Daily brief: Greek Taliban hostage freed

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation on Monday at 12:15pm for a presentation by Gen. Montgomery Meigs (U.S. Army-Ret.), the former director of JIEDDO, and Alec Barker, author of a newly-released policy paper on roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan (NAF).  Captive freed, captive kept A Greek aid worker who was kidnapped last September ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation on Monday at 12:15pm for a presentation by Gen. Montgomery Meigs (U.S. Army-Ret.), the former director of JIEDDO, and Alec Barker, author of a newly-released policy paper on roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan (NAF). 

Captive freed, captive kept

A Greek aid worker who was kidnapped last September by the Afghan Taliban in the mountainous Pakistani province of Chitral was freed from captivity yesterday in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan, after negotiations with the militants (AFP). Bowe Bergdahl, the first U.S. soldier to be taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan, appeared in a militant video released yesterday begging to be released and describing his hobbies (AFP, ISAF). Captured in June 2009, Bergdahl said he is being treated well and permitted to exercise.

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation on Monday at 12:15pm for a presentation by Gen. Montgomery Meigs (U.S. Army-Ret.), the former director of JIEDDO, and Alec Barker, author of a newly-released policy paper on roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan (NAF). 

Captive freed, captive kept

A Greek aid worker who was kidnapped last September by the Afghan Taliban in the mountainous Pakistani province of Chitral was freed from captivity yesterday in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan, after negotiations with the militants (AFP). Bowe Bergdahl, the first U.S. soldier to be taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan, appeared in a militant video released yesterday begging to be released and describing his hobbies (AFP, ISAF). Captured in June 2009, Bergdahl said he is being treated well and permitted to exercise.

Spokesmen for the U.S. and Afghan administrations yesterday made soothing comments about the relationship between the two countries, after several days of vitriol back and forth sparked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s accusations of foreign interference in last year’s elections and flip threat to join the Taliban (NYT, State, AP, Times). The U.S. State Department spokesman specifically denied recent allegations by former U.N. official in Afghanistan Peter Galbraith that Karzai has a drug problem, and an Afghan official attributed Karzai’s recent erratic behavior to a "punishing work schedule."

Karen DeYoung has today’s must-read chronicling the Obama administration’s decision to focus on interdicting major narcotics traffickers rather than eradicating Afghanistan’s lucrative poppy crops, thus alienating Afghan farmers (Wash Post). Two other stories round out the day: five would-be Haqqani network suicide bombers were arrested in Kabul this morning (AP); and the Treasury Department is sending more staff to Afghanistan to target the financial networks aiding the Taliban insurgency (AP).

The Province Formerly Known As The NWFP

Pakistani military airstrikes continued in the northwestern tribal agency of Orakzai, killing 13 militants, and 50 foreign fighters have been killed there in recent weeks (Dawn). In three different locations in Peshawar, the capital of the newly-renamed Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (Northwest Frontier Province), "unidentified miscreants" bombed three schools late last night, though no casualties were reported (The News, CNN). And five journalists and former Pakistani intelligence officers are still missing after disappearing on March 26 en route to North Waziristan (The News).

Pakistani media are reporting on the lower house of the Pakistani parliament’s passing some of the 18th amendment package of constitutional reforms, officially renaming the NWFP Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and reducing some of the powers of the president (The News, Dawn). Protests against the renaming continued for the seventh day in the NWFP province of Abbottabad, a Hazara-dominated area (Dawn, Daily Times). And a bill has been proposed that would outlaw violence against women in Pakistan, where last year there were at least 7,500 reported incidents of rape, spousal abuse, acid attacks, and other violence (AP).

After last month’s talks in Washington between a visiting delegation of high-level Pakistani officials and their U.S. counterparts at which a civilian nuclear deal appeared to be at the top of the Pakistani agenda, a State Department spokesman yesterday confirmed that such a deal is not currently in the works (ToI).

An offensive music offensive

U.S. Special Forces have been using speed metal and heavy rock as weapons in the town in Helmand that was the site of a recent coalition military offensive, blasting the music throughout Marjah to annoy the Taliban, who hate it (AFP). The commander of U.S. Marines in northern Marjah said he didn’t know about the music offensive and would put a stop to it, calling it "inappropriate."

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