Daily brief: major Kandahar operations to begin in June
Summer of violence ahead The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan will reportedly begin major operations in Kandahar, the southern Afghan province that was once the seat of the Taliban’s government, this June, with the aim of completing the "clearing phase" of the offensive by August for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (BBC, AP, Fox, Reuters, ...
Summer of violence ahead
Summer of violence ahead
The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan will reportedly begin major operations in Kandahar, the southern Afghan province that was once the seat of the Taliban’s government, this June, with the aim of completing the "clearing phase" of the offensive by August for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (BBC, AP, Fox, Reuters, USAT). The Journal looks at the context around the Kandahar offensive, writing that the Afghan government has been "so weak, predatory, and corrupt that more and more Kandaharis have come to view the Taliban as a lesser evil" (WSJ).
After U.S. President Barack Obama’s surprise six-hour visit to Kabul on Sunday, the president told Today’s Matt Lauer that progress addressing corruption in Afghanistan has been "too slow" (NBC-video, AFP, AP). Earlier today, Obama’s top military commander Adm. Mike Mullen, also visited the Afghan capital and added to the pressure over government corruption, saying that this summer’s Kandahar offensive will not succeed unless "a vast majority of corruption" can be eliminated (Times, Reuters). Adm. Mullen is currently in Marjah, site of a recent coalition operation (AFP).
Karzai, meanwhile, has been accused of blocking the arrest of the former Afghan minister for Hajj, who was allegedly involved in a "kickback racket which made hundreds of thousands of pounds" from pilgrims to Mecca (Tel, Irish Independent, Pajhwok). Pajhwok reports that Sediq Chakari was recently detained in London.
Dexter Filkins and Mark Landler have some details about the run-up to Obama’s Afghanistan trip, reporting that the Obama administration revoked Karzai’s invitation to Washington as a signal of displeasure at Karzai taking control of an independent body investigating electoral fraud (NYT). Karzai, "incensed," invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kabul, and the Times has a fascinating broader picture of the complicated Kabul-Washington relationship. Laura King reports on the Afghan (and Taliban) reaction to Obama’s quick visit (LAT).
Kidnappings, drones, and corruption
An Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped by militants in Pakistan in November 2008 has been freed by "complex intelligence operations," in an apparent cross-border operation (BBC, AFP, AP, NYT, CNN). Pakistani police have arrested three men from the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the suburbs of Karachi, including a commander, and seized nearly 90 pounds of explosives (AFP, Daily Times).
Ongoing Pakistani military operations in Orakzai, a tribal agency in northwest Pakistan, have reportedly killed 30 more suspected militants (AP). Yesterday, two suicide bombers killed three people involved in anti-Taliban lashkars in separate incidents in Tank and Bajaur (AFP, CNN). And the Pentagon is considering what type of surveillance drones may be best to deliver to Pakistan within a year (Reuters, AFP, DoD transcript).
Yesterday morning, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the government to re-open a slew of corruption cases within 24 hours, including at least two against embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, increasing tension between the president and the judiciary (AP, Dawn, Daily Times, Wash Post). Earlier today, the government’s deadline was extended another 24 hours, but at least one current Pakistani official who received amnesty under the controversial National Reconciliation Ordnance, which was thrown out by the Supreme Court in December, has been detained (Dawn, The News, Reuters).
The economic front
Foreign ministers of the G8 announced earlier today at a meeting in Quebec that they have developed an economic "initiative" for Afghanistan and Pakistan in cooperation with the countries’ governments, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (AFP). And the FT reports on the growing dispute between India and Pakistan over access to water in the region (FT). Pakistan’s representative to London told the FT that "assertiveness" by New Delhi is inhibiting Islamabad’s ability to target Taliban militants in the country, and Pakistan recently moved more troops to its Indian border (FT).
Where will they honeymoon?
A top Pakistani cricket player and a top Indian tennis player are getting married in April, a seemingly unprecedented sporting union between athletes of the South Asian rivals (AFP). The couple will make their home in Dubai.
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