Daily brief: suicide bombers attack Afghan police
No, minister On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the resignations of the country’s interior minister and head of intelligence after the two men failed to provide the president with satisfactory explanations for last Wednesday’s Taliban rocket attacks on the much-publicized peace jirga in Kabul (CNN, AJE, Pajhwok, AP, Reuters, AFP, Independent). Interior Minister Hanif ...
On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the resignations of the country’s interior minister and head of intelligence after the two men failed to provide the president with satisfactory explanations for last Wednesday’s Taliban rocket attacks on the much-publicized peace jirga in Kabul (CNN, AJE, Pajhwok, AP, Reuters, AFP, Independent). Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and National Directorate of Security chief Amrullah Saleh reportedly had a "stormy" two and a half hour meeting yesterday in the Afghan capital, and both are said to be pro-Western; the resignations came amid rising tensions over Taliban reconciliation plans between the ministers and Karzai, who some believe is too soft on the insurgency (NYT, Wash Post, McClatchy, WSJ).
NATO and U.S. officials and diplomats, who "worked well with both of them," were reportedly taken by surprise, and an official close to top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal called the forced resignations "really not helpful," though Defense Secretary Robert Gates studiously avoided criticizing Karzai, calling the resignations "an internal matter" (LAT, AFP, NYT, AP). Atmar will be replaced by deputy interior minister Munir Mangal, viewed by Westerners as steady if not innovative, and Saleh by Ibrahim Spinzada, a Karzai ally.
At least three Taliban suicide bombers attacked an Afghan provincial police training center in the southern province of Kandahar earlier this morning, one of whom detonated his explosives through and outer wall while the other two were killed in the ensuing gun battle (AP, Pajhwok, AFP). Yesterday, two civilians and a police officer were killed when a bomb placed in a cart exploded near a police car in Kandahar, and on Saturday, explosives on a bicycle went off outside the provincial governor’s office in Kandahar city, killing one policeman and wounded 14 civilians, including five children (CNN, AP). On Sunday, 13 people were injured when a motorcycle suicide bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in Jalalabad (Pajhwok).
An assessment from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to be released at the end of this month reportedly finds that the standards used to evaluate the operational readiness and quality of Afghanistan’s security forces since 2005 are "woefully inadequate" and inflate the abilities of Afghan soldiers and police (FT). In "Kabul’s version of Beverly Hills," Afghans flush with cash — some from the country’s lucrative drug trade — buy or have built "garishly incongruous" "poppy palaces," causing some observers to grumble about foreign design influences (Wash Post).
Dexter Filkins’ series "Rule of the Gun" profiles the most powerful man in Uruzgan province, the head of a private militia whose main endeavor — and "biggest money maker" — is securing NATO convoys along the Taliban-infested highway between Kandahar and Tirin Kowt (NYT). Matiullah Khan, who one Special Forces officer called "the best there is here," is nonetheless suspected of drug smuggling and having a "relationship with insurgents." In a second installation of "Rule of the Gun," Filkins reports that at least some of Afghanistan’s security companies, many of which have links to prominent Afghan officials, are using U.S. funding to pay off the Taliban and may also set up "fake fighting" to increase the sense of insecurity on the country’s roads (NYT).
And David Zucchino has a pair of interesting articles, the first profiling a morning in the life of a U.S. platoon in the Arghandab Valley as a roadside bomb explodes, and the second considering the options of an Afghan man with two sons: one who has worked with U.S. forces, and one who allegedly joined the Taliban (LAT, LAT).
As many as 15 people were killed as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Phet hit Pakistan’s coast on Sunday, and heavy rains in Karachi and other coastal cities have caused widespread flooding (Geo, Geo, Daily Times, Dawn, The News, ET, Times, AJE). Life has reportedly returned to normal today, as the storm trickled off overnight (ET).
On Saturday, Pakistan’s finance minister announced that Pakistan is increasing its defense budget by 17 percent for the next fiscal year, and analysts say much of the increase will go toward fighting militants (Dawn, Reuters, BBC, Hindu). Punjabi government officials and security experts believe a large-scale operation against militants in the country’s heartland is unlikely, however, in spite of a series of attacks blamed on the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ and the fact that some officially banned extremist groups operate more or less openly in the province (McClatchy). The AP reports on the case of Ahsanul Haq, a gray-haired grandfather who once trained insurgents for war in Kashmir and Afghanistan and has been linked to terrorist activities, the most recent of which is last year’s attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, but who remains free apparently because of his ties with Pakistan’s intelligence services (AP).
Over the weekend, 44 suspected insurgents were killed in Orakzai, the northwestern tribal agency where the Pakistani military recently concluded major operations, and clashes between Lashkar-e-Islam and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Khyber agency left as many as 50 dead (Daily Times, Dawn, Daily Times).
A white pigeon, whose name has not been released, has been detained in India after being captured by residents of India’s Punjab state, who found a Pakistani telephone number and address stamped on its body in red ink (Tel, Times Live, CNN, Hindustan Times, Express India, AFP). Indian police were aflutter with the discovery, and held the bird at a police station for a day before turning it over to wildlife authorities, who will decide what to do with the feathered potential spy.
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