Daily brief: Pressure mounts for North Waziristan Offensive
The fizzle heard ’round the world American officials are now saying that failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad went to Pakistan to seek help with his own already-formed idea to bomb the United States (CNN, AP). While it is still believed the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other Pakistani militant groups provided some form of training ...
The fizzle heard 'round the world
The fizzle heard ’round the world
American officials are now saying that failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad went to Pakistan to seek help with his own already-formed idea to bomb the United States (CNN, AP). While it is still believed the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other Pakistani militant groups provided some form of training or other aid to Shahzad, it is unclear what kind of assistance they provided.
The mounting evidence of TTP involvement in Shahzad’s bombing attempt is likely to spur American calls for Pakistan to stage an offensive into North Waziristan, home to increasing numbers of TTP as well as militant groups more friendly to the Pakistani state (AP, TIME). The deputy head of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday that the army will enter North Waziristan when they are ready, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen told Pakistani Army head Gen. Ashfaq Kayani that the United States is not pressuring Pakistan to increase anti-Taliban operations (CNN, Daily Times, Dawn). however, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Hussain Haroon insists that Shahzad acted alone without outside assistance (CBS).
An attack on Pakistani troops in Orakzai Agency has killed 9 soldiers; at least 37 alleged TTP fighters were also killed (Dawn, BBC, AP, Daily Times, ET, Geo). The recent uptick in bloodshed in Orakzai is believed to be a result of fighters fleeing Pakistani military operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan, and Pakistani army operations continued today in Orakzai (Dawn). And an unusually heavy barrage of drone strikes yesterday near Datta khel in North Waziristan is believed to have killed as many as 14 suspected militants (AP, Dawn, Reuters, AJE, AFP, CNN).
The love-in continues
The Obama administration continued its "charm offensive" towards Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with Karzai set to receive nearly a full day of President Barack Obama’s attention, a planned reception with cabinet officials, and a walk around a "private enclave" in Georgetown with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (NYT, Wash Post). While the new tack represents a shift in how the administration approaches Karzai, serious questions remain about how Obama plans to deal with the myriad issues facing Afghanistan, including the drug trade, corruption, and chronic insecurity in large parts of the country (McClatchy).
A separate peace?
Even as President Karzai touched down on American soil, reports circulated that his government is preparing a reconciliation plan to reach out to a supposedly growing number of insurgents interested in switching sides (AP, AP). The plan will reportedly offer vocational training, jobs and development aid to low- to mid-level Taliban and their villages, while reaching out to upper-level militants. Joshua Partlow and Greg Jaffe have today’s must-read on the many unexpected difficulties that arose from trying to give more authority to the Shinwari tribe in exchange for their help against the Taliban (Wash Post).
Complicating efforts to secure southern Afghanistan in particular are new reports that an elite and newly-established Afghan police unit, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, is widely corrupt, ineffective, and overwhelmed with drug use (McClatchy). A congressional investigation is also looking into accusations that loose oversight of a trucking contract in Kandahar province is fueling organized crime networks tied to Karzai’s powerful and controversial half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, and British troops could be sent to reinforce units stationed in Helmand’s volatile Sangin district, where Afghan and NATO forces killed 18 militants in ongoing operations (FT, Guardian, AP). NATO commanders tell the London Times that they have until the end of 2010 to show "irreversible momentum" in southern Afghanistan or risk losing to the Taliban (Times).
The Red Cross has confirmed the existence, over American denials, of a secret American-run prison at Bagram Air Base where at least 9 prisoners have alleged abuse (BBC). And gas attacks on girls’ schools in Kunduz and Kabul have sent at least three dozen girls to the hospital (Dawn, Reuters).
"An al Qaeda living legend"
A Belgian court has sentenced three members of an al Qaeda cell to eight years in prison, with five others receiving lighter sentences (CNN, AP, BBC, Reuters). One of the three sentenced to eight years is Malika al Aroud, an "al Qaeda living legend" and widow of one of the men who killed anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before the 9/11 attacks.
And CNN’s Nic Robertson details his efforts to track down information on Bryant Neal Vinas, arrested by U.S. authorities and accused of going to Pakistan for training (CNN).
A solitary reminder
Afghanistan’s last Jew, Zablon Simintov, steadfastly refuses to leave the country despite the urgings of his family in Israel (CNN). Afghanistan’s Jewish community is believed to have numbered 40,000 at its peak in the 19th century, but dwindled after the passage of anti-Jewish laws in the 1870’s and the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.
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