud was injured in a new drone strike this morning in South Waziristan, though the precise location is unspecified and if confirmed, would be the first strike in South Waziristan since mid-October 2009 (Dawn).
The AP reports on an alleged audiotape with Mehsud just released by the Taliban, though it contains no references to yesterday’s drone strike, suggesting it could have been pre-recorded and kept on file (AP). Intelligence officials and militants alike continue to say Mehsud was not killed in the Pasalkot strike.
More charges filed
A 12-count federal indictment unsealed Thursday charged Canadian national Tawahhur Rana with involvement in the planning of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, suspected to have been carried out by the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC, DoJ). Rana was originally arrested in Chicago in October 2009 alongside David Coleman Headley for planning to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, but prosecutors now allege that Rana helped plan and provide cover for Headley’s reconnaissance trips to Mumbai.
Also charged in the indictment was al Qaeda-linked extremist leader Ilyas Kashmiri and former Pakistani military officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Dawn, AP, WSJ). In particular, the indictment alleges that Headley met with Kashmiri in Pakistan, where the latter offered suggestions for the planned attack in Denmark and volunteered the assistance of contacts in Europe who would provide money, weapons and support for an attack. Neither man is in U.S. custody, and Kashmiri is believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Confusion of authority
Lack of coordination and disagreements between senior U.S. officials has reportedly slowed the delivery of aid promised under the Kerry-Lugar bill (Dawn). Officials disagree on how the money will be disbursed, and there is even confusion about when the money will be arriving in Pakistan.
In another rearrangement of political power in Pakistan, the country’s Constitutional Reform Committee has given Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani the power to appoint the heads of each of Pakistan’s armed services (Dawn). This authority previously resided with Pakistan’s embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, who now must seek approval for his choices from the prime minister. Zardari writes in today’s Washington Post, "Just as our people refuse to be terrorized, our government refuses to be derailed from its course of fiscal responsibility, social accountability and financial transparency" (Wash Post).
The coming storm
McClatchy’s Saeed Shah analyzes the impact on U.S.-Pakistani cooperation of the December 30 suicide bombing at a CIA-run base in Khost that killed eight (McClatchy). Shah argues that the attack has focused attention on the Haqqani network, which operates on both sides of the border but targets U.S. forces — he quotes sources saying that despite Pakistani reluctance to take on militants in North Waziristan who have not targeted Pakistani forces, the Dec. 30 attack may have made a major Pakistani Army operation in North Waziristan "inevitable."
Trust fund Taliban
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters that the upcoming January 28 conference on Afghanistan to be held in London will focus on a number of issues such as anti-corruption efforts and training for the Afghan National Army, but will not attempt to lobby for more troops or money for Afghanistan (WSJ). At the conference Britain also intends to propose an "international trust fund" to pay Taliban fighters who agree to lay down their weapons (Guardian). Japan has pledged $5 billion for police training and Taliban reintegration before the conference, as they finish their eight-year long naval refueling operation for the Afghan war today (Reuters, AP).
The U.S. general in charge of training Afghan police delivered a stinging critique of the process so far, saying that it has been poorly-resourced, poorly planned, and requires immediate, sweeping reforms (Independent). Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell IV said that these reforms would include a new training scheme to ensure a more professional police force, and an emphasis on producing quality rather than quantity policemen.
Should I stay or should I go?
A Taliban statement condemned the plan to turn control of the prison at Bagram Airfield to the Afghan government, saying that the decline in treatment and conditions at an Afghan-run Bagram would make detainees "long for the past" (Reuters).
And starting January 15, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will begin broadcasting in Pashto, with the broadcasts reaching Pakistan and parts of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region (RFE/RL, AP). The U.S. government-run station will feature music, discussions with tribal and local leaders, as well as call-in commentary from listeners.
Not the Osama bin Laden I know
The FBI has produced "aged progressed" images of Osama bin Laden to show what he might look like today, since he has not appeared in a video since 2007 (Guardian, Times of London). The FBI images show what bin Laden might look like with a full beard and turban in his standard dress, as well as what he would look like with a trimmed beard and in western clothing.
Dog days of…winter?
Stray dogs are becoming increasingly problematic in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, making it nearly impossible to move freely at night in some districts (The News). Some estimate that there are up to 150,000 dog-bite cases reported across Pakistan each year, causing between 2,000 and 5,000 deaths from rabies. Critics charge that the government is not doing enough to kill stray dogs, "on humanitarian grounds."
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