Daily brief: House rejects Afghan withdrawal plan

The effects of drones A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes slammed a village west of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, yesteday, killing between a dozen and 21 people (Geo, AFP, AP, AJE, BBC, ABC, Daily Times). Residents of the town of Mizar Madakhel told the New York Times that the dead ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

The effects of drones

The effects of drones

A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes slammed a village west of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, yesteday, killing between a dozen and 21 people (Geo, AFP, AP, AJE, BBC, ABC, Daily Times). Residents of the town of Mizar Madakhel told the New York Times that the dead may have included Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a prominent local militant commander, but the claim could not be verified immediately (NYT). There have been 21 strikes reported this year (NAF).

Drone strikes, major military operations on both sides of the border, and recent arrests of militant leaders have forced the Afghan Taliban’s remaining leadership to scatter across Pakistan’s cities, writes Matthew Rosenberg in today’s must-read (WSJ). Most members of the group’s ‘subordinate’ shuras, or subcommittees of the Afghan Taliban’s main leadership council, are reportedly living in Karachi or Multan, and fear of arrest has kept them from meeting in large groups.

A delegation of high level Pakistani officials is set to visit Washington in the next several weeks, including the head of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and in early April, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (The News). The officials will reportedly meet with some of their U.S. counterparts, including Hillary Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, Adm. Mike Mullen, Robert Gates, and Gen. James Jones.

Keep your friends close

At a joint news conference in Islamabad with Prime Minister Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier today, Karzai commented that while India is a "close friend," Pakistan is a "twin brother," and emphasized that Pakistan has a key role to play in any peace talks with members of the Taliban (AP, WSJ, Reuters, NYT). The leading Pakistani daily Dawn has a detailed piece on the jirgagai, or ‘mini-jirga,’ that the two countries have just planned to hold in Kabul following an Afghan grand jirga in late April (Dawn). Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Dawn, have agreed to come up with a "Marshall Plan-like" agreement for the region.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected an effort by anti-war politicians to force U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year yesterday (AP, Reuters, NYT). The resolution, written by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and allowing anti-war Democrats to voice their objections in a three hour debate, received 356 "no" votes (189 Democrats, 167 Republicans) and 65 "yes" votes (60 Democrats, 5 Republicans) (AP).

Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, released a report recently finding that up to 41 percent of Afghan police recruits tested positive for illicit drugs (Reuters). And the AP checks in on the status of the transition of control of Bagram prison to Afghan authorities (AP).

Jihad Jane goes to Ireland

The middle-aged American woman indicted last week on terrorism charges related to a plot to kill a Swedish artist reportedly had a troubled life, including a marriage at age 14 to a man at least twice that, threats of suicide, and several arrests (WSJ, Times, AP). Irish press report that Colleen LaRose, who called herself "Jihad Jane" online, visited Ireland in late August last year on an apparently aborted trip to Sweden, where she met with some of the seven men and women arrested yesterday in Ireland on reportedly related charges (Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Central). Three of those arrested are Algerian, while the others are reportedly an American, a Palestinian, a Libyan, and a Croatian. Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad atop the body of a dog, has received a fresh wave of death threats since the Irish arrests (Reuters).

LaRose was arrested in mid-October last year, after her alleged return from Europe, and it’s unclear why she did not carry out her desired attack against Lars Vilks (Guardian, Tel). Her ex-boyfriend of five years told CNN, "She wasn’t no rocket scientist… I don’t know how…much thought she could actually do on her own" (CNN, Wash Post). She is due in court for an arraignment on March 18, and is said to be cooperating with authorities, helping prosecutors with their cases against those arrested in Ireland.

Prawns in a bigger game

The LA Times has an interesting read on the hundreds of Pakistani and Indian fishermen who have been arrested by the other country’s authorities in recent years in the Sir Creek, prime fishing territory that marks the boundary between Indian and Pakistani waters (LAT). A Pakistani activist said that when tension rises in Kashmir, so do arrests of fishermen, observing, "It’s not like our water is one color and India’s water is another."

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