The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Gen. McChrystal recalled to Washington

Event notice: join journalist Stephen Grey and Peter Bergen tomorrow at 4:00pm EST for a campaign assessment of Helmand and Kandahar — details and RSVP available here (NAF). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Grey’s assessment of the British campaign in Helmand ("Anatomy of a disaster"), and the British government’s response ("Hope in Helmand") (FP, FP). Say ...


Event notice: join journalist Stephen Grey and Peter Bergen tomorrow at 4:00pm EST for a campaign assessment of Helmand and Kandahar — details and RSVP available here (NAF). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Grey’s assessment of the British campaign in Helmand ("Anatomy of a disaster"), and the British government’s response ("Hope in Helmand") (FP, FP).

Say what?

Late last night, the story broke that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocked White House officials in a Rolling Stone profile to hit newsstands Friday (AP, Reuters, AFP, Fox). The notable quotes: Gen. McChrystal was reportedly "disappointed" at his "10-minute photo op" with U.S. President Barack Obama last year, according to an aide; the general joked, "Are you asking about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?" when preparing to answer a question about the vice president; commented that he found last fall "painful" because he was "trying to sell an unsellable position;" and reportedly felt "betrayed" by Amb. Karl Eikenberry, who Gen. McChrystal accused of "cover[ing] his flank for the history books" in criticizing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Aides variously called national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985," Amb. Richard Holbrooke a "wounded animal" who is "hearing rumors he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous," and on Vice President Joe Biden, commented, "Biden? Did you say ‘bite me’?" (Fox, Wash Post).

The reaction was immediate; Gen. McChrystal reportedly received unhappy phone calls from the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and is being summoned to Washington to explain his comments in person at tomorrow’s monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan (Atlantic, BBC, AJE, Politico, AP). Gen. McChrystal released a statement extending his "sincerest apology" for the profile, which he calls "a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened" (NYT, AFP, FP, CNN). A McChrystal press aide has reportedly been fired over the incident, and Gen. McChrystal has reportedly been calling nearly every figure mentioned in the article to apologize personally (CNN, ABC).

The read: the Rolling Stone story here (RS).

A rough day

The profile of Gen. McChrystal comes as the top British envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles is taking "extended leave" from his post amid reports that he believed the "military-driven counterinsurgency effort was headed for failure" (Guardian, AFP, Wash Post). And ten NATO troops were killed across Afghanistan yesterday in a helicopter crash and attacks, the second time this month that many service members have died in a single day (AFP, LAT, WSJ). In an extremely rare case of insurgents using a woman in attacks, a female suicide bomber was reportedly behind a suicide bombing yesterday in Afghanistan’s Kunar province that left two foreign troops and 18 locals dead (Reuters).

Amb. Holbrooke, en route to Marjah with Amb. Karl Eikenberry, was reportedly met with apparent gunfire, and in Kunduz, the head of the public health department was just killed by a bomb under the stairwell to his private clinic, along with a number of patients (FT, ABC, AP, Pajhwok). On the positive side, NATO and Afghan forces reportedly captured the Taliban’s recently appointed finance chief of northern Baghlan province in Helmand last night (ISAF, AP). 

Yesterday, a House subcommittee released the results of a six-month investigation finding that the U.S. military — and thus U.S. taxpayers — are inadvertently funding Afghan insurgents, corrupt public officials, and warlords who reportedly receive "tens of millions of dollars" in safe passage fees for use of Afghanistan’s roads (NYT, Wash Post, CNN, McClatchy). The report, "Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan," is available here (Wash Post).

Two more stories round out the day in Afghanistan news: the Journal considers the role of local infrastructure in building up governance — "fruit nurseries," civil servants, and power supplies — in the southern province of Kandahar (WSJ); and McClatchy looks ahead to this September’s scheduled parliamentary elections (McClatchy).

The full force of the law

The other big news yesterday is failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad’s guilty plea to all ten charges against him, several of which carry mandatory life sentences (NYT, Geo, AP, Independent, WSJ, AJE). Shahzad, a 30 year old U.S. citizen with two children, was unapologetic despite his cooperation with authorities, commenting in the Manhattan court that "I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over, because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that." The Journal has court transcripts from the hearing, and Shahzad’s sentencing is set for October 5 (WSJ-pdf, NYT).

Unaccounted for

Pakistani security forces have detained a German man wearing a burka at a checkpoint in Bannu district in northwest Pakistan on suspicion of involvement with militancy (BBC, AP). About 40 of the Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers who went missing last week near the Afghan border after their checkpoint was attacked by militants are still unaccounted for, and a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman has offered to return them in exchange for an unspecified number of the militant group’s "colleagues" (AFP, BBC, Dawn). A "key" TTP commander has been arrested in Karachi, and TNSM chief Sufi Muhammad may be back in court this summer after being arrested with nine aides last July (Dawn, APP).

The Post reports that Pakistan remains "deeply ambivalent" about combating Sunni extremism in Punjab province, the heartland of Pakistan (Wash Post). Bonus read: the Punjab government’s "mind-boggling" support for Jamaat-ud-Dawa (FP).

Backwards bribes

A Kabul-based artist has taken to the streets of the Afghan capital to offer ‘reverse bribes’ to Afghans crossing his makeshift checkpoint in return for "bribes or tips" drivers may have paid in the past to corrupt officials (McClatchy). The Jacksonville, FL native Aman Mojadidi has turned his experience into a documentary called "Payback."

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