Daily brief: Afghan provincial official gunned down in Kandahar

"Eyes in the sky" Pakistani media reports on a series of security incidents across the country yesterday: in the southern port city of Karachi, a Taliban commander was arrested with half-completed suicide vests, jihadist literature, arms, and ammunition; a woman and her three children were killed in Peshawar by rocket fire; four suspected militants died ...

Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

"Eyes in the sky"

Pakistani media reports on a series of security incidents across the country yesterday: in the southern port city of Karachi, a Taliban commander was arrested with half-completed suicide vests, jihadist literature, arms, and ammunition; a woman and her three children were killed in Peshawar by rocket fire; four suspected militants died when their explosives detonated prematurely in Kurram agency; and authorities captured six fighters in Dara Adam Khel and bulldozed Pakistani Taliban hideouts there (The News, The News/BBC, Dawn, Dawn). The Wall Street Journal analyzes whether the recent captures of high-level Afghan Taliban commanders could signal a shift in Pakistan's security stance (WSJ). A Pakistani official commented, "America has an advantage in technical intelligence: eyes in the sky. We have people on ground. If you can match those in a timely manner, you get better results."

A reported U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan killed at least three militants suspected of involvement with the Haqqani insurgent network earlier today, and two bodies were found near Mir Ali in North Waziristan with Taliban notes accusing them of acting as spies for the United States (AP, BBC, Geo, AFP, Reuters, Dawn, CNN, Dawn). And FBI director Robert Mueller is the latest high-level U.S. official to visit Pakistan in recent weeks; he is reportedly in Islamabad for meetings today (Geo, Daily Times).

"Eyes in the sky"

Pakistani media reports on a series of security incidents across the country yesterday: in the southern port city of Karachi, a Taliban commander was arrested with half-completed suicide vests, jihadist literature, arms, and ammunition; a woman and her three children were killed in Peshawar by rocket fire; four suspected militants died when their explosives detonated prematurely in Kurram agency; and authorities captured six fighters in Dara Adam Khel and bulldozed Pakistani Taliban hideouts there (The News, The News/BBC, Dawn, Dawn). The Wall Street Journal analyzes whether the recent captures of high-level Afghan Taliban commanders could signal a shift in Pakistan’s security stance (WSJ). A Pakistani official commented, "America has an advantage in technical intelligence: eyes in the sky. We have people on ground. If you can match those in a timely manner, you get better results."

A reported U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan killed at least three militants suspected of involvement with the Haqqani insurgent network earlier today, and two bodies were found near Mir Ali in North Waziristan with Taliban notes accusing them of acting as spies for the United States (AP, BBC, Geo, AFP, Reuters, Dawn, CNN, Dawn). And FBI director Robert Mueller is the latest high-level U.S. official to visit Pakistan in recent weeks; he is reportedly in Islamabad for meetings today (Geo, Daily Times).

Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has apparently offered his version of a peace deal with the Afghan government (Geo). The Hezb-i-Islami group is the subject of a fascinating must-watch Frontline documentary that aired in the U.S. last night, available online from PBS (PBS).

And the AP checks in on the status of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the alleged front organization for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group responsible for the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and finds it "up and running again" (AP). India reportedly wants terrorism high on the agenda in the first diplomatic talks, starting tomorrow at the foreign secretary level, between the two countries since Mumbai (NYT, AFP).

Afghan official gunned down

Taliban gunmen shot and killed a local provincial official in Kandahar earlier today, as an Afghan human rights body announced that 28 civilians have been killed so far in the coalition offensive in neighboring Helmand province (BBC, AP, Pajhwok). The new mayor of Marjah, Haji Abdul Zahir, spent his first night in the town last night in a simple tent at a Marine outpost, and estimated that 70 percent of the town is secure enough for him to visit (WSJ). Skilled Taliban snipers continue to target coalition troops and roadside bombs remain a constant threat, however, and Afghan tribal leaders and their followers remain skeptical (Times, AP, AP, AP).

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has reportedly issued a new directive restricting the use of nighttime raids in the country, which some analysts assess are "lethal to public opinion" (CNN, FP). And the U.S.’s Strategic Command has ordered a "satellite surge" designed to give troops in Afghanistan better access to GPS coverage in the battle zone, while the Post considers the implications of 1,000 U.S. fatalities in the Afghan war (NYT, Wash Post).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s move yesterday to take control of the country’s electoral monitoring body has sparked harsh criticism from political opposition and some international officials, though not the United States (Reuters, NYT, FT). U.S. Sen. Carl Levin is expected to unleash a withering critique this morning of contractors working in Afghanistan for the firm formerly known as Blackwater, accusing them of operating without "sufficient oversight or supervision" in relation to an incident that led to the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in May 2009 (CNN, AP, Pajhwok, SASC).

An Olympic feat

Pakistan’s only winter Olympian came in 79th out a field of 103 skiers in the giant slalom race in Vancouver yesterday (Dawn). Muhammad Abbas, who learned to ski by strapping wooden planks to his feet with nylon rope, finished 42 seconds behind the winner.

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