Daily brief: drone said to kill Qaeda figure involved in CIA bombing

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a policy paper by Daniel Kimmage of the Homeland Security Policy Institute on al-Qaeda Central’s use of the internet (NAF). The Agency strikes back A U.S. drone strike last week in Miram Shah, the administrative center of the restive northwestern Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan, ...

MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a policy paper by Daniel Kimmage of the Homeland Security Policy Institute on al-Qaeda Central's use of the internet (NAF).

The Agency strikes back

A U.S. drone strike last week in Miram Shah, the administrative center of the restive northwestern Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan, reportedly killed a top 20 al-Qaeda commander involved in providing explosives for the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan (WSJ, AP, NYT, AFP, Reuters, BBC, CNN, LAT). Hussein al-Yemeni was described as a "rising star" in al-Qaeda, and reportedly acted as a liaison with a host of other militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Haqqani network, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. According to New America research, al-Yemeni is the seventh key militant figure to be killed this year in drone strikes in Pakistan (NAF).

Wonk Watch: The New America Foundation has just released a policy paper by Daniel Kimmage of the Homeland Security Policy Institute on al-Qaeda Central’s use of the internet (NAF).

The Agency strikes back

A U.S. drone strike last week in Miram Shah, the administrative center of the restive northwestern Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan, reportedly killed a top 20 al-Qaeda commander involved in providing explosives for the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan (WSJ, AP, NYT, AFP, Reuters, BBC, CNN, LAT). Hussein al-Yemeni was described as a "rising star" in al-Qaeda, and reportedly acted as a liaison with a host of other militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Haqqani network, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. According to New America research, al-Yemeni is the seventh key militant figure to be killed this year in drone strikes in Pakistan (NAF).

Joby Warrick and Peter Finn have today’s must-read about al-Yemeni’s death and the effects of the CIA’s program of drone strikes, writing that CIA director Leon Panetta said a recently intercepted message from one of al-Qaeda’s lieutenants was pleading with Osama bin Laden to "come to the group’s rescue and provide some leadership" (Wash Post). Panetta also said that while the Agency doesn’t know exactly where bin Laden and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are, they are believed to be either in North Waziristan or the "northern tribal areas."

Yesterday, Pakistani security forces reported the deaths of two wanted Swat Taliban commanders said to be close aides of the Valley’s Taliban chief, Maulana Fazlullah (AFP, Geo). Bakht Farzand and Mian Gul were killed in Pattan town in Kohistan, along with a few other militants, though Fazlullah and his 50-million-rupee reward for capture remain at large.

"The kingdom of the Taliban"

Although coalition forces have largely taken control of the southern Afghan town of Marjah, unarmed Taliban fighters are engaging in a campaign of intimidation including at least one beheading of an alleged government sympathizer, meant to jeopardize the gains and deter locals from cooperating with the government (NYT, AP). Haji Zahir, the new administrator of Marjah, said it’s impossible to estimate how many Taliban are left, commenting, "It’s like an ant hole. When you look in an ant hole, who knows how many ants there are?"

The next military campaign in southern Afghanistan is expected to take place in Kandahar, the Taliban’s former seat of government, and top commander in the country Gen. Stanley McChrystal said yesterday that "shaping" the province is "already underway" (Reuters). FP is currently featuring a stunning photo essay of scenes around Kandahar (FP). A frequent concern for coalition forces in Afghanistan is incidents involving roadside bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which jumped significantly from 3,867 in 2008 to 8,159 in 2009 (Wash Post). And the bombings have become more powerful: each one, on average, causes 50 percent more casualties than it did three years ago.

Reuters checks in on the Kandahar/Pakistan border, which is ruled over by an alleged "crook," a colonel in the Afghan Border Police, Col. Abdul Razziq, who is described as "the Americans’ man in Spin Boldak" because he is keeping supplies moving through the border to forces in Afghanistan (Reuters). Gen. McChrystal recently tried to get Razziq to allow his troops to visit the border when it was open, with no luck. On the other side of the country, Tom Coghlan writes that more than ten tons of weapons have been intercepted at Iran’s border with Afghanistan in the past year, and Western and Afghan officials have accused Iran of arming the Taliban (Times).

And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just awarded more authority to an anti-corruption body that had been criticized for being "toothless" (AFP). The group, called the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, will now be permitted to investigate cases of alleged corruption and act in some situations as a "prosecutor."

Lifting the burden

The Paris Club, a group of 19 creditor nations, has agreed to forgive more than $1 billion of debt Afghanistan owes them, a move welcomed by the U.S., which was owed approximately $108 million (AFP, Reuters, AP, CNN). The $1.026 billion forgiven represents about half the total external debt owed by Afghanistan as of March 2009, according to the Paris Club.

JihadJane’s confessions

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Colleen LaRose, the Pennsylvania mother who called herself "JihadJane" online and is accused of involvement in a plot to kill a Swedish artist, has confessed to the FBI about her role, though specific details aren’t known (Inquirer). She is due in court today in Philadelphia to enter her pleas to charges against her (AP, The Local).

Who gets what?

After signing a landmark bill yesterday regulating the transplant of human organs in Pakistan, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to donate all his organs (Daily Times). He is the first president of the country to do so.

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