Daily brief: Kandahar wedding suicide bomb kills 40
Woeful wedding Last night in Kandahar’s Arghandab district, a suicide bomber reportedly attacked the wedding of a man who had joined a local anti-Taliban militia, killing up to 40 wedding guests and wounding 77 more, including the groom (AJE, AFP, Reuters, NYT, BBC, Guardian, AP, Pajhwok). A Taliban spokesman blamed NATO for the attack, suggesting ...
Last night in Kandahar’s Arghandab district, a suicide bomber reportedly attacked the wedding of a man who had joined a local anti-Taliban militia, killing up to 40 wedding guests and wounding 77 more, including the groom (AJE, AFP, Reuters, NYT, BBC, Guardian, AP, Pajhwok). A Taliban spokesman blamed NATO for the attack, suggesting it was the result of an airstrike, which the alliance denied; another Taliban source told CBS the attack was "collective punishment" against the village for opposing the insurgents (CBS). An investigation is beginning this morning.
Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in Brussels that the expected coalition operations in Kandahar will go "more slowly" than planned, commenting, "It’s more important we get it right than we get it fast," and citing lessons learned from the offensive earlier this year in neighboring Helmand province (AP, AFP, Reuters). Operations in Kandahar, originally projected to wrap up by the end of the summer, will now likely go into the fall.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran has today’s must-read checking on the status of Marjah, site of the coalition offensive this spring, reporting that while U.S. Marines initially believed after several days of fierce fighting that they had achieved "catastrophic success," the Taliban now appear to have been regrouping (Wash Post). He also writes, "Before the operation, McChrystal pledged to deliver a ‘government in a box’ that would provide basic services to the population with the hope of winning its allegiance. The box has turned out to be largely empty."
The Taliban reportedly hanged a seven year old boy yesterday on suspicion of spying for the government in Sangin district in Helmand (CNN, AP, CBS, Pajhwok). The New York Times reports that 11 assassinations, of mostly low-level officials, have taken place in Kandahar just since March of this year, writing, "Government assassinations are nothing new as a Taliban tactic, but now the Taliban are taking aim at officials who are much more low-level, who often do not have the sort of bodyguards or other protection that top leaders do" (NYT).
The U.K.’s new prime minister, David Cameron, is in Kabul for his first official visit, and reaffirmed British support for the Afghan effort, though said, "The issue of more troops is not remotely on the U.K. agenda," a day after top U.S. general David Petraeus stated that the coalition "cannot succeed without" Britain’s contributions (NYT, Pajhwok, AP, AFP). U.S. officials have recently made a concerted effort to reach out to the new government in the U.K. and bolster British support. Cameron said in an appearance with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, "We should be all the time asking, ‘Can we go further? Can we go faster?’… Nobody wants British troops to be in Afghanistan a moment longer than is necessary" (Tel).
The London Times reports that U.S. officials told their British counterparts that 3,300 British troops was not enough to combat the insurgency in Helmand province in 2006, with one likening it to "Custer’s last stand" (Times). The U.S. is again pushing its European allies to send more military trainers to Afghanistan (AP).
"Enemy number one"
Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence services who resigned over the weekend, is reportedly concerned about Karzai’s "noticeably softer attitude toward Pakistan," which he says the Afghan president has been warming up to as Karzai loses faith in the U.S.’s efforts (Guardian). Saleh, who called Pakistan "enemy number one," is also opposed to Karzai’s reconciliation plan, which he says is dangerous because the insurgents are giving nothing in return (AP).
A federal grand jury has indicted two U.S. soldiers based in Hawaii on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering, accusing the men of splitting a bribe of $50,000 in exchange for steering a $1.5 million Pentagon contract to an Afghan trucking company (AP, AFP). The two owners of the AZ Corp. were also indicted.
A naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan who pleaded guilty to charges that he stored raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in his apartment in London in 2004 and delivered them to an al-Qaeda member, who took them to a senior al-Qaeda military commander in South Waziristan, was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison (AP, FBI, AFP, WSJ, Geo, NYT). Syed Hashmi was arrested at Heathrow Airport in 2006 and was the first person to be extradited from the U.K. to the U.S. on terrorism charges.
The ‘Punjabi Taliban’ have reportedly taken responsibility for Tuesday night’s attack on a NATO supply convoy outside Islamabad, in which a dozen gunmen open fire on as many as 100 oil tankers, killing eight people (ET). McClatchy profiles the security side of the Pakistani port city of Karachi, where according to police 246 "significant terrorist suspects" have been arrested since 2001 (McClatchy).
Across Pakistan’s tribal regions yesterday, dozens of militants were killed in clashes in Mohmand (The News); a jirga of Ahmedzai Wazir elders from South Waziristan has decided to maintain its peace agreement from 2007 with the Pakistani government (Nation) and demanded an end to drone strikes there (Geo); and fighting continues in Orakzai (Daily Times). Pakistan’s army is moving in a "calculated fashion" toward operations in North Waziristan (Daily Times). Bonus read: as the pace of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has escalated, so has their accuracy (CNN).
The radio star
A private media company in Kabul has opened a radio station in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province (Pajhwok). It is the second community radio station in the area and aims to broadcast programs about culture, politics, and education.
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