Daily brief: suspected U.S. drone strikes northwest Pakistan
At cross purposes? Yesterday’s big news is that Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban second-in-command who was captured last month in Karachi in a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid, was reportedly involved in talks with the Afghan government at the time of his arrest, and had given the "green light" to participating in next month’s peace jirga in ...
At cross purposes?
At cross purposes?
Yesterday’s big news is that Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban second-in-command who was captured last month in Karachi in a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid, was reportedly involved in talks with the Afghan government at the time of his arrest, and had given the "green light" to participating in next month’s peace jirga in Kabul (AP). According to an aide, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was furious at the capture, and he and his Western counterparts are reportedly at odds over who should be at the negotiating table. Reuters reports that the U.N. is ready to continue "discreet" talks with members of the Taliban (Reuters). Meanwhile, U.S. and British intelligence reportedly assess that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, may be in Karachi (BBC).
Earlier this morning, a suspected U.S. drone strike hit the town of Datta Khel, west of Miram Shah, the main city in North Waziristan, killing around ten people (BBC, AFP, AJE, The News, Dawn/Reuters, AP). A local official told BBC Urdu the target was a compound of local Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and the strike is the 22nd reported this year (NAF). And yesterday, a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman and amir in Mohmand offered a "deal" to the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province, volunteering to stop targeting public institutions in exchange for not being punished (Daily Times).
After last week’s pair of deadly suicide attacks on the Punjabi capital of Lahore, Pakistani police have discovered two major weapons caches there in the last two days, today recovering 4,400 pounds of explosives, guns, and suicide vests in a fruit market warehouse, and yesterday more than 3,300 pounds of explosives from an unused shop (AP, Daily Times, AP). Pakistani police also seized a van full of explosives en route from Peshawar to Islamabad yesterday (The News).
South Waziristan: check
The chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, said yesterday that the military had achieved its goals in the South Waziristan operations, which began last October in an effort to rid the area of militants, and would therefore turn over control of the agency to its civilian counterparts on March 30 (Daily Times, Dawn). However, the general said the Army would remain present in some areas to prevent a militant resurgence.
And in the latest round of drama between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the Pakistani government is planning to ask the country’s parliament (led by Zardari’s party, the PPP) to take the power to reject Supreme Court appointments out of the hands of the chief justice (WSJ). The Journal has the details.
A close hold in Afghanistan
In the wake of Saturday’s coordinated suicide attacks in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taliban, Karzai reportedly ordered extra forces including more than 1,000 Afghan police to the provincial capital (AP, AFP). Kandahar is reportedly the site of an upcoming military offensive, following recent operations in Marjah, a town in neighboring Helmand province, that have left many refugees adrift (Tel).
The New York Times’ big story today is that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal is taking more direct control over U.S. Special Operations forces operating in Afghanistan, out of concern that they are not making limiting civilian casualties a "paramount objective" (NYT). Two Afghan officials quoted in the article made comments to the effect that these troops were not accountable, and the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Seals are believed to be exempted from Gen. McChrystal’s new directive limiting Special Operations forces.
Women in politics
Afghanistan’s youngest elected politician, the 31-year-old Malalai Joya, is hoping to engineer a political comeback in this September’s parliamentary elections, having been expelled from the legislative body and barred from Afghan media after she denounced the role of warlords in the country (NYT). And the Post looks at the depressing state of the role of women in Afghanistan, observing that the women’s affairs minister was not invited to the much-heralded London conference in late January and that requests for women to be involved in the late April peace jirga in Kabul have been met with silence (Wash Post).
A handful of other stories round out the day: the GAO blocked a contract for the security firm formerly known as Blackwater to train Afghan police, leaving who will train the struggling 90,000-strong paramilitary force unclear (Wash Post); a former British Army officer and senior employee at a firm providing security for diplomatic personnel at the British Embassy in Kabul was arrested on corruption charges (Times); and Pajhwok reports that 600 U.N. workers who left Afghanistan for the UAE after last October’s deadly attack on a U.N. guest house in Kabul are returning to the country (Pajhwok).
Actual conjoined twins
A pair of infant girls conjoined at the head were born in Punjab province several days ago (Dawn). Doctors in Islamabad are studying whether they will be able to operate and separate the twins.
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