The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Taliban suicide attacks blast Afghanistan, Pakistan

Event invitation: Join or tune in for former Afghan president candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah at the New America Foundation today at 12:15pm in a discussion moderated by Steve Coll (NAF). The bloody course of war A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a Toyota minivan filled with more than 1,000 pounds of explosives into a U.S. military ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Event invitation: Join or tune in for former Afghan president candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah at the New America Foundation today at 12:15pm in a discussion moderated by Steve Coll (NAF).

The bloody course of war

A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a Toyota minivan filled with more than 1,000 pounds of explosives into a U.S. military convoy outside an Afghan Army recruitment center in the Afghan capital of Kabul earlier this morning, killing at least 12 Afghan civilians and six service members including five Americans, and injuring around four dozen during a busy rush hour (AP, AP, BBC, Reuters, AJE, Pajhwok, CNN, NYT). It is the deadliest attack for NATO since September, and the first major attack in Kabul since February, coming shortly after the Taliban announced a ‘spring offensive’ called Al Fatah — Arabic for ‘victory’ or ‘to conquer’ — against coalition forces (WSJ).

As Afghan and international forces gear up for major operations in Kandahar, an Afghan military investigation has accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an influential and controversial figure in Kandahar, of stopping Afghan officials from reclaiming 150 acres of military land in the southern province that are being used by some of Wali Karzai’s allies (McClatchy). Wali Karzai shut down Kandahar’s provincial council in response.

Carlotta Gall has today’s must-read describing the governor of Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, Atta Muhammad Noor, who is viewed by some as a " thinly disguised warlord who still exercises an unhealthy degree of control across much of the north and who has used that influence to grow rich through business deals during his time in power since 2001" but who nonetheless has managed to bring some measure of development and security to the area (NYT).

Hundreds more military trainers may be needed by early next year in order to bolster Afghan security forces, which are slightly ahead of recruitment goals for the month of March (Reuters). The Post profiles a recent night raid in eastern Nangarhar province, which NATO maintains killed "ruthless Taliban insurgents" and relatives say killed only civilians (Wash Post). Five U.N. workers who were kidnapped in Baghlan province last month were freed in a rescue operation that included the capture of five Taliban who were responsible for the abductions (Pajhwok).

A dangerous day

A Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman took responsibility for a bicycle bomb that detonated as a senior police officer drove by and left 12 people dead in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan (AP, AFP, Geo, Dawn/AFP, CNN, BBC, NYT). Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis sought refuge in D.I. Khan from the tribal areas after the Pakistani military began major anti-Taliban operations there last year, when more than three million were displaced across the country (Reuters, NRC). Pakistan suffered the highest number of internally displaced people last year, more than three times the second-place Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters). And clashes continue in Orakzai agency (Dawn, Daily Times).

National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta left DC for Islamabad last night to press the Pakistani government about the investigation into the failed Times Square car bombing and express concern over potential future attacks emanating from Pakistan (Wash Post, NYT). The U.S. officials may ask Pakistan to "push harder into North Waziristan;" tomorrow, they are meeting with Pakistan’s president, prime minister, army chief, and head of the country’s spy agency. Bonus: read the AfPak Channel’s takes on whether it is time to go into North Waziristan (FP).

Yesterday Pakistan’s embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, pardoned a close ally, the country’s interior minister Rehman Malik, who recently lost an appeal against his 2004 conviction and sentencing for corruption charges in the Lahore High Court and thus could have been arrested — a move sure to be unpopular (ET, Daily Times, AFP, The News, Daily Times). Zardari is facing his own legal challenges, as yesterday the Lahore court asked him to explain how he can hold both the positions of president and co-chief of his political party (Reuters).

V-i-c-t-o-r-y, 15 points, triple word score?

Pakistani Scrabble champion Muhammad Sulaiman took down former world champion, Nigel Richards, a New Zealander, at a competition in Malta (ET). Two of Sulaiman’s winning words were ‘intines’ and ‘coerces,’ for 70 and 94 points.

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