Daily brief: U.N. shuts Kandahar mission
Packing up and shipping out After three explosions in Kandahar city yesterday, the United Nations, temporarily shutting its Kandahar office, relocated several foreign employees to Kabul and told its Afghan employees to stay home because of security threats (Reuters, LAT, AP, Reuters, Independent). Both the coalition and the Taliban have been preparing for the upcoming ...
Packing up and shipping out
Packing up and shipping out
After three explosions in Kandahar city yesterday, the United Nations, temporarily shutting its Kandahar office, relocated several foreign employees to Kabul and told its Afghan employees to stay home because of security threats (Reuters, LAT, AP, Reuters, Independent). Both the coalition and the Taliban have been preparing for the upcoming battle; a senior military official in Kabul said more than 70 insurgent leaders "have been taken off the streets" recently (AP). Also yesterday, a NATO airstrike killed the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz province, after his predecessor was arrested in Pakistan two months ago (AP, Pajhwok).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s influential and controversial half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai has promised to support the coalition offensive in Kandahar, where he is the chairman of the provincial legislative council, and encouraged the U.N. not to pull out of the southern Afghan city (FT, AP). Wali Karzai denies involvement in drug trafficking or other illicit activities, commenting, "All the pies that my fingers are in — can you show me a single pie? Is this a cherry pie, or apple pie or banana pie? People accuse Her Majesty’s family in Britain. I see the tabloids — these are the tabloids of Kandahar" (FT).
Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that a U.S. Special Forces plan to expand a pilot program that arms small bands of Afghans to form a "neighborhood watch group" is moving ahead although President Karzai is worried that the teams could become offensive militias and one day turn against the state (Wash Post). Amb. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, has blocked funds needed to expand the program because of Karzai’s concerns; Special Forces are reportedly working on building links between the small groups and the Afghan government.
Bill Shaw, a manager at a British company that guards the U.K.’s embassy in Kabul, was sentenced yesterday to a fine and two years in Pul-e-Charki prison on the outskirts of the Afghan capital for allegedly bribing an Afghan official (Guardian, BBC). Shaw claimed the money he paid to Afghan security services for the release of two of the company’s vehicles last fall was a legitimate expense; an appeal is expected immediately.
Calm down or get out
Pakistani security forces in Karachi have captured a Swat Taliban commander named Waliullah Swati, who was allegedly involved in beheading a government informant, and six more Swat Taliban commanders were reportedly killed in clashes in the valley yesterday (The News, Dawn, Daily Times, ET).
The News reports that after North Waziristan militant leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur told the Taliban fighters in his area, who sought refuge there after last fall’s Pakistani military offensive in South Waziristan, to abide by his peace agreement with the Pakistani government or leave, some Mehsud Taliban have started returning to South Waziristan (The News). And fighting goes on in Orakzai, while the Pakistani military has launched a new operation in Khyber, and a female university professor was gunned down in Quetta (AP, Dawn, ET/AFP).
The New York Times looks at Pakistan’s energy crisis, writing that it has a "cast of guilty characters that goes back years: governments that are incapable of planning ahead; bureaucrats who take bribes; even ordinary people who steal about 30 percent of all the power produced" (NYT).
And a 53-year-old diplomat has been arrested in India’s Islamabad embassy on suspicion of passing classified documents to Pakistan’s intelligence services (BBC, AFP, ToI, Dawn/AFP, PTI). Madhuri Gupta, who had been with the embassy for nearly three years, worked in the press office.
Elisabeth Bumiller writes in today’s Times, "Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession" (NYT). No one seems to like PowerPoint slides, except senior officers seeking not to impart information — as in delivering briefings to reporters.
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