Daily brief: blasts rock NW Pakistan

A bloody Monday More than 40 people were killed in two separate attacks in northwest Pakistan earlier this morning, as a suicide bomber attacked an open-air rally for the Pashtun political party, the Awami National Party, in Timergara, the district headquarters of Lower Dir, and killed 38 (Geo, AP, Dawn, AFP, Reuters, BBC, Dawn, NYT, ...

A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

A bloody Monday

More than 40 people were killed in two separate attacks in northwest Pakistan earlier this morning, as a suicide bomber attacked an open-air rally for the Pashtun political party, the Awami National Party, in Timergara, the district headquarters of Lower Dir, and killed 38 (Geo, AP, Dawn, AFP, Reuters, BBC, Dawn, NYT, CNN, WSJ). The ANP, a secular party supportive of the Pakistani government's anti-Taliban offensives, had organized the meeting to celebrate the re-naming of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) to 'Khyber-Pukhtunkwha,' in a bid to represent the province's Pashtun population.

A few hours later and 50 miles away in Peshawar, the NWFP's capital, at least seven people -- including four attackers -- were killed when heavily armed militants attempted to storm the heavily fortified U.S. consulate there (AFP, Reuters, NYT, CNN, BBC, Geo, Dawn). Four blasts shook a checkpoint some 20 yards from the consulate, and Pakistani police say at least two car bombs were involved (AP). The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the consulate attack, calling it revenge for drone strikes (Reuters, AFP). And on Saturday, 11 people including three Pakistani policemen were killed in a gunbattle with criminals involved in kidnappings for ransom in a town just southwest of Peshawar (AFP, Dawn).

A bloody Monday

More than 40 people were killed in two separate attacks in northwest Pakistan earlier this morning, as a suicide bomber attacked an open-air rally for the Pashtun political party, the Awami National Party, in Timergara, the district headquarters of Lower Dir, and killed 38 (Geo, AP, Dawn, AFP, Reuters, BBC, Dawn, NYT, CNN, WSJ). The ANP, a secular party supportive of the Pakistani government’s anti-Taliban offensives, had organized the meeting to celebrate the re-naming of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) to ‘Khyber-Pukhtunkwha,’ in a bid to represent the province’s Pashtun population.

A few hours later and 50 miles away in Peshawar, the NWFP’s capital, at least seven people — including four attackers — were killed when heavily armed militants attempted to storm the heavily fortified U.S. consulate there (AFP, Reuters, NYT, CNN, BBC, Geo, Dawn). Four blasts shook a checkpoint some 20 yards from the consulate, and Pakistani police say at least two car bombs were involved (AP). The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the consulate attack, calling it revenge for drone strikes (Reuters, AFP). And on Saturday, 11 people including three Pakistani policemen were killed in a gunbattle with criminals involved in kidnappings for ransom in a town just southwest of Peshawar (AFP, Dawn).

Elsewhere in Pakistan’s troubled northwest, fighting between security forces and militants in Orakzai continued over the weekend, and 40 Taliban more fighters were killed in the several-weeks-old offensive (Daily Times, CNN, The News, AP). Three militants were killed in a conflict with security forces in Malakand, while nearly 30 fighters laid down their arms in Bajaur, the site of a major military offensive last year, and the Pakistani Army again stands accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in the Swat Valley (The News, Daily Times, Reuters). And Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah sum up the recent increase in the U.S.’s drone strikes in northwest Pakistan (NYT). For more on the drone campaign, visit the New America Foundation’s drones database (NAF).

Regional tensions

A pair of articles in the Journal and the Post this weekend consider how tensions between India and Pakistan are playing out in Afghanistan, with the Journal reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to increase U.S. efforts to lessen the conflict (WSJ). The Post writes that while the rivalry between the two South Asian nations has deadly consequences, it "can seem silly at times: when India donated a fleet of buses in the western city of Herat, Pakistan began donating buses decorated with painted Pakistani flags" (Wash Post).

A rant in Afghanistan

A day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to "clarify" his anti-Western comments late last week, the Afghan leader again ripped into the U.S., accusing his Western backers of interference in Afghan affairs and warning that the Taliban movement could transform into a ‘legitimate resistance’ (NYT, WSJ, WSJ). Analysts assess that tensions with Karzai leave the U.S. few options for maneuvering in Afghanistan, and worry that it undermines the fight against the Taliban (NYT, Reuters, Wash Post, McClatchy). And after the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament nearly unanimously overruled Karzai’s decree stripping the United Nations of the power to appoint the majority of the five members of the country’s electoral watchdog last week, the upper house supported it, meaning the decree will stand (AFP).

Karzai took a rare trip to the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Sunday to drum up support for the upcoming coalition offensive there, telling a group of between 1,000 and 2,000 tribal elders and local officials that, "There will be no operation until you are happy" (CNN, NYT, Pajhwok, BBC, Wash Post, Reuters). The tribal elders offered sharp criticism of the Afghan leader, however, with some accusing him of nepotism and failing to address the pervasive bribery in the country and others lamenting a lack of basic security and services.

In Marjah, the site of the most recent major coalition military operation in Afghanistan, one battalion of U.S. Marines alone doles out $150,000 per week in payments to local Afghans who have had family members killed or been injured in the offensive, but in a lot of ways, says Maj. James Coffman, civil affairs leader for the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, the Taliban have "reseized control and momentum" (NYT).

Mistaken identities

Shortly after a battle between German soldiers and around 200 Taliban insurgents in Kunduz in which three Germans were killed, German troops opened fire on two cars of Afghan soldiers who were apparently coming to their aid late Friday night, mistaking them for militants because they reportedly ignored warnings to stop (LAT, AFP, Wash Post, Wash Post, NYT). On Sunday, Germany’s defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg broke a long-standing taboo and referred to the Afghan conflict as a "war" (AP, DW).

NATO admitted late last night that its forces had in fact killed three Afghan women, two of them pregnant, in a botched Feb. 12, 2010 Special Operations raid in Gardez in southeastern Afghanistan (NYT, Times, CNN, Reuters, AFP, ISAF). Special Operations forces allegedly dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths, and initially claimed they were victims of an "honor killing."

Secret schools

Some 450 Afghan women are enrolled in secret schools in 29 villages across the country, seeking to gain an education in defiance of the Taliban (Independent). Lessons focus on Pashtu, arithmetic, and hygiene, though the leader of the schools hopes to expand the curriculum to history, ethics, and science.

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