Daily brief: Gates in Kabul on surprise visit

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation tomorrow at 12:15pm EST for a discussion with former senior military interrogator "Matthew Alexander" on ‘effective interrogation techniques’ from Indonesia to Iraq (NAF). Official travel During his surprise visit to Kabul yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top commander in Afghanistan Gen. ...

Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images
Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images
Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation tomorrow at 12:15pm EST for a discussion with former senior military interrogator "Matthew Alexander" on 'effective interrogation techniques' from Indonesia to Iraq (NAF).

Official travel

During his surprise visit to Kabul yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and visited a small remote outpost north of Kandahar, the southern Afghan province where a coalition offensive is expected to get underway sometime this summer (NYT, WSJ, AP, Times, CNN, Pajhwok). So far, 6,000 of the 30,000 additional troops ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama have arrived in Afghanistan.

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation tomorrow at 12:15pm EST for a discussion with former senior military interrogator "Matthew Alexander" on ‘effective interrogation techniques’ from Indonesia to Iraq (NAF).

Official travel

During his surprise visit to Kabul yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and visited a small remote outpost north of Kandahar, the southern Afghan province where a coalition offensive is expected to get underway sometime this summer (NYT, WSJ, AP, Times, CNN, Pajhwok). So far, 6,000 of the 30,000 additional troops ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama have arrived in Afghanistan.

Tomorrow, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Kabul for the first time since Karzai’s re-election last fall, and Karzai is expected to start a two-day trip to Islamabad as well (AFP, NYT, Nation, Daily Times, Pajhwok, Dawn). Taliban reintegration and the status of captured Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Baradar are rumored to be on the agenda in the Pakistani capital. Karzai is planning to host a three-day peace jirga beginning April 29 to discuss negotiations with Taliban fighters (AP).

Yesterday in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, five would-be Taliban suicide bombers tried to storm a government building used for tribal affairs, sparking a firefight with Afghan police that last more than two hours (AFP, Pajhwok, AP, Reuters). Four of the attackers were shot, but one managed to detonate his explosives and several NATO soldiers and Afghan police were wounded.

The Guardian reports that Local Defense Initiative forces, controversial local anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan, must wear bright yellow reflective belts so they aren’t mistaken for Taliban by U.S. Special Forces (Guardian). And Joshua Partlow has today’s must-read describing the current state of Zabul province, "one of Afghanistan’s poorest and most under-developed corners," and observing that to work there "is to feel forsaken" (Wash Post).

Drones and denials

Yesterday’s deadly suicide bombing in Lahore was reportedly in revenge for the death of a Punjabi Taliban leader Muhammad Qari Zafar, who was the leader of Lashkar-e-Jangvi, in a suspected U.S. drone strike in late February (The News). In the first reported strike since that one on February 24, a handful of militants were killed yesterday in Miram Shah, North Waziristan (Dawn, Geo, AP, AFP, NBC, NAF).

As Bajaur Taliban leader Maulvi Faqir Muhammad continues to deny that he and two other commanders were killed in a Pakistani military airstrike last Friday, an armed anti-Taliban militia from the Salarzai tribe in Bajaur burned 130 houses of suspected militants yesterday (CNN, Daily Times, The News). For a cheat sheet on the spate of recent arrests and deaths of militants, visit FP (FP).

Al-Qaeda around the world

Yesterday, nine people accused of links to al-Qaeda, including one who prosecutors allege might have been planning a suicide attack, went on trial in Brussels (Reuters, AFP, AJE). At the heart of the trial is Malika El Aroud, the widow of one of the assassins of anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, and her second husband, Moez Garsalloui, who is still at large and being tried in absentia on accusations of planning attacks and recruiting fighters. Terrorism expert Paul Cruickshank recently profiled the Belgian cell (NAF).

Indonesia counterterrorism forces stormed an internet cafe on the outskirts of Jakarta earlier today and killed three suspected terrorists, one of whom may have been the planner of the 2002 Bali night club bombings that left more than 200 dead (NYT, AP, CNN, BBC). Dulmatin, a leader of the Southeast Asian militant group linked to al-Qaeda Jemaah Islamiyah, received training from al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

The great outdoors

The first-ever park only for women was opened yesterday in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province in Afghanistan (Pajhwok). The park features a hotel and a golf course funded by the Swedish government.

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