Daily brief: Afghan outrage after NATO troops kill 4 civilians

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today 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). Protests across southern Afghanistan Three suicide bombers attempted to seize the main building of ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today 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).

Protests across southern Afghanistan

Three suicide bombers attempted to seize the main building of Afghanistan's intelligence service in Kandahar city earlier this morning, armed with guns, grenades, and suicide vests, before two of them were shot and killed and the third detonated his explosives (AP, Reuters, Pajhwok). The Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack (AJE). Elsewhere in Kandahar, NATO security forces opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians, killing at least four and wounding 18, and sparking a 200-man strong protest in the provincial capital (AP, NYT, AFP, Pajhwok). The protesters burned tires and shouted, "Death to America! Death to Karzai!," and NATO is investigating the incident; currently, the reason the convoy opened fire is unclear.

Special invitation: Join the New America Foundation today 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).

Protests across southern Afghanistan

Three suicide bombers attempted to seize the main building of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Kandahar city earlier this morning, armed with guns, grenades, and suicide vests, before two of them were shot and killed and the third detonated his explosives (AP, Reuters, Pajhwok). The Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack (AJE). Elsewhere in Kandahar, NATO security forces opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians, killing at least four and wounding 18, and sparking a 200-man strong protest in the provincial capital (AP, NYT, AFP, Pajhwok). The protesters burned tires and shouted, "Death to America! Death to Karzai!," and NATO is investigating the incident; currently, the reason the convoy opened fire is unclear.

On Saturday, three Italian aid workers and six Afghans were detained in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, in an alleged plot to assassinate the governor of the province, Gulab Mangal (AP, NYT, AJE, Tel, Times, Independent). During the raid on the Italian-run charity hospital ‘Emergency,’ security forces recovered 10 suicide vests and nine hand grenades; the Times of London reports that all involved have confessed, though the charity said the accusation "sounds simply groundless." The governor said the Quetta Shura Taliban funded the would-be operation to the tune of half a million dollars, and hundreds of Helmandis took to the streets on Sunday calling for the closure of the hospital, which has a tense relationship with local authorities because it treats suspected Taliban fighters (WSJ, Pajhwok).

Militants launched a pre-dawn attack on an Indian road construction project in the Domanda district of the eastern Afghan province Khost on Saturday morning, sending the crew fleeing but not causing any deaths or injuries (AP). Over the past three weeks, Afghan authorities in Kabul have reportedly detained more than two dozen militants linked to the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, some of them confessing they were trained in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar (Pajhwok). And the AP checks in on the state of the Afghan air force, finding that it is struggling to take off (AP).

The weekend’s must-reads

The Washington Post has a pair of articles relating to the January arrest of Afghan Taliban number two Mullah Baradar: Greg Miller reports that although Pakistan’s intelligence service coordinated Baradar’s capture with the CIA, the ISI has quietly released two unnamed Afghan Taliban leaders it captured on its own (Wash Post). The CIA and the ISI have reportedly carried out 63 joint operations in Pakistan over the last year. Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung report that Afghan officials are complaining about Baradar’s arrest, accusing Pakistan of removing Taliban figures most amenable to Afghan-led reconciliation efforts (Wash Post). 

The Journal takes a fascinating look at one of the results of the Afghan government’s 2006 ban on logging and lumber sales, designed to protect the country’s forests: in eastern Kunar province, the timber industry has come under the control of the Taliban (WSJ).

You’re hot then you’re cold

Kabul and Washington appear to be eager to smooth over the recent rough patch in their relationship, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared side-by-side on Sunday with top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal in a meeting with tribal elders in the northern province of Kunduz, where militant activity has been picking up (Reuters, NYT). A day earlier, Karzai toured Gen. McChrystal’s Kabul headquarters in a choreographed visit (Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama sent Karzai a thank-you note for his hospitality on the U.S. leader’s short-notice visit late last month and reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to the Afghan relationship (Wash Post, AFP).

And cabinet officials took to the Sunday shows to emphasize the partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling Karzai a "reliable partner" and Defense Secretary Robert Gates emphasizing the functional working relationship between Karzai and Gen. McChrystal (CBS, ABC, AP, AFP). Obama administration special representative to the region Richard Holbrooke said in a press conference in Kabul that the U.S. has a "good relationship" with the Karzai government, sitting next to CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus and the Afghan leader at the start of a two-day conference on the NATO mission in Afghanistan (AFP, LAT).

Refugees, clashes, and war games in Pakistan

Fierce fighting between Pakistani security forces and militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Orakzai agency continued over the weekend and this morning, as more than 100 fighters attacked security checkpoints in Shireen Dara and Sangrana, and around 40 were killed (Geo, AFP, AP/Dawn, AP). More than 200,000 Pakistanis have fled Orakzai because of the military offensive there, which has killed more than 300 alleged militants in recent weeks (AP).

Nearly 100 suspected militants were killed in airstrikes in Orakzai and Khyber, targeting strongholds of the insurgent group Lashkar-e-Islam, though local elders claimed the airstrikes in Khyber killed mostly non-combatant tribesmen (Dawn/AP, AJE, Reuters, Daily Times, AFP, AP, BBC). Dawn reports that the Taliban’s deputy amir in Orakzai succumbed to injuries over the weekend, and that three soldiers and ten militants were killed in a clash in Sararogha, South Waziristan on Saturday (Dawn).

Pakistan has begun its largest military exercises in more than 20 years, in what analysts assess is a "show of military muscle meant mainly to impress a domestic audience" (NYT, Dawn). The field exercises, which are scheduled to run through May 13, will involve as many as 50,000 troops from across the military, and India conducts similar exercises across the border.

Several other stories round out the weekend: Geo reports on the chronic power outages in Pakistan (Geo); deputy secretary of state Jacob Lew said Friday that Pakistan has begun issuing visas to U.S. diplomats in a more timely fashion, after complaints from American diplomats that visa processing had been delayed as a form of harassment (NYT); Pakistan’s Daily Times looks at the challenges ahead in the implementation of a package of constitutional reforms (Daily Times); and protests against the renaming of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa continue in Abbottabad (The News).

Wedding bells

After recent controversy over the groom’s previous marriage by telephone, Indian tennis star Sania Mirza and Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik were married earlier today in the bride’s hometown of Hyderabad, a city in southern India (AFP, Geo, ToI). The bride wore her mother’s red sari, and days of celebrations and receptions will follow.

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