Daily brief: coordinated Taliban attacks leave 18 dead in Afghan capital

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a series of papers on the threat, capabilities, and allies of al-Qaeda central that provide context for two different but simultaneously accurate pictures of the group: one, wounded and hunted, the other, resilient and determined (NAF).  Kabul shaken After more than a month of calm and ...

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a series of papers on the threat, capabilities, and allies of al-Qaeda central that provide context for two different but simultaneously accurate pictures of the group: one, wounded and hunted, the other, resilient and determined (NAF). 

Kabul shaken

After more than a month of calm and on the morning of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, several Taliban suicide bombers in cars and on foot targeted two buildings in the Afghan capital often used by foreign visitors, killing as many as 18 people including an Italian, a Frenchman, ten Indians, and a Pakistani (AJE, AP, AFP, BBC, Pajhwok, CNN, Reuters, Wash Post, NYT). According to witnesses, the bombers also used guns and grenades, and the attacks left eight Afghans including three police officers dead and some 40 wounded, and suggest that Taliban across the country have not been cowed by the ongoing coalition offensive in Marjah, in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a series of papers on the threat, capabilities, and allies of al-Qaeda central that provide context for two different but simultaneously accurate pictures of the group: one, wounded and hunted, the other, resilient and determined (NAF). 

Kabul shaken

After more than a month of calm and on the morning of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, several Taliban suicide bombers in cars and on foot targeted two buildings in the Afghan capital often used by foreign visitors, killing as many as 18 people including an Italian, a Frenchman, ten Indians, and a Pakistani (AJE, AP, AFP, BBC, Pajhwok, CNN, Reuters, Wash Post, NYT). According to witnesses, the bombers also used guns and grenades, and the attacks left eight Afghans including three police officers dead and some 40 wounded, and suggest that Taliban across the country have not been cowed by the ongoing coalition offensive in Marjah, in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

Operation Moshtarak in Marjah, nearly two weeks old, continues and the AP adds its analysis to those finding that the Afghan National Army is not ready to "go it alone" (AP). Two NATO soldiers died in Afghanistan earlier today, one involved in the Marjah operations, and Afghans and coalition troops are engaged in active bargaining over compensation for damaged property and injuries from Moshtarak (AFP, AP). Pajhwok reports that 35 Afghan civilians have been killed in the operation, which the Journal assesses has reached a "turning point" and the Times says has "emerged from the worst of the fighting" (Pajhwok, WSJ, NYT).

Watching the Afghan Taliban…

Josha Partlow has today’s must-read about the complexities of the plans for reintegrating Taliban militants in Afghanistan, correctly noting that "the diverse strands of the insurgency make it difficult to generalize about the motives of fighters across the country" (Wash Post). And Anand Gopal analyzes whether the Afghan Taliban can recover from recent blows to its leadership, writing, "While the recent crackdown may put pressure on the Taliban, the movement has survived the loss of senior leaders before" (CSM).

In spite of recent reports, Lahore’s High Court has ruled that Mullah Baradar, the captured Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command, will not be extradited to Afghanistan or the United States, nor will four other recently detained Taliban leaders (BBC, Dawn, NYT). The court also ruled that none but Pakistani security forces and intelligence officials should have access to the men.

…and the Pakistani Taliban

Wednesday’s suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan reportedly killed a commander in the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ who was wanted in connection with the deadly 2006 bombing on the U.S. consulate in Karachi (AP, The News, AFP, Dawn). Muhammad Qari Zafar, a former member of the sectarian terrorist outfit Lashkar-i-Jangvi, had allied himself with the Pakistani Taliban sometime before military operations in South Waziristan began in October of last year. For regularly updated research on drone strikes in Pakistan, visit New America’s newly-launched drones database, which includes a map of reported strikes in Pakistan since 2004 (NAF).

And Dawn reports that the nephew of Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah has been arrested in Nowshera in the NWFP (Dawn). Sabrina Tavernise has a story about Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, in Lahore and throughout Pakistan (NYT).

The rule of law

A few days after the Afghan-American admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty, two of his high school classmates also accused of terrorism-related activities were indicted and pleaded not guilty in the plot to bomb New York City subways (AP). Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin both allegedly traveled to Pakistan with Zazi in 2008 to join the Taliban, according to authorities, who also say the plot was "directed by al-Qaeda leadership." For more on the legal ‘war on terror,’ subscribe to a new weekly brief from Foreign Policy and New America (LWOT).

Some prisoners at a new $60 million facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul are unexpectedly cheerful, reports McClatchy, and the new space is a "vast improvement" over older conditions according to human rights groups (McClatchy). And Pakistan will reportedly hand over 42 Taliban prisoners in its custody to Afghan authorities sometime soon (Pajhwok).

Congratulations!

A Pakistani woman gave birth to a baby while riding in a rickshaw stuck in traffic yesterday in Quetta (Aaj). The roads were jammed because Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who ordered an investigation, was visiting the Baluchistan capital, and mom and baby are doing well (Dawn/Reuters, Geo).

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