The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: dust settles on McChrystal firing

The dust settles Senior Obama administration officials have been quick to offer their support for Barack Obama’s decision to fire top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal over comments in a Rolling Stone profile, and for the continuity of the president’s strategy in Afghanistan (NYT, WSJ, AFPS, AFP, Reuters, AP, AJE, CNN). Defense Secretary Robert ...

Astrid Riecken/Getty Images
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

The dust settles

Senior Obama administration officials have been quick to offer their support for Barack Obama’s decision to fire top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal over comments in a Rolling Stone profile, and for the continuity of the president’s strategy in Afghanistan (NYT, WSJ, AFPS, AFP, Reuters, AP, AJE, CNN). Defense Secretary Robert Gates assessed that the U.S. is not "bogged down" in Afghanistan, though it is "slower and harder than we anticipated," and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen said he felt "nearly sick" when he first read the magazine article. The lengthy transcript of the Gates/Mullen press briefing is available here (DoD). Adm. Mullen is headed to Afghanistan and Pakistan today to assure leaders there of the mission’s continuity, and both Obama and Gen. Petraeus yesterday reiterated their support for the planned July 2011 beginning of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan (CNN, Guardian, AFP).

Obama said there will be no additional changes in the top leadership in Afghanistan, though speculation about the fate of Amb. Richard Holbrooke, special representative to the region, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Amb. Karl Eikenberry, and Gen. McChrystal’s top staff in Kabul continues (Wash Post, NYT, NYT, LAT, AP, WSJ). The Journal reports that some Afghans are nervous about the incoming commander in the Afghan war, Gen. David Petraeus, who they say "will need time to understand Afghanistan" (WSJ). And the NYT sees the voices of Gen. Petraeus and Vice President Joe Biden "loom[ing] large in the coming months," though predicts that "any public showdown between the general and the vice president is likely to wait until the end of the year" (NYT). Bonus read: Peter Bergen’s take on Gen. Petraeus’s task (CNN).

Gen. Petraeus could assume command in Kabul as soon as next week, following the Senate’s confirmation, and faces a "tough path" in Afghanistan, as the FT writes, in part because his "theory for fighting insurgencies hinges on the assumption that the host government is capable or reform" (FT). And the town of Marjah, in Helmand province, now serves as a "cautionary tale" rather than the "showpiece" it was hoped to be (LAT). Gen. Petraeus may also reportedly review the doctrine of ‘courageous restraint,’ which has proven controversial (Tel). 

The author of the Rolling Stone piece, Michael Hastings, tells the Times of London that though he was surprised by the access he was given to Gen. McChrystal and his team, he thought the general was "unfireable" (Times). Hastings commented, "I think he had been protected by other profile writers in the past, who wanted access. I am not an access journalist. That’s not my style."

Seeking alternatives

The New York Times has today’s must-read describing how Pakistan is presenting itself as "the new viable partner" for Afghanistan, claiming it can deliver the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani insurgent network into a power-sharing agreement, and offering to broker a deal with the Taliban’s leadership (NYT). In the past, Pakistan has reportedly used the Haqqani network to strike Indian interests in Afghanistan, and the group has also attacked U.S. targets, "a possible signal from the Pakistanis to the Americans that it is in their interest, too, to embrace a deal."

The CIA has reportedly hired the company formerly known as Blackwater for a $100 million contract to provide security for its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere (AFP, Wash Post). Two other security contractors put in losing bids. And the bodies of 11 men, some of whom were beheaded, have been found in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, and a local police chief said they were killed because the Taliban claimed they were working and spying for the Afghan government (AP, Pajhwok).

Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines, Wahid Shahrani, is in London to drum up investors for Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth and claimed that within a decade Afghanistan could be self-sufficient (BBC). Poland’s acting president and likely victor in the country’s next presidential election in July said Poland should pull its 2,500 troops out of Ghazni province, south of Kabul, in 2012, while the domestic debate over Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan remains heated (FT, WSJ, AP, LAT).

Red alert

Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, is on high alert today after intelligence officials received reports of potential terrorist attacks in the city (ET). Yet another key Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander from Pakistan’s Swat Valley has been arrested in Karachi, where clashes between rival gangs continue (Geo, ET). And Pakistan’s and India’s interior ministers are meeting in Islamabad as part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation conference to discuss terrorism and militancy (ET, NDTV, Reuters, Daily Times, Hindustan Times, Daily Times).

Amb. Holbrooke is making the rounds in Pakistan and yesterday met with Pakistan’s Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Geo). And Britain’s new foreign secretary, William Hague, visited Karachi’s stock exchange yesterday and discussed the British government’s plan to invest some 665 million pounds in Pakistan (Dawn, ET).

Blood drive

Hundreds of young Afghans have donated blood during a blood drive in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province (Pajhwok). The governor of the province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, is also registered to donate.

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