Daily brief: Pakistani Senate passes constitutional reforms

Wonk Watch Event: Join the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine on Monday at 10:00am EST for the launch of a unique series of papers written by local Pakistani researchers and other experts, "The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy, Conflict, and Politics in Pakistan’s Northwest" (NAF). Benazir report due at 4:30pm EST A suspected U.S. ...

FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch Event: Join the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine on Monday at 10:00am EST for the launch of a unique series of papers written by local Pakistani researchers and other experts, "The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy, Conflict, and Politics in Pakistan's Northwest" (NAF).

Benazir report due at 4:30pm EST

A suspected U.S. drone strike (NAF) targeted a village some 15 miles west of the main town in Pakistan's North Waziristan, Miram Shah, yesterday and killed several alleged militants (BBC, AP, AFP, Geo, Daily Times, CNN). It is the second reported strike in the same area in last few days. The insurgent group Lashkar-e-Islam is ready to enter talks with the Pakistani government, according to Dawn, after ongoing military operations in Khyber agency, the group's stronghold (Dawn). A spokesman for Lashkar protested that the group is not fighting against the Pakistani state or challenging the writ of the government and so should not be targeted. Of the $750 million in U.S. aid promised to Pakistan's troubled tribal regions since 2007, only $150 million has been delivered (AP).

The U.N. report on the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto is due out later today, after being delayed two weeks at the request of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir's widower (CNN, Independent, The News, Express Tribune). The three member commission, which includes an Irish National Police veteran and the former attorney general of Indonesia, was set up in July 2009 after a request from the Pakistani government, which asked the investigators to reconcile inconsistencies in initial reports and assess responsibility for Benazir's assassination.

Wonk Watch Event: Join the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine on Monday at 10:00am EST for the launch of a unique series of papers written by local Pakistani researchers and other experts, "The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy, Conflict, and Politics in Pakistan’s Northwest" (NAF).

Benazir report due at 4:30pm EST

A suspected U.S. drone strike (NAF) targeted a village some 15 miles west of the main town in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, Miram Shah, yesterday and killed several alleged militants (BBC, AP, AFP, Geo, Daily Times, CNN). It is the second reported strike in the same area in last few days. The insurgent group Lashkar-e-Islam is ready to enter talks with the Pakistani government, according to Dawn, after ongoing military operations in Khyber agency, the group’s stronghold (Dawn). A spokesman for Lashkar protested that the group is not fighting against the Pakistani state or challenging the writ of the government and so should not be targeted. Of the $750 million in U.S. aid promised to Pakistan’s troubled tribal regions since 2007, only $150 million has been delivered (AP).

The U.N. report on the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto is due out later today, after being delayed two weeks at the request of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir’s widower (CNN, Independent, The News, Express Tribune). The three member commission, which includes an Irish National Police veteran and the former attorney general of Indonesia, was set up in July 2009 after a request from the Pakistani government, which asked the investigators to reconcile inconsistencies in initial reports and assess responsibility for Benazir’s assassination.

The upper house of Pakistan’s parliament has officially passed the package of constitutional reforms known as the 18th Amendment that renames the North-West Frontier Province Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and cancels the president’s power to dissolve the lower house of parliament, among other clauses (AP, Express Tribune, Dawn). After receiving the lower house’s approval last week, the bill will now go to Zardari for signature into law.

More manhunters in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has more than doubled the number of special operations teams in Afghanistan, ramping up the U.S.’s efforts to hunt down Taliban leaders in the country (LAT). Officials claim these teams focused on eliminating mid-level Taliban leaders before the Marjah operations, and say similar efforts are already underway in Kandahar, expected to be the site of the next major coalition offensive. Earlier today, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated his plan to start drawing down troops from Afghanistan in 2011, stating, "We can’t be there in perpetuity" (AP, Bloomberg).

The battle against corruption in Afghanistan continues as NATO officials refuse to name "malign actors" in the country, raising fears that even after the Kandahar offensive, criminals and drug traffickers will remain in power (Reuters). Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s influential half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, comes up frequently in discussions of corrupt powerbrokers, and the AP interviews him in Kandahar (AP). Wali Karzai fervently denies accusations of corruption, and observed that the international community wants to move Afghanistan to the 21st century "but we are in the 18th century; you want us to achieve in eight years what you achieved in 100 years."

The Red Cross-supported Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar admitted 40 percent more patients wounded by roadside bombs in the first two months of 2010 compared with last year (AP). For more on the threat from IEDs in southern Afghanistan, read Alec Barker’s new policy paper describing methods of construction and operation, lethality, frequency distribution, and geospatial disposition over time (NAF).

Money makes the world go around

U.S. Marines have started a pilot program in Marjah to pay Afghan poppy farmers $300 per hectare to plow their crops under in an effort to simultaneously avoid alienating the farmers by removing their sources of livelihood and destroying the poppy (Reuters). Harvest time is just a few weeks away, and as many as 60,000 migrant workers are expected to flood southern Afghanistan.

Reuters looks at the financial system in Afghanistan, where 17 banks operate, though the only major global bank is Standard Chartered (Reuters). Noorkhan Haidari, who runs Afghanistan’s second-largest private bank, hopes his Azizi Bank will make a profit of some $4 million this year and wants to introduce credit cards soon.

Let’s go fly a kite

An Indian-financed park for women in Kabul has become a site for Afghan women to get together without the presence of their husbands (Wash Post). Germany and Italy have also helped fund schools for girls to learn computer skills and family health programs.

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