The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Pakistani Army dominates agenda in U.S. talks

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today at 11am for a discussion about counterinsurgency in Afghanistan from a British perspective, featuring lead British spokesman on Afghan operations, Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger (NAF). Talks about talks After yesterday’s meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a small delegation representing Hezb-i-Islami, Afghanistan’s second-largest insurgent group, the ...

Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lorie Jewell
Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lorie Jewell

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today at 11am for a discussion about counterinsurgency in Afghanistan from a British perspective, featuring lead British spokesman on Afghan operations, Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger (NAF).

Talks about talks

After yesterday’s meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a small delegation representing Hezb-i-Islami, Afghanistan’s second-largest insurgent group, the country’s biggest insurgent movement — the Taliban — promptly denied any involvement in peace talks, while the U.S. expressed cautious support for the contact between Karzai and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction (WSJ, NYT, Wash Post, Reuters, Pajhwok, Times). The Hezb-i-Islami delegation, which is reportedly also seeking meetings with U.S. officials, included Hekmatyar’s son-in-law and deputy, though the details of the discussions are unknown.

The LA Times reports that since the advent of top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s focus on decreasing civilian casualties there, debriefings after combat missions have zeroed in on whether the pilots were certain no civilians were endangered before dropping bombs or launching missiles (LAT). One pilot commented, "Where once we would use five bombs, now we will use one."

The nuclear option for Pakistan

The Journal’s big story today reports that ahead of a delegation of Pakistani officials’ visits to Washington this week, Pakistan sent a painstakingly negotiated 56-page document requesting expanded economic and military aid from the U.S. in return for what some officials believe is an implicit offer to continue cracking down on the Afghan Taliban (WSJ). The two countries are set to hold a "strategic dialogue" tomorrow, but some senior U.S. military officials are cautious: "Anybody who expects straight linear progress out of a strategic dialogue between these two nations is really kind of naïve. What it will be is a step forward and then we’ll see where they go with it." Dawn and Reuters have more details on who is meeting who and where (Dawn, Reuters, BBC).

A possible civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan is reportedly on the agenda for the talks this week, as Pakistan "bristles with indignation" that India received a deal several years ago while it has not (Guardian). And the godfather of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A. Q. Khan, may soon be back in court, as the Pakistani government has filed an application to re-investigate the disgraced scientist’s involvement in proliferation in Iran and Iraq (Wash Post, Independent, BBC, AJE).

Two "highly experienced" Taliban militants were arrested recently in Rawalpindi while allegedly planning to attack the Serena Hotel and the French Club restaurant, sites frequently visited by foreign diplomats and staff (Reuters, CNN, AP). The two men are accused of ties with Pakistan’s most wanted trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussein, and one claimed he was involved in the attacks on the U.N.’s World Food Program offices and on Pakistan’s Naval Complex in Islamabad last year. Meanwhile, the Daily Times reports that yet another "key Taliban commander" has been killed in the country’s northwestern Swat Valley, which Reuters assesses is still subject to a possible Taliban resurgence (Daily Times, Reuters).

Protecting the homeland

The British government released a trio of reports yesterday warning that the U.K. faces an increased threat from al-Qaeda linked militants following a rise in the trafficking of radiological material (Tel, Tel, CONTEST, National Security Strategy). The British government’s counterterrorism strategy states, "Contemporary terrorist organizations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons" and warns that smuggling and theft "make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the recent past."

Cutting a rug

A week-long exhibition of hand-made carpets and handicrafts is currently underway in Mazar-e-Sharif to celebrate Afghanistan’s new year (Pajhwok). Carpet weavers in the north of Afghanistan are reportedly incorporating white and blue into their traditionally dark red rugs.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox. Follow the AfPak Channel on Twitter and Facebook.

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today at 11am for a discussion about counterinsurgency in Afghanistan from a British perspective, featuring lead British spokesman on Afghan operations, Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger (NAF).

Talks about talks

After yesterday’s meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a small delegation representing Hezb-i-Islami, Afghanistan’s second-largest insurgent group, the country’s biggest insurgent movement — the Taliban — promptly denied any involvement in peace talks, while the U.S. expressed cautious support for the contact between Karzai and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction (WSJ, NYT, Wash Post, Reuters, Pajhwok, Times). The Hezb-i-Islami delegation, which is reportedly also seeking meetings with U.S. officials, included Hekmatyar’s son-in-law and deputy, though the details of the discussions are unknown.

The LA Times reports that since the advent of top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s focus on decreasing civilian casualties there, debriefings after combat missions have zeroed in on whether the pilots were certain no civilians were endangered before dropping bombs or launching missiles (LAT). One pilot commented, "Where once we would use five bombs, now we will use one."

The nuclear option for Pakistan

The Journal’s big story today reports that ahead of a delegation of Pakistani officials’ visits to Washington this week, Pakistan sent a painstakingly negotiated 56-page document requesting expanded economic and military aid from the U.S. in return for what some officials believe is an implicit offer to continue cracking down on the Afghan Taliban (WSJ). The two countries are set to hold a "strategic dialogue" tomorrow, but some senior U.S. military officials are cautious: "Anybody who expects straight linear progress out of a strategic dialogue between these two nations is really kind of naïve. What it will be is a step forward and then we’ll see where they go with it." Dawn and Reuters have more details on who is meeting who and where (Dawn, Reuters, BBC).

A possible civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan is reportedly on the agenda for the talks this week, as Pakistan "bristles with indignation" that India received a deal several years ago while it has not (Guardian). And the godfather of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A. Q. Khan, may soon be back in court, as the Pakistani government has filed an application to re-investigate the disgraced scientist’s involvement in proliferation in Iran and Iraq (Wash Post, Independent, BBC, AJE).

Two "highly experienced" Taliban militants were arrested recently in Rawalpindi while allegedly planning to attack the Serena Hotel and the French Club restaurant, sites frequently visited by foreign diplomats and staff (Reuters, CNN, AP). The two men are accused of ties with Pakistan’s most wanted trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussein, and one claimed he was involved in the attacks on the U.N.’s World Food Program offices and on Pakistan’s Naval Complex in Islamabad last year. Meanwhile, the Daily Times reports that yet another "key Taliban commander" has been killed in the country’s northwestern Swat Valley, which Reuters assesses is still subject to a possible Taliban resurgence (Daily Times, Reuters).

Protecting the homeland

The British government released a trio of reports yesterday warning that the U.K. faces an increased threat from al-Qaeda linked militants following a rise in the trafficking of radiological material (Tel, Tel, CONTEST, National Security Strategy). The British government’s counterterrorism strategy states, "Contemporary terrorist organizations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons" and warns that smuggling and theft "make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the recent past."

Cutting a rug

A week-long exhibition of hand-made carpets and handicrafts is currently underway in Mazar-e-Sharif to celebrate Afghanistan’s new year (Pajhwok). Carpet weavers in the north of Afghanistan are reportedly incorporating white and blue into their traditionally dark red rugs.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox. Follow the AfPak Channel on Twitter and Facebook.