The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Taliban attack Afghan jirga
Give peace a chance? Taliban suicide bombers armed with rockets and guns attacked the peace jirga in Kabul that started today, minutes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai began his opening remarks (Pajhwok, AP, NYT, AFP). At least two of the bombers were killed, and no delegates were injured. The long-awaited assembly, which is consultative and ...
Give peace a chance?
Taliban suicide bombers armed with rockets and guns attacked the peace jirga in Kabul that started today, minutes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai began his opening remarks (Pajhwok, AP, NYT, AFP). At least two of the bombers were killed, and no delegates were injured.
The long-awaited assembly, which is consultative and non-binding, is attended by some 1,600 delegates who were reportedly selected with "heavy input" from the Afghan government, leading critics to claim the jirga is not representative, has an unclear mission, and is stacked with Karzai supporters (NYT, Wash Post, NYT, WSJ, McClatchy, BBC, Times). The main factions of the Taliban were not invited, and a militant spokesman denounced the proceedings, though sympathizers are likely there (Wash Post, AP). The Journal details some of the outcomes the Karzai administration would like to emerge from the three-day conference, including cash, jobs, and security for low-level fighters who renounce al-Qaeda, and exile in a third country for insurgent leaders (WSJ, Pajhwok).
In southern Afghanistan, as a U.S. commander assumes control from the British of Helmand province, Britain is pressuring Afghanistan to take responsibility for its security "as soon as possible" (Guardian). In Marjah, site of a coalition offensive earlier this year, a group of specially trained Afghan police officers has reportedly demonstrated a "mediocre performance while being almost wholly dependent on American supervision and support" (NYT). Members of the Afghan National Civil Order Police in Marjah, who were more thoroughly screened and trained than the rank-and-file police officers across the country, are involved in petty corruption and drug use, and at times, lack commitment to the job.
After more than two months of sustained operations in Orakzai agency in Pakistan’s northwest tribal regions, the Pakistani Army yesterday declared victory over the Taliban there, and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced the formation of ‘Orakzai Scouts’ and his support for tribal elders in the agency (The News, Daily Times, AP, ET). The Orakzai operations are said to have displaced up to 45,000 people. Earlier this morning, a group of up to 20 militants attacked a checkpoint in the Shahu Khel area of the agency, and clashes continue (AFP).
Analysts assess that the U.S. has "few options" for retaliation in Pakistan should a successful terrorist attack in the U.S. be traced there, in spite of recent discussion of "severe consequences" (AP). It’s not clear if Pakistan would agree to actions beyond the U.S. drone strikes in the country’s northwest, or if the United States would carry out unilateral operations anyway.
The U.S. and Afghan governments both hailed the recent death of al-Qaeda number three Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in a drone strike as a victory, though the terrorist organization "has become adept" at filling the three slot, which has had at least seven occupants in the last several years (BBC, FT, The News, WSJ, The News). The third-in-command is "an especially high-risk job that involves overseeing terrorism plots, recruiting, raising money and providing internal security," and as former CIA analyst Barbara Sude observed, "They know they’re going to be hit and they’ve planned somehow for it. We just don’t know what the bench is, or how deep" (Wash Post).
Three Pakistanis including a television anchor who were arrested by Israeli forces on the Turkish aid flotilla over the weekend are in good condition, have been handed over to Jordanian custody, and are expected to return to Pakistan today (Aaj, The News, Daily Times, Nation, Dawn, The News, Dawn). And Mohammad Saif ur Rehman Khan, the 28-year-old Pakistani who was arrested last month in Santiago, Chile after traces of TNT were allegedly found on his belongings as he went to the embassy to discuss his visa, has been freed pending an investigation into charges related to the illegal possession of explosives (AFP, AP).
Rock, not rockets
Foreign Policy is running a unique photo essay of Kabul in the 1950s and 60s, showing images of Kabul University, a hospital in the Afghan capital, movie theaters, and Afghan Boy and Girl Scouts (FP). The author, now the president of California State University, recalls seeing Spartacus, The FBI Story, and The Dirty Dozen at the Kabul theater.