Daily brief: McChrystal sees Taliban role in Afghan peace

Wonk Watch: Brookings has just released a comprehensive report entitled "The emerging law of detention: the Guantanamo habeas cases as lawmaking" that is a must-read for those seeking a deep understanding of some of the complex legal issues surrounding the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (Brookings). Dispatch In another communique released to Al Jazeera, al ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: Brookings has just released a comprehensive report entitled "The emerging law of detention: the Guantanamo habeas cases as lawmaking" that is a must-read for those seeking a deep understanding of some of the complex legal issues surrounding the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (Brookings).

Dispatch

In another communique released to Al Jazeera, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden praised Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to down an airliner heading for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and warned that, "Our raids on you will continue as long as your support to the Israelis will continue," underlining the importance of the Palestinian situation to the militant group (AJE, NYT, WSJ, CNN, Wash Post, AP, Dawn). In the one-minute long audio tape, the date of taping of which is unclear, bin Laden also commented, "If our messages had been able to reach you through words, we wouldn't have been delivering them through planes."

Wonk Watch: Brookings has just released a comprehensive report entitled "The emerging law of detention: the Guantanamo habeas cases as lawmaking" that is a must-read for those seeking a deep understanding of some of the complex legal issues surrounding the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (Brookings).

Dispatch

In another communique released to Al Jazeera, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden praised Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to down an airliner heading for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and warned that, "Our raids on you will continue as long as your support to the Israelis will continue," underlining the importance of the Palestinian situation to the militant group (AJE, NYT, WSJ, CNN, Wash Post, AP, Dawn). In the one-minute long audio tape, the date of taping of which is unclear, bin Laden also commented, "If our messages had been able to reach you through words, we wouldn’t have been delivering them through planes."

The Telegraph reports on the threat from al Qaeda-trained female suicide bombers, affiliated with the terror group’s Yemen outfit, who have reportedly been given instruction on attacking Western targets, particularly in the U.K. (Tel).

Downed drone

A suspected U.S. drone reportedly crashed on Sunday some 2.5 miles northwest of Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal agency of North Waziristan, which has been getting hammered by alleged drone strikes in the weeks since the suicide bombing at a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan, and Pakistan reportedly recently dropped its request that the U.S. not fire missiles in South Waziristan, the site of last fall’s Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban (AP, NYT, Geo, CNN). Although tribesmen in the area were reportedly celebrating having shot down the drone, whether they did so cannot be independently confirmed.

In response to the drone campaign, over the weekend Taliban militants in the region left at least seven bodies, one decapitated, across North Waziristan with notes attached saying, "This is the fate of American spies" (Dawn, AP). Five of the dead were reportedly Afghans. And militants attacked a Pakistani checkpoint near the Afghan border in Orakzai and Kurram on Saturday, sparking a gunfight that left 22 insurgents and two Pakistani soldiers dead (AP).

U.S. and Pakistani officials are frustrated with each other, as Pakistan recently rejected the U.S.’s desire to mount an offensive against militants including the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, and Pakistani officials are reportedly wary of U.S.-India ties and the presence of the security contracting firm formerly known as Blackwater operating in the country (NYT, Wash Post, NYT). Pakistan is also concerned that any new military operations in North Waziristan "will invite retribution" from groups that have thus far refrained from attacking Pakistani targets.

The diplomatic front

The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan are meeting today in a Turkish-sponsored fence-mending meeting to discuss issues of regional security, ahead of this Thursday’s international conference in London, and tomorrow leaders from Afghanistan’s neighbors will join the summit in Istanbul (AFP, BBC). At the London conference, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will reportedly present a plan for British soldiers to fight the Taliban mostly in the southern Afghan province of Helmand for up to five more years (Times of London). CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus told the London Times, "I have not assessed that Afghanistan could be turned as quickly as Iraq was turned" following an increase in force levels (Times; Times transcript).

The talk of the conference in London this week will be reconciliation plans for the Taliban and the Afghan government, and top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Financial Times that he hopes the influx of U.S. troops to Afghanistan will lead to some sort of negotiated peace with the militant movement, and that a political solution would be the right way to end the conflict (FT, BBC, FT, AP).

Neighboring Pakistan is reaching out to "all levels" of the Afghan Taliban in a bid to encourage reconciliation, plans for which have mostly focused on Taliban footsoldiers (Reuters). And the outgoing U.N. chief in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has pressed Afghan officials to ask the U.N. to have at least some of the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership removed from the United Nations’ list of terrorists, a first step toward opening negotiations with them (NYT).

Afghanistan’s electoral commission has postponed the country’s parliamentary elections from May to September of this year, citing a "lack of budget, security and uncertainty, and logistical challenges," a move that assuaged concerns in the West, which had advocated delaying the contest until electoral reform has been enacted (Wash Post, AFP, AP, Reuters, NYT, Pajhwok, BBC). Election day is now set for Sept. 18, 2010.

And security

Eight NATO soldiers were wounded when a suspected Taliban rocket landed at Kandahar Air Field, and two international troops were killed earlier today, bringing the total number of fatalities in January to 37, compared with 23 last year (AP). Five U.S. soldiers were killed in incidents across Afghanistan over the weekend as well, at least three in roadside bombing attacks (AFP, AFP). And the battle to secure the restive southern Afghan province of Kandahar continues (AP).

Afghan authorities have arrested the accused ringleader of last week’s bloody coordinated attacks on the capital Kabul, and now believe the assault was arranged by al Qaeda and not the Haqqani network as had been previously reported (AP).

A surge of puppies

As more U.S. soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan, so are more dogs, used in finding roadside bombs, which has led to a series of logistical challenges associated with feeding and training the pups (AP). There may be as many as 315 dogs in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has some 2,800 military dogs, each of which costs around $40,000 a year.

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