Daily brief: U.S. Marines under fire ahead of major Afghan operations

The Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation has an immediate opening for an internship this spring. Email a cover letter, resume, and 3-5 page writing sample to tiedemann@newamerica.net; more details are available here. Good neighbors Pakistan has reportedly told the U.S. it wants a central role in dealing with the Afghan conflict, offering ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

The Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation has an immediate opening for an internship this spring. Email a cover letter, resume, and 3-5 page writing sample to tiedemann@newamerica.net; more details are available here.

Good neighbors

Pakistan has reportedly told the U.S. it wants a central role in dealing with the Afghan conflict, offering its influence over the roughly 4,000-fighter Haqqani militant network, which is active in eastern and southern Afghanistan and based in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, in exchange for a "friendly" Afghanistan and for ways to stem India's presence there (NYT). The Haqqanis have a long history of ties with Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, and the U.S. has fast-tracked military hardware with the hopes of inducing Pakistani operations against the network, which the country has been reluctant to do. An adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the Daily Telegraph that Pakistan has not made "substantial" progress in helping to reintegrate Taliban fighters, and the topic is likely to be on the agenda as National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones visits Islamabad this week (Tel, Dawn).

The Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation has an immediate opening for an internship this spring. Email a cover letter, resume, and 3-5 page writing sample to tiedemann@newamerica.net; more details are available here.

Good neighbors

Pakistan has reportedly told the U.S. it wants a central role in dealing with the Afghan conflict, offering its influence over the roughly 4,000-fighter Haqqani militant network, which is active in eastern and southern Afghanistan and based in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, in exchange for a "friendly" Afghanistan and for ways to stem India’s presence there (NYT). The Haqqanis have a long history of ties with Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, and the U.S. has fast-tracked military hardware with the hopes of inducing Pakistani operations against the network, which the country has been reluctant to do. An adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the Daily Telegraph that Pakistan has not made "substantial" progress in helping to reintegrate Taliban fighters, and the topic is likely to be on the agenda as National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones visits Islamabad this week (Tel, Dawn).

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik has become the latest government official to say that Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud is dead, presumably after having succumbed to his wounds in a suspected U.S. drone strike in mid-January (AP, The News, Reuters, WSJ, The News, Dawn). While Hakimullah has been reported killed before under various circumstances, the militant group has not produced any evidence that he is still alive this time.

And a suicide bomber rammed his car into a patrol of Pakistani tribal police in the tribal region Khyber just moments ago, killing at least ten of the khasaddars and wounding 15 more (AP, Geo, AFP). The attack has not yet been claimed, but Taliban militants often target Pakistan’s security services.

Calls for help

The United Nations has called for more than $500 million in humanitarian aid to help the one million Pakistanis still displaced from their homes in the northwest of the country by fighting over the last several years (AP, AFP, The News, Daily Times). The biggest chunk of the requested aid, $195 million, would pay for food for the displaced.

The two dozen-plus avalanches over Afghanistan’s Salang Pass, which connects the Afghan capital Kabul with the north of the country and is the only major north-south route to remain open year round, have killed more than 160 people and trapped scores more (AP, AFP, BBC, BBC, Pajhwok). Afghan soldiers and police have been mobilized to help with the rescue effort, and the international coalition has also contributed equipment.

The drums of war

As the drumbeat continues ahead of expected coalition military operations against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, Rajiv Chandrasekaran has today’s must-read describing the build-up and expectations for both the battle and the follow-up (Wash Post). Some 15,000 U.S., British, and Afghan troops are gearing up to face off against "several hundred fighters" entrenched in the area, amidst some 80,000 residents, most of whom have not fled the area despite a very public run-up to the campaign (AP, McClatchy, Globe and Mail, Reuters).

Operations in Marjah are expected to begin "in days," and insurgents have begun firing on U.S. Marines on the outskirts of the town with sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (AFP). An independent British Parliamentary watchdog reports that hospitals treating casualties in Afghanistan are near capacity and under increasing threat from Taliban attacks (Guardian).

The U.S. is considering sending some 2,500 additional U.S. troops to northern Afghanistan, which is under the command of German forces and has faced a rise in violent attacks, though is still relatively calm compared to Afghanistan’s south and east (AFP). Washington has no plans to take over the northern regional command from Germany.

Unexpected victories

After beating the Irish by 13 runs yesterday, Afghanistan defeated Scotland in a must-win match of the World Twenty20 cricket qualifier (Pajhwok). The Afghan team will face off against the Americans tomorrow in Abu Dhabi.

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