Daily brief: Karzai attacks the West, U.N.
April Fool’s? In the news today is more about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rambling, harshly critical speech yesterday in which he accused the West of wanting a "puppet government, a servant government" in Afghanistan and of masterminding fraud in last summer’s presidential election (Wash Post, NYT, WSJ, BBC, Reuters, AP, LAT). Peter Galbraith, the former ...
In the news today is more about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rambling, harshly critical speech yesterday in which he accused the West of wanting a "puppet government, a servant government" in Afghanistan and of masterminding fraud in last summer’s presidential election (Wash Post, NYT, WSJ, BBC, Reuters, AP, LAT). Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N.’s mission in Afghanistan and one of the Western officials singled out by Karzai, responded, "At first I thought it was an April Fool’s joke but I realized I don’t have that kind of warm, personal relationship with President Karzai that he would do that," while Karzai’s erstwhile presidential rival, Abdullah Abdullah, commented, "This is beyond a normal attitude" (AP, Pajhwok).
Yaroslav Trofimov has today’s must-read describing the Taliban’s campaign of intimidation and assassination of pro-government religious leaders in Kandahar, where 23 of the 50 members of the province’s top religious authority, the Ulema Council, have been killed in recent years (WSJ). A NATO spokesman encouraged Kandaharis not to flee ahead of this summer’s expected military operations in the province, saying the offensive would have "a proper amount of coordination," while the Taliban are reportedly busy mining the roads across Kandahar (Pajhwok, Pajhwok).
In neighboring Helmand, the Independent reports that British forces have captured a key insurgent commander involved in planting IEDs in the province’s "bomb alley," and the Times writes that British troops in the Helmandi town of Sangin are being killed or wounded at 12 times the average casualty rate for NATO troops in Afghanistan (Independent, Times). In Marjah, a town in Helmand that is the site of a recent military offensive, the contrast between a U.S. Marine handing out payments to shopkeepers and residents and a pro-Taliban cleric who is the Marines’ neighbor represents a significant challenge for the coalition (McClatchy).
Returning home again
Around 100 Mehsud tribal elders said yesterday in Tank that they are ready to return to South Waziristan, the northwestern Pakistani tribal agency that the Pakistani military claims to have cleared of Taliban militants, and assume responsibility for keeping the peace there (AFP, Daily Times). The head of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps said the tribal areas need up to $1 billion in aid to rebuild the frontier regions, and operations continue in Orakzai, where more than 200 militants are reported to have been killed since the Pakistani military began an offensive there last week (Guardian, The News).
Karin Brulliard adeptly profiles the condition of the Swat Valley, where although a major Pakistani military offensive concluded last summer, the Pakistani Army — not the civilian government — is in the lead on reconstruction and providing security (Wash Post). Completing explanations for the military’s dominance include the corruption of the civilian government and the military’s desire for continued control and popularity. Two Pakistani Taliban commanders, including the Swat Valley’s finance chief, were arrested yesterday in Karachi (Daily Times).
Earlier today, the Pakistani government officially introduced the 18th Amendment bill to the country’s parliament, which would effectively turn the presidency into a titular head of state and strip the position of key powers acquired during the rule of former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (AP, Reuters, Dawn, AFP). The move is likely to ease some political tensions on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who is facing pressure from the country’s judiciary about corruption cases, and the bill is likely to far surpass the two-thirds majority needed in parliament.
After Wednesday’s news that Swiss authorities had not actually received a letter from Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency requesting that cases against Zardari there be revived, the country’s attorney general has claimed the law minister, a member of Zardari’s political party, the PPP, kept the letters in his home (The News, Dawn). The Pakistani Supreme Court yesterday ordered the two men to meet, get the appropriate paperwork together, and report back by April 5, but the attorney general, Anwar Mansoor Khan, has reportedly just resigned from his post (Daily Times, The News).
I see your true colors
The LA Times profiles the Afghan artist Moheb Sadiq, who "paints to trick reality" and depict how he wants others to view his war-torn country (LAT). Most of his paintings are for sale between $1,000 and $5,000.
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