Daily brief: U.S. drone strike reportedy killed Afghan insurgent commander’s brother

Off target A NATO air strike missed its target yesterday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz and killed seven Afghan policemen, after a joint NATO-Afghan convoy near the town of Imamsaheb came under insurgent fire and coalition troops called for air support (BBC, AP, AJE, Pajhwok, ISAF). The incident occurred as the governor of ...

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Off target

A NATO air strike missed its target yesterday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz and killed seven Afghan policemen, after a joint NATO-Afghan convoy near the town of Imamsaheb came under insurgent fire and coalition troops called for air support (BBC, AP, AJE, Pajhwok, ISAF). The incident occurred as the governor of Kunduz, Muhammad Omar warned Taliban fighters to lay down their arms or face a military offensive like the one going on in the southern province of Helmand, Operation Moshtarak, which began last Saturday.

As the coalition operations in Marjah enter the seventh day, an elite team of U.S. Marines was airdropped behind Taliban lines earlier today in an increased bid to eliminate Taliban snipers, who are putting up strong resistance in the northern and eastern parts of the city (AP, WSJ, BBC). Yesterday was the deadliest day for the coalition since the beginning of the operation, as six NATO or Afghan soldiers were killed, bringing the total number to 11; though no official figures have been released, intelligence reports suggest around 120 Taliban fighters have died (AP, Wash Post, Pajhwok, BBC). Two of those killed yesterday were British.

Off target

A NATO air strike missed its target yesterday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz and killed seven Afghan policemen, after a joint NATO-Afghan convoy near the town of Imamsaheb came under insurgent fire and coalition troops called for air support (BBC, AP, AJE, Pajhwok, ISAF). The incident occurred as the governor of Kunduz, Muhammad Omar warned Taliban fighters to lay down their arms or face a military offensive like the one going on in the southern province of Helmand, Operation Moshtarak, which began last Saturday.

As the coalition operations in Marjah enter the seventh day, an elite team of U.S. Marines was airdropped behind Taliban lines earlier today in an increased bid to eliminate Taliban snipers, who are putting up strong resistance in the northern and eastern parts of the city (AP, WSJ, BBC). Yesterday was the deadliest day for the coalition since the beginning of the operation, as six NATO or Afghan soldiers were killed, bringing the total number to 11; though no official figures have been released, intelligence reports suggest around 120 Taliban fighters have died (AP, Wash Post, Pajhwok, BBC). Two of those killed yesterday were British.

The Wall Street Journal has a must-read behind-the-scenes look at Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s involvement in the Marjah operations, writing that top U.S. and NATO commander in the country Gen. Stanley McChrystal had Karzai, who reportedly had a chest infection, woken up from a nap last Friday evening to okay the start of the offensive (WSJ). Karzai, after interrogating the general and Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak about the detailed plans and possible civilian casualties, commented, "No one has ever asked me to decide before," and gave his assent. Civilian casualties, always a politically sensitive topic, are being compensated by NATO using a scale for damaged property or fields, injuries, and deaths, and coalition officials are limiting the use of air strikes to try and avoid them (AP, Reuters).

Off the grid

A younger brother of Haqqani network leader Siraj Haqqani has been reportedly killed by yesterday’s suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan (AFP, AP, Dawn/AFP, Daily Times, Reuters, CNN). Although Siraj, whose militant group is linked to the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, has been known to visit the village of Danday Darpa Khel, Pakistani officials said he was not there at the time of yesterday’s strike, and one security official also said Muhammad Haqqani was not as actively involved with the militant movement, but "his place was used as a hideout for Arab foreign militants."

The follow-up to Afghan Taliban second-in-command Mullah Baradar’s recent capture continues, and new reporting suggests that the arrest two weeks ago was "not necessarily the result of a new determination by Pakistan to go after the Taliban, or a bid to improve its strategic position in the region" but rather a "lucky accident" (NYT). However, Pakistan’s decision to target the Afghan Taliban’s leadership has reportedly also been shifting since U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones delivered a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari last November warning that Pakistan’s "use of insurgent groups to pursue its policy goals would no longer be tolerated" (Wash Post).

More information is emerging about the sweep of arrests of militants in Pakistan: in addition to Mullah Baradar and the Taliban’s shadow governors of Kunduz and Baghlan, the shadow governor of Laghman province, a former shadow governor of Zabul, an al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan’s tribal regions, an al-Qaeda operative in charge of liaising with Chechen and Tajik militants in the tribal areas, and a former Afghan army commander under the Taliban government from Helmand province have all been captured in recent weeks (AP, NYT, WSJ, Times, BBC). Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that high-value captures will not be sent to the United States, but may be deported to Afghanistan if it is determined they did not commit any crimes in Pakistan.

A festival of literature

Next month, the Pakistani port city of Karachi will host its first literary festival to celebrate English- and Urdu-language Pakistani writers (Independent). One of the conference’s organizers said that future festivals will perhaps also focus on Sindhi and Punjabi authors.

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