Daily brief: hostile fire downs 4 U.S. soldiers in helicopter

Cry havoc In the first attack on a NATO convoy so close to Pakistan’s capital, last night gunmen lobbed grenades and opened fire on as many as 50 trucks carrying oil and other supplies to Afghanistan, killing at least eight people about six miles from Islamabad (Geo, The News, ET, AP, AFP, NYT). The Express ...

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Cry havoc

In the first attack on a NATO convoy so close to Pakistan's capital, last night gunmen lobbed grenades and opened fire on as many as 50 trucks carrying oil and other supplies to Afghanistan, killing at least eight people about six miles from Islamabad (Geo, The News, ET, AP, AFP, NYT). The Express Tribune reports that 26 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, which is believed to have killed Pakistani drivers and assistants (ET, AP).

Six Frontier Corps soldiers and 40 militants were reportedly killed when Taliban fighters stormed a checkpoint in Pakistan's rugged northwestern Orakzai agency, an area the Pakistani military recently declared cleared of militants (Dawn, Daily Times, ET, AP). Militants also reportedly attacked a security convoy in Mohmand agency, sparking a gun battle that left several dead on each side (Nation, The News, AP).

Cry havoc

In the first attack on a NATO convoy so close to Pakistan’s capital, last night gunmen lobbed grenades and opened fire on as many as 50 trucks carrying oil and other supplies to Afghanistan, killing at least eight people about six miles from Islamabad (Geo, The News, ET, AP, AFP, NYT). The Express Tribune reports that 26 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, which is believed to have killed Pakistani drivers and assistants (ET, AP).

Six Frontier Corps soldiers and 40 militants were reportedly killed when Taliban fighters stormed a checkpoint in Pakistan’s rugged northwestern Orakzai agency, an area the Pakistani military recently declared cleared of militants (Dawn, Daily Times, ET, AP). Militants also reportedly attacked a security convoy in Mohmand agency, sparking a gun battle that left several dead on each side (Nation, The News, AP).

Major General Tariq Khan, the Inspector General of the Frontier Corps, said North Waziristan is the only remaining tribal area yet to be cleared of militants (Tel). Mullah Nazir, a pro-government Taliban commander in South Waziristan, is reportedly concerned that the Pakistani military will conduct operations in his area based on the claim that Mehsud Taliban are hiding among his men (The News).

By other means

Former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has formally launched a recruitment drive for his recently-formed political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and a spokesman said Musharraf intends to return to Pakistan when a date for the next election is announced (Dawn, ET, Sify, BBC). Musharraf has been in exile since 2008 and is currently living in London.

On Monday, the CIA placed the names of all seven of the CIA officers and contractors who were killed in the December 2009 suicide bombing on a base in Khost in its "Book of Honor," which holds the names of those killed while working for the agency (AP, AFP, Wash Post). The name of the base chief, a veteran targeter in the CIA’s air war against militants and a 45 year old mother of three from Fredericksburg — Jennifer Lynne Matthews — had not previously been made public.

Helicopter down in Helmand

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the crash of a NATO helicopter in Sangin district in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, in which at least four U.S. soldiers were killed earlier today (Pajhwok, BBC, AP, AFP). Twenty-three NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since Sunday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said earlier today that top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal is "pretty confident" he will be able to show "sufficient progress" by the end of 2010 (AFP).

Gates is also reportedly considering sending additional U.S. reinforcements to Helmand, where British troops are "in the thick" of fighting (AFP). Britain’s Defense Secretary, Liam Fox, said it is "highly unlikely" that Britain’s 9,500 soldiers would be re-deployed to Kandahar or elsewhere in Afghanistan, an idea that had been floated by some senior British, American, and NATO commanders (Guardian). The London Times, after 32 interviews and a two-month investigation, assesses that "military chiefs and civil servants ignored warnings that Britain was ill prepared to send troops to Helmand and signed off a deeply flawed plan" in today’s must-read (Times).

About 20 Afghan girls in the northern Sar-e-Pul province were hospitalized after falling ill in their classroom, and Afghan authorities are investigating whether the girls were poisoned by suspected militants (CNN, AP, Pajhwok). Several group poisonings have been reported in Afghanistan this year, though no one has taken responsibility.

Kandahar watch

After opposition to major military operations in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar from locals and Afghan officials, and concerns about the results of the Marjah offensive, the coalition has switched to a strategy in which civilian reconstruction comes before military actions — rather than the other way around (NYT). There are now 110 American civilians working in Kandahar, up from eight last year, with 50 more on the way this summer. Fourteen Taliban fighters have been killed across Kandahar in the last day (Pajhwok).

The LA Times reports that the Obama administration is in talks with the Afghan government to maintain a section of Bagram prison north of Kabul that is under U.S. control after the U.S. hands over the prison to Afghan authorities next year, in order to allow the United States to have a place to interrogate detainees captured in places like Yemen and Somalia (LAT). There are some 800 detainees at Bagram now, fewer than ten of whom are from outside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first Afghan-led trial of detainees at the Parwan detention facility ended with the conviction of two brothers, alleged members of the Haqqani network, who were accused of making IEDs (ABC). A third brother and their father were acquitted.

Stiff competition

Paktia province’s cricket team delivered a damaging loss to Kunduz over the weekend to advance to the semifinals of a national tournament in Afghanistan (Pajhwok). Kabul, Laghman, and Panjshir have already qualified for the next round.

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