Daily brief: TTP chief alive: Pakistani intelligence
The one that got away? The Guardian reported yesterday that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud survived a drone strike in January that was previously believed to have killed him (Guardian). An unnamed "senior official" in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI) told the paper that Mehsud was only wounded in the strike, but may no longer ...
The one that got away?
The one that got away?
The Guardian reported yesterday that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud survived a drone strike in January that was previously believed to have killed him (Guardian). An unnamed "senior official" in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI) told the paper that Mehsud was only wounded in the strike, but may no longer be in control of the group; the AP reports that four intelligence officials now believe he is alive, based on sources in the field and electronic surveillance (AP, LAT). None of the officials has explained how earlier statements by officials that he had died were wrong, and Hakimullah has not spoken out since January. And Newsweek reports that the Pakistani military has released Abdul Qayum Zakir, Quetta Shura Taliban number two Mullah Baradar’s top military commander, from detention after capturing him for "a week or two" earlier this year (Newsweek).
The House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing yesterday with four law of war experts over the legality of the drone strikes (House, CNN, AP). While the panelists offered divergent opinions about what U.S. and international laws say about targeted killings outside of combat zones, a rough consensus seemed to emerge among most of the panelists that CIA officers controlling the drones could be subject to U.S. laws regarding the killing of combatants abroad.
Karen DeYoung reports that the delivery of 18 new F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan this year will require 50 new U.S. military personnel to deploy to the country, an increase of 25 percent (Wash Post). The 200 U.S. military currently in Pakistan are involved in security assistance; Pakistan prohibits U.S. combat troops.
Clashes in North Waziristan continued yesterday after Taliban forces attacked a Pakistani army checkpoint east of Miram Shah, resulting in the deaths of four Taliban fighters and at least two Pakistani soldiers (Dawn, AP). The attack is the second on the Pakistani army in the agency in the past week, and comes as Pakistani forces have resisted international pressure to stage a full offensive in North Waziristan. Other clashes in Swat and Buner districts killed several militants, including a "close aide to Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah" (Daily Times). Fierce fighting also continued yesterday in Orakzai, as militants blew up three schools in Mamozai (Geo, The News, Daily Times, Dawn).
It turns out that the much-heralded video of a girl from Swat being whipped by the Taliban — a video partially credited with turning Pakistani public opinion in favor of army intervention against the group — may not be authentic (LAT). And China has agreed to build two new civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, complicating U.S. efforts to combat the proliferation of nuclear technology and demonstrating the importance of China’s ties with Pakistan (FT).
The second coming?
Two years after elections ousted him as Pakistan’s military ruler and criminal charges sent him abroad, Gen. Pervez Musharraf is reportedly contemplating a return to Pakistan in the near future and has applied to register a new political party with authorities in Islamabad (Telegraph, AFP). Musharraf could face trial over his imprisonment of judges in 2007 and questioning in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; his new party will be called All Pakistan Muslim League.
A Congressionally-mandated Pentagon review of progress in Afghanistan was released yesterday (available here), finding that only one in four Afghans in "key regions" of the country support or are sympathetic to the Afghan government (AP, McClatchy, DoD, CSM, Wash Post). The report also states that more Afghans feel "secure" now than did six months ago, while support for insurgents is dropping. And while the report found that coalition offensives and arrests have sown confusion among the Taliban, the movement’s reach and military capability is expanding (LAT).
Another Pentagon report released yesterday stated that Pakistan has moved more than 100,000 soldiers off of its border with India to fight insurgents along the Afghan border (Times of India, Reuters). Calling this redeployment "unprecedented," the report still concluded that the attitude and troop shift in Pakistan was not likely to have an immediate impact on the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan and India’s prime ministers met earlier today at a regional meeting in Bhutan, their first encounter in more than nine months, potentially indicating a thaw in the frosty relationship (AP, AFP, ET).
Uneasy balance of power
Joshua Partlow has today’s must-read on U.S. efforts to bolster the governor of Kandahar, who faces obstacles posed by his nominal constituents, powerful men like Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, and his own status as an outsider in the run-up to this summer’s expected military offensive in Kandahar (Wash Post). And more details have emerged about the widely-respected tribal elder, Abdul Rahman, who was killed near Kandahar yesterday (BBC, NYT). Rahman was known for having sharply criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a meeting in Kandahar earlier this month, describing the fear among the people of being killed for siding with the Afghan government.
Protests broke out near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad after a NATO-led raid on a female parliamentarian’s home resulted in the shooting death of her brother-in-law last night (Reuters, Pajhwok, AFP, AP). While NATO spokespeople contended the shooting was legitimate, the sharp reaction shows the anger caused by "night raids," which top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has sought to limit.
The Afghan government yesterday disputed U.N. findings that Afghan police officers may have been responsible for the deaths of four out of the five U.N. employees killed in an attack in October on a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul (LAT). And in the United Arab Emirates, six men were imprisoned for funneling money to the Taliban in Afghanistan (Times).
"Chalet" in Dari
The breathtaking scenery of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province has inspired ideas for a new kind of tourist industry there: skiing (Guardian). Despite the lack of trained skiiers and virtually no ski infrastructure, provincial officials hope Bamiyan’s mountains and bountiful snow could bring much-needed "ecotourist" dollars to the region.
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