Daily brief: U.S. to send Pakistan smart bomb kits
The New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program is currently accepting applications for summer internships. Details available here. Operation Spring Cleaning The United States plans to send 1,000 laser-guided bomb kits to Pakistan later this month and is also on track to deliver 18 F-16 fighter jets, allowing Islamabad to improve the accuracy of its attacks ...
The New America Foundation's American Strategy Program is currently accepting applications for summer internships. Details available here.
The New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program is currently accepting applications for summer internships. Details available here.
Operation Spring Cleaning
The United States plans to send 1,000 laser-guided bomb kits to Pakistan later this month and is also on track to deliver 18 F-16 fighter jets, allowing Islamabad to improve the accuracy of its attacks on militants in the restive tribal region of South Waziristan and minimize civilian casualties (WSJ, Reuters, Geo, Dawn/AFP). The sales reportedly reflect a lessening concern in Washington about Pakistan, as intelligence and military cooperation between the two has deepened in recent months.
During yesterday’s journalist tour of the recently captured Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold town of Damadola in the northern tribal region of Bajaur, Pakistani security forces showed a network of 156 caves in the mountains that the fighters had used as living space and headquarters, strewn with pillows and blankets (WSJ, Times, Tel). Bajaur was the site of a Pakistani military operation in the fall and winter of 2008, but militants reemerged and a new offensive was launched in late January. And Pakistani authorities and Taliban militants in North Waziristan have apparently launched a war of pamphlets, as both distributed competing messages via leaflet yesterday amidst rumors of impending military operations there (The News, Daily Times).
Pakistani security forces reportedly killed two Pakistani Taliban commanders yesterday in Operation Spring Cleaning in Frontier Region Peshawar, including a supplier of suicide vests and explosive equipment (CNN, AFP, The News, Daily Times). In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, unknown fighters threw grenades into a crowd at a music show at an engineering school, killing one student, while in the northwestern tribal region of Khyber suspected Taliban militants attacked and destroyed a boys’ school (AFP/Dawn).
A Taliban ban in Afghanistan
Karen DeYoung and Joshua Partlow have today’s must-read describing the confusion that has resulted from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s invitation to the Taliban to participate in a peace jirga this spring (Wash Post). While some coalition members are eager to push forward with talks, the Obama administration reportedly wants to wait until its military position is stronger, and the Afghan government has been laying the groundwork for at least some Taliban members to be accommodated.
The Taliban, who banned television, music, and the internet during their time in power in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, yesterday joined the chorus of Afghan and international journalists and officials criticizing the Afghan government’s newly-announced ban on live media coverage of militant attacks (AFP, NYT, Reuters, Pajhwok, BBC). A Taliban spokesman commented, "This totally undermines freedom of the press and expression and cannot be justified by any means."
Although the Afghan Taliban has already claimed responsibility for last Friday’s attacks in Kabul that left 16 people including six Indians dead, an Afghan intelligence official asserted yesterday that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba — the same group behind the November 2008 Mumbai attacks — was responsible, citing evidence that the team of suicide bombers was speaking Urdu and searching for Indian victims (AP, Wash Post). However, a U.S. military intelligence official reportedly said yesterday that the Haqqani network was behind the attacks, while Indian officials claim the Haqqanis worked with the Afghan Taliban to stage the strikes.
Obstacles in Afghanistan
The AP highlights that the focus of current coalition operations in Marjah, in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, is not the area’s pervasive and lucrative poppy trade (AP). Local residents in Helmand have asked the government not to destroy their crops, and under a new plan for eradicating the country’s opium poppies announced by the Afghan government earlier today, conflict areas will not be targeted until security is improved (Pajhwok, AP). Eradication programs have already begun in Farah and Nangarhar, and will soon be put into place in Kandahar; Afghanistan is the source of 90 percent of the world’s heroin.
The Afghan Taliban have reportedly captured the commander of a tribal militia in the northern province of Kunduz, along with three companions, and all are still alive according to a Taliban spokesman (Pajhwok).
According to the top U.S. army officer in charge of training Afghanistan’s security forces, two-thirds of recruits to the Afghan National Police drop out (AFP). And while civilian casualties in Afghanistan are down overall following an edict from top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal limiting the use of air strikes, deaths in ‘escalation of force’ incidents — in which anxious U.S. troops fire on civilians who come too close to their convoys — rose 43 percent in 2009, from 79 in 2008 to 113 (McClatchy).
Kickbacks okay here
Afghan kickboxers have won five gold medals, one silver, and one bronze in the Asian Full Contact Kickboxing Championship in India (Pajhwok). It is unknown whether they have been recruited to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.
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