Daily brief: Musharraf to return to Pakistan and politics

Retreat at a resort More details have emerged about the alleged talks between the Afghan government and elements of an insurgent group in the country, as reports indicate that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s son-in-law organized the meeting in the Maldives, and the Afghan militant commander is represented there by his son Feroz (AJE, AFP, Guardian, AP, Times, ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Retreat at a resort

More details have emerged about the alleged talks between the Afghan government and elements of an insurgent group in the country, as reports indicate that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's son-in-law organized the meeting in the Maldives, and the Afghan militant commander is represented there by his son Feroz (AJE, AFP, Guardian, AP, Times, ABC). Afghan President Hamid Karzai is reportedly unhappy about the meeting because he wants talks to take place at his official jirga later this month, while officials in Kabul don't believe any current members of the Taliban are participating; however, observers from both parties are reported to be there.

After last week's warm administration welcome for Karzai, his onetime presidential rival Abdullah Abdullah has so far been unable to get a meeting with the State Department, Pentagon, White House, or National Security Council (NYT). Bonus watch: Steve Coll and Abdullah Abdullah hold a conversation at the New America Foundation (NAF).

Retreat at a resort

More details have emerged about the alleged talks between the Afghan government and elements of an insurgent group in the country, as reports indicate that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s son-in-law organized the meeting in the Maldives, and the Afghan militant commander is represented there by his son Feroz (AJE, AFP, Guardian, AP, Times, ABC). Afghan President Hamid Karzai is reportedly unhappy about the meeting because he wants talks to take place at his official jirga later this month, while officials in Kabul don’t believe any current members of the Taliban are participating; however, observers from both parties are reported to be there.

After last week’s warm administration welcome for Karzai, his onetime presidential rival Abdullah Abdullah has so far been unable to get a meeting with the State Department, Pentagon, White House, or National Security Council (NYT). Bonus watch: Steve Coll and Abdullah Abdullah hold a conversation at the New America Foundation (NAF).

Tuesday’s suicide attack against a military convoy in Kabul killed four visiting high-ranking NATO officers — three Americans and one Canadian — in what is the largest number of ranking officers killed in a single attack since the Afghan war began (NYT). CNN reports that the insurgents involved in Wednesday’s attack on Bagram air base were wearing U.S. Army-style battle fatigues, while the AP considers whether the standard M-4 rifle isn’t suited for the Afghan conflict (CNN, AP).

And for the third time in recent days, insurgents have mounted an attack against security targets; today, a suicide truck bomb against an Afghan border police station in the eastern province of Paktika that left one Afghan police officer dead, and a minivan exploded near a U.S. convoy and a car belonging to Afghan intelligence in Kandahar (NYT, AP, BBC, AFP, Reuters).

Riots and returns

As many as 38 people have now been killed in a wave of targeted assassinations sparked by renewed ethnic and factional clashes in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi (Geo, Dawn, Daily Times, BBC, UPI, CNN). The city is tense, and Pakistani officials have urged political leaders to stay calm (The News, Dawn).

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been living abroad for the last year, said yesterday that he plans to return to Pakistan and to politics at some point, implying that he would run for prime minister (CNN). The interview also touched on Benazir Bhutto, drone strikes, Pakistani military operations in the tribal regions, Faisal Shahzad, and Pakistan’s Facebook ban (CNN).

U.S. intelligence reportedly has "reason to believe" the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant group is plotting attacks against U.S. interests at home and overseas (CNN). The TTP in North Waziristan have killed two more alleged ‘spies’ in the Datta Khel region, which has been the frequent target of drone strikes this year (Reuters, NAF).

Two more stories round out the day: the NYT describes the federal reaction to Faisal Shahzad’s failed attempt to car bomb Times Square, based on a letter from the Department of Justice that was unsealed yesterday (NYT; letter); and the Journal looks at the current state of Pakistan and India’s ongoing conflict over water in the region (WSJ).

Respect for religion v. freedom of expression

Pakistan’s ban of Facebook and YouTube continues, and though the country’s information technology ministry acknowledged the "suffering" caused by the blockages, it said it would only consider restoring access if the websites take down pages offensive to Islam (AP, Wash Post). The number of sites blocked in Pakistan has reached 1,000 and reportedly includes some stories from the Washington Post and Fox News, several Twitter and Flickr accounts, Wikipedia pages, and blogs (ET).

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