Daily brief: Afghanistan to receive captured Taliban commander from Pakistan

Tune in today at 9:30am for the livestream of a special New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine conference on al-Qaeda Central, its allies, capabilities, and messages. A new leaf? Afghan and Pakistani officials said yesterday that when Islamabad receives a formal request from Kabul, it will transfer the recently captured Afghan Taliban number two ...

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

Tune in today at 9:30am for the livestream of a special New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine conference on al-Qaeda Central, its allies, capabilities, and messages.

A new leaf?

Afghan and Pakistani officials said yesterday that when Islamabad receives a formal request from Kabul, it will transfer the recently captured Afghan Taliban number two leader Mullah Baradar into Afghan custody, though he could be tried first in Pakistan (WSJ, AFP, Reuters, AP, FT, Dawn, Pajhwok). Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily, reports that FBI Director Robert Mueller requested that Pakistan hand over Baradar to U.S. custody, but was turned down (Dawn).

Tune in today at 9:30am for the livestream of a special New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine conference on al-Qaeda Central, its allies, capabilities, and messages.

A new leaf?

Afghan and Pakistani officials said yesterday that when Islamabad receives a formal request from Kabul, it will transfer the recently captured Afghan Taliban number two leader Mullah Baradar into Afghan custody, though he could be tried first in Pakistan (WSJ, AFP, Reuters, AP, FT, Dawn, Pajhwok). Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily, reports that FBI Director Robert Mueller requested that Pakistan hand over Baradar to U.S. custody, but was turned down (Dawn).

Anand Gopal writes that half of the Afghan Taliban’s senior leadership — seven of the 15 members of the Quetta shura —  has been arrested by Pakistani authorities in recent days, a higher figure than the three leaders previously reported captured (CSM). These arrests suggest, as the Times reports this morning, that the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence agency — Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI — are cooperating more closely, albeit warily (NYT). Mark Mazzetti and Jane Perlez write that the CIA has carried out "dozens" of joint raids with the ISI over the past year, based in Pakistani cities like Quetta and Peshawar.

And a top Pakistani general told the AP that the blast which killed three U.S. soldiers in northwest Pakistan earlier this month did not target them (AP). Rather, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said, the militants had aimed for the "most prominent" vehicle in the convoy, believing a local paramilitary commander would be inside.

Regional rivalries

Foreign secretaries from Pakistan and India met earlier today in a four-hour meeting in New Delhi for the first time since the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and were expected to discuss terrorism, Kashmir, and a variety of other issues (NYT, CNN, AJE, ToI, BBC, Dawn, AP, Reuters, The News). While few observers predict a substantive breakthrough, today’s meeting could clear the way for the resumption of broader dialogue and the rivals promised to "keep in touch," though no future talks have been announced.

The Journal reports that the U.S. is "sharply expanding American weapons transfers" to both Pakistan and India, which have both been annoyed when the U.S. has made big sales or transfers to the other (WSJ). Pakistan purchases most of its U.S. weapons with U.S. grants, while India, 70 percent of whose military hardware in use comes from Russia, buys U.S. arms with its own funding.

Afghan flag flies over Marjah

For the second time, yesterday Afghan authorities raised the Afghan flag over Marjah in front of a ceremony attended by around 700 residents and claimed control of the town that is the site of a recent coalition military offensive that has left 13 NATO troops, three Afghan soldiers, and at least 28 Afghan civilians dead (AJE, AP, Fox). The Afghan Army had previously raised the flag nearby, but that was apparently to indicate control over one neighborhood of Marjah; some 100 Taliban fighters are said to have regrouped in a 28-square-mile area of the town, which coalition forces are working to secure.

Unlike some of its allies, the U.S. yesterday appeared to express cautious support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent power grab over the country’s electoral watchdog (AFP). And the London Times investigated an incident from December in which ten young Afghans were killed in Narang, a town in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, and determines that the night raid was "based on faulty intelligence and should never have been authorized" (Times).

The Post has a must-read detailed investigation into cash flows in and out of Afghanistan, finding that Afghan passengers took more than $180 million in declared cash to Dubai during a two-month period last summer; if that rate held for the rest of the year, cash leaving Afghanistan would far outstrip the country’s $875 million annual revenue (Wash Post). The undeclared cash leaving the country, which includes U.S. dollars, euros, and oddly Saudi riyals, is almost certainly far more than that.

More than fashion

The LA Times explores the use in Pakistan of the dupatta, the up to 8-foot-long scarves often worn by Pakistani women draped over the arms, shoulders, and head (LAT). The dupatta is traditionally paired with the shalwar kameez, a two-piece tunic and pants combination.

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