The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: more U.S. troops in Afghanistan than Iraq

Supreme decision Earlier today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld the Lahore High Court’s decision to release Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and suspected mastermind of the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Nation, Dawn, Geo, ET, Reuters, AP, PTI, AFP). Saeed was detained in December 2008 and released last year on ...

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Supreme decision

Earlier today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld the Lahore High Court’s decision to release Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and suspected mastermind of the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Nation, Dawn, Geo, ET, Reuters, AP, PTI, AFP). Saeed was detained in December 2008 and released last year on insufficient evidence; the Supreme Court’s decision today could inflame tensions between Pakistan and India, whose foreign secretary expressed a "sense of disappointment" at the ruling (PTI).

A local jirga has reportedly expelled 25 families from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Pakistani military launched an anti-Taliban offensive last year, because their relatives — suspected Taliban fighters — failed to surrender (AFP, BBC, ET). The 130 people are living at a refugee camp in the Malakand guarded by the military.

Pakistan’s The News reports that Mehsud militants have agreed to leave North Waziristan and return to South Waziristan after an accord was reached between North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud (The News). The Express Tribune writes that residents of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar are worried that more Taliban militants are making their ways into the suburbs (ET).

Soldiering on

For the first time since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there are more U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan than Iraq — 94,000 compared with 92,000 (BBC, AP, AFP, Tel). The total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is expected to reach 98,000 later this year, and has roughly tripled under the Obama administration.

Some 300 insurgents led by Swat Valley Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah have reportedly launched an attack in Barg-i-Matal district of Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province (Pajhwok). The governor of Nuristan, Jamaluddin Badr, told reporters the battle is still ongoing and Afghan police face a shortage of men and ammunition.

Seven men from Kabul between the ages of 21 and 45 have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in last week’s suicide bombing in the Afghan capital that left 18 dead, including a dozen Afghan civilians and six NATO service members (AP, NYT, BBC). A spokesman for Afghanistan’s spy agency accused Pakistan’s intelligence services of a "role in equipping and training of this group," members of which have also reportedly confessed to involvement in the February attack on a guest house in Kabul, which they said was planned from Peshawar (NYT).

A bleeding ulcer

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is reportedly feeling the pressure from his civilian bosses about the pace of coalition military operations in Marjah, and called the situation "a bleeding ulcer" (McClatchy). Progress in Marjah has been slow, McClatchy reports, because "no one who planned the operation realized how hard it would be to convince residents that they could trust representatives of an Afghan government that had sent them corrupt police and inept leaders before they turned to the Taliban."

As momentum builds toward the expected coalition offensive in Kandahar (ABC), the governor of the province, Tooryalai Wesa, is struggling to assert influence over the area where Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai has a stronger power base (FT). Afghan elders were annoyed by a weekend U.S. military raid on their neighborhood of Kokaran in Kandahar city, as a meeting between Afghans and U.S. and Canadian teams that was supposed to be about development and governance instead focused on security (LAT).

In an attempt to relieve some burdens on bomb disposal experts in Afghanistan after Britain’s top bomb disposal officer recently resigned, engineers will now start to detonate rather than dismantle many of the roadside bombs in the country (Independent). The London Times also reports that the U.S. is considering switching from the M4 rifle in Afghanistan because it "lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights" (Times).

Unhealthy habits

Twenty-five percent of Pakistanis are obese according to the Indo-Asian specific Body Mass Index and half the population over the age of 50 is subject to hypertension (ET). Health care experts in Pakistan said only 3 percent of people diagnosed with hypertension try to keep their blood pressures under control.

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