Daily brief: U.N. eases sanctions on five former Taliban officials ahead of London conference

Wonk Watch: The January issue of West Point’s CTC Sentinel is full of valuable articles, including an examination of Pakistan’s adaptation to counterinsurgency by New America Foundation research fellow Sameer Lalwani, and a look at the Taliban presence in Karachi by Imtiaz Ali (CTC-pdf). The conference buzz Nearly all the news about Afghanistan relates to ...

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: The January issue of West Point's CTC Sentinel is full of valuable articles, including an examination of Pakistan's adaptation to counterinsurgency by New America Foundation research fellow Sameer Lalwani, and a look at the Taliban presence in Karachi by Imtiaz Ali (CTC-pdf).

Wonk Watch: The January issue of West Point’s CTC Sentinel is full of valuable articles, including an examination of Pakistan’s adaptation to counterinsurgency by New America Foundation research fellow Sameer Lalwani, and a look at the Taliban presence in Karachi by Imtiaz Ali (CTC-pdf).

The conference buzz

Nearly all the news about Afghanistan relates to tomorrow’s international conference in London and plans for reconciling or reintegrating Taliban fighters with the Afghan government; five former Taliban officials were just removed from a U.N. ‘blacklist’ after Russia stopped blocking the move, while donor countries are expected to commit $100 million a year for five years toward a ‘reintegration’ fund (AFP, Guardian, Wash Post, The News, NYT, AJE, Pajhwok, LAT, BBC). The Afghan finance minister brought up the idea of integrating Taliban officials across all levels of the government and said the militant group is ready to negotiate, a claim quickly denied by a Taliban spokesman (FT, Bloomberg).

The current reconciliation efforts focus mostly on Taliban foot soldiers, though Afghan President Hamid Karzai will reportedly present some sort of plan to address reconciling the movement’s leaders (Tel). Amb. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, estimates that "at least 70 percent" of Taliban members "are not fighting for anything to do with" ideological support for the Afghan Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar or al Qaeda (AP).

The Wall Street Journal has a realistic look at what impressions the London conference is likely to leave, as foreign ministers from nearly 60 countries gather in the British capital, and the FT highlights the challenges facing the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan (WSJ, BBC, FT). Hamid Karzai’s government is likely to come up at the London conference, and the Afghan president’s recent re-appointment of the controversial warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum as chief of the Afghan National Army comes in spite of repeated Western and Afghan objections (AP).

International organization

Craig Whitlock reports that of the 7,000 new troops promised to Afghanistan from NATO countries, only 4,000 were not previously announced or deployed, and the alliance is apparently having some trouble meeting its public commitments to the country (Wash Post). NATO has, however, just reached an agreement with Kazakhstan to open a new supply route from Europe to Afghanistan, as an alternative to the often-attacked supply chain through Pakistan (AP). The United Nations, meanwhile, is reportedly set to announce the Swedish-Italian diplomat Staffan di Mistura as the replacement for outgoing U.N. envoy in Afghanistan Kai Eide, after initial chatter that he would turn down the post (Times of London).

In a strong show of support, the IMF and the World Bank yesterday announced that Afghanistan will receive $1.6 billion in debt relief, as the country has successfully carried out a debt cancellation program, including economic reforms, and is one of the world’s poorest nations (Reuters, AFP, Pajhwok). And a group of eight aid agencies is worried about the growing danger of ‘militarizing’ aid to Afghanistan (BBC).

Second drone down?

Members of the Taliban in an area of North Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan controlled by militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur claim to have shot down another suspected U.S. drone using anti-aircraft guns, the second time in a week (The News, Geo). The claims are impossible to verify because journalists and aid groups do not have easy access to the mountainous tribal region. 

Taliban fighters reportedly kidnapped and shot a pro-government militia leader in the northwest Pakistani tribal area of Bajaur, underlining the continued danger to opponents of the militant group (Dawn, AFP). Three children in Upper Dir also in northwest Pakistan were killed earlier today after one of them tried to open what turned out to be a bomb planted near a house where they were playing (AP). And 13 police and civilian explosives experts were wounded when a bomb hidden in a milk container that they were trying to defuse in Pakistan-administered Kashmir detonated (Dawn).

Getting a big head

Hamid Karzai’s famous karakul hat is not as popular as it once was in Afghanistan, but hatters in Kabul claim the Afghan president has purchased "dozens" of the pointed lambskin head-coverings since taking office (NYT). One of the hatters reports that Karzai’s head size has grown an inch in recent years.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.

 

More from Foreign Policy

Keri Russell as Kate Wyler walks by a State Department Seal from a scene in The Diplomat, a new Netflix show about the foreign service.
Keri Russell as Kate Wyler walks by a State Department Seal from a scene in The Diplomat, a new Netflix show about the foreign service.

At Long Last, the Foreign Service Gets the Netflix Treatment

Keri Russell gets Drexel furniture but no Senate confirmation hearing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron speak in the garden of the governor of Guangdong's residence in Guangzhou, China, on April 7.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron speak in the garden of the governor of Guangdong's residence in Guangzhou, China, on April 7.

How Macron Is Blocking EU Strategy on Russia and China

As a strategic consensus emerges in Europe, France is in the way.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin greets U.S. President George W. Bush prior to a meeting of APEC leaders in 2001.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin greets U.S. President George W. Bush prior to a meeting of APEC leaders in 2001.

What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal

Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.

A girl stands atop a destroyed Russian tank.
A girl stands atop a destroyed Russian tank.

Russia’s Boom Business Goes Bust

Moscow’s arms exports have fallen to levels not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse.