Daily brief: Taliban attack Bagram air field
Blast of brazen cannon Suicide bombers armed with grenades and rockets attacked one of the biggest U.S. military bases in Afghanistan around 3:00a.m. this morning, sparking a four-hour gunfight that left at least five U.S. soldiers wounded and one U.S. contractor and ten insurgents dead (NYT, Wash Post, CNN, AP, Reuters, Tel, Pajhwok, WSJ). The ...
Blast of brazen cannon
Blast of brazen cannon
Suicide bombers armed with grenades and rockets attacked one of the biggest U.S. military bases in Afghanistan around 3:00a.m. this morning, sparking a four-hour gunfight that left at least five U.S. soldiers wounded and one U.S. contractor and ten insurgents dead (NYT, Wash Post, CNN, AP, Reuters, Tel, Pajhwok, WSJ). The attack at Bagram Air Field, on the heels of yesterday’s strike against a military convoy in Kabul, appear to be part of the Taliban’s announced offensive, Al Fatah. The New York Times reports that yesterday’s Kabul attack pushed the U.S. over a deadly milestone in the Afghan war: more than 1,000 Americans have now been killed (NYT).
NATO will reportedly publicly announce a much-negotiated plan for British troops in Afghanistan’s Helmand province to come under U.S. command as part of a restructuring that will split the country’s southern command in half (Independent). A $360 million agricultural development program in southern Afghanistan that aims to provide local farmers with cash and supplies via district governors seems to be having a moderate amount of success, though officials worry it is not sustainable (WSJ). And China and India are ramping up their military training efforts in Afghanistan ahead of the beginning of next year’s anticipated U.S. drawdown (National).
Yesterday, failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad made his first appearance in court, after two weeks of waiving his right to a lawyer and a speedy court appearance, a nine-minute hearing where he confirmed that he lacks the financial means to pay for his own legal representation but did not enter any pleas to the five charges against him (AP, NYT, WSJ, Geo, FT, Times, AP). Shahzad is due back in court on June 1 and could face life in prison if convicted on some of the terrorism charges.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said yesterday that a special team of investigators called the ‘high-value detainee interrogation group’ (HIG) run by the FBI has been interrogating Shahzad, who is reportedly cooperating (NPR). Shahzad was reportedly considering attacking other targets in the northeast: Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, the World Financial Center, and a Connecticut-based helicopter manufacturer (Fox, CNN).
The LA Times reports that Pakistani authorities have arrested a Pakistani Army major linked to Shahzad who allegedly met with the failed bomber in Islamabad and was in cell phone contact with him, the first time a member of the military has been directly implicated with the case (LAT). A member of the Pakistani Taliban who acted as Shahzad’s liaison to the group is believed to have given the naturalized U.S. citizen cash when he was running low.
CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones met earlier today with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the Shahzad case, and briefed top Pakistani officials on the investigation (AP, AFP, Dawn, AP). A White House official reportedly said, "It is time to redouble our efforts" to address the militant safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal regions, namely North Waziristan, where Shahzad claims to have received training. Some analysts worry that major Pakistani military operations there could lead to a "Pandora’s box of terrorism in Pakistan" (McClatchy). Bonus read: a former CIA case officer’s exclusive al-Qaeda bomb factory video footage (FP).
A Taliban group reportedly tracking ‘American spies’ in North Waziristan warned local residents against providing information that could help target drone strikes in the tribal areas (Daily Times). Adam Entous has today’s must-read looking in depth at "how the White House learned the love the drone," reporting, among other analysis, an anecdote from a U.S. diplomat who had a meeting with Pakistani parliamentarians demanding that the drone strikes stop (Reuters). In the middle of the meeting, Entous writes, one of the Pakistanis passed the diplomat a note reading, "The people in the tribal areas support the drones. They cause very little collateral damage. But we cannot say so publicly for reasons you understand."
And Pakistani military operations continue in Orakzai agency, where more than 200 Taliban fighters attacked a security checkpost earlier today, while three more "key militant commanders" have been killed in the northwestern Swat Valley (AJE, Reuters, ET). Punjab’s government has given the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front organization for the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, extra security because his life is apparently threatened by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Geo).
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A court in Lahore has banned the popular social networking website facebook.com in Pakistan until May 31 after a group of Islamic lawyers argued that the site should be blocked because it allowed a Facebook page called "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day!" to be posted (AP, AFP). The page, which is still viewable as of now, encourages users to submit images of the Prophet Mohammad to protest threats from a radical group against the television show "South Park," which depicted the Prophet wearing a bear suit earlier this year.
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