Daily brief: nearly 100 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan killed in June
Tomorrow: Join Afghanistan experts Martine van Bijlert and Steve Coll at 10:15am EST at the New America Foundation for a discussion about Karzai, reconciliation, and the west’s strategy in Afghanistan — details here (NAF). Haqqanis in talks? Al Jazeera reported on Sunday that Karzai has met face-to-face with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani ...
Tomorrow: Join Afghanistan experts Martine van Bijlert and Steve Coll at 10:15am EST at the New America Foundation for a discussion about Karzai, reconciliation, and the west's strategy in Afghanistan -- details here (NAF).
Tomorrow: Join Afghanistan experts Martine van Bijlert and Steve Coll at 10:15am EST at the New America Foundation for a discussion about Karzai, reconciliation, and the west’s strategy in Afghanistan — details here (NAF).
Haqqanis in talks?
Al Jazeera reported on Sunday that Karzai has met face-to-face with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani insurgent network, the first report of contacts at such a high level, which was promptly denied by Karzai’s office and the Pakistani Army, which allegedly helped broker the talks (AJE). Analysts and officials are skeptical of the claim, and of the Pakistani Army’s willingness and/or ability to move against the North-Waziristan based militant group (AJE, Dawn, Guardian, Times). General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, and the head of Pakistan’s spy agency, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, are visiting Kabul for the day (ET).
CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC’s This Week yesterday during his first foray into the Sunday talk shows that there are "50 to 100, maybe less" al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, though said the agency has not had good intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden since the "early 2000s" while asserting that the terrorist leader is in the "tribal areas of Pakistan" (ABC, Reuters). Panetta, admitting that progress against the Taliban is "slower than I think anyone anticipated" and that the movement is "engaged in greater violence right now," maintained that operations have weakened the groups (ABC, LAT, AP, AFP, ABC).
Panetta also said that the CIA has seen "no firm intelligence" suggesting that the Haqqani network and some other insurgent groups are "truly interested" in reconciling with the Afghan government (WSJ, NYT, Wash Post). Afghan and NATO leaders are putting the pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to move faster on implementing a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters, to the concern of the country’s Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbek leaders (NYT, NYT).
The future looks bleak
Britain’s Independent reports that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan who was forced out last week after a damaging Rolling Stone magazine profile, issued a campaign overview earlier this month warning NATO defense ministers not to expect any progress in the next six months, stating concerns about Afghanistan’s "ineffective or discredited" government, Pakistani involvement, and a "divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines" (Independent). Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen held talks with Afghan and Pakistani officials to reassure them of the U.S.’s commitment to the mission, in spite of the personnel shakeup that has Gen. David Petraeus nominated to lead the Afghan war effort, and a NATO spokesman offered coalition support as well (AFP, NYT, AP). Gen. Petraeus’s confirmation hearing is tomorrow at 9:30am EST (SASC).
Greg Jaffe has a thoughtful read on the top military jobs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and CENTCOM, pointing out that three of the 12 commanders who have held these jobs have resigned or been forced out since 2001 (Wash Post). The Telegraph describes some of the challenges, both military and political, Gen. Petraeus faces in Afghanistan, the FT reports on how the campaign in Marjah is struggling, and the Post writes about the "long track record of powerful generals using reporters to stroke their outsize egos, then getting burned when the coverage doesn’t work out as they had planned" (Tel, FT, Wash Post).
Nearly 100 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan in June, bringing 2010’s total to 319, compared with 521 in 2009 (Reuters, AFP, AP). The previous deadliest month for the international coalition was August 2009, when 77 troops were killed.
Eyes peeled: over the next year, the New York Times will be following the deployment of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, based in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province (NYT).
In with the new
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has nominated seven more cabinet ministers, five of whom were just reportedly approved by the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament (AJE, AFP, WSJ, Pajhwok). Seven of Karzai’s 25 cabinet seats remain empty.
Matthew Rosenberg reports that more than $3 billion in cash has been declared and flown out of Kabul in the last three years, most of via the hawala system, writing that "More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide" (WSJ). Afghan and western authorities assess that $10 million a day is leaving Afghanistan. And the Post reports that high-level Karzai officials are blocking corruption investigations of well-connected Afghan businessmen and officials, while the G8 summit in Canada issued a communique on Saturday that gives Karzai five years to deliver political reforms (Wash Post, Times).
Josha Partlow profiles Kandahar’s understaffed Mirwais hospital, where some 8,000 surgical patients were treated last year and doctors don’t ask if an injured person is a civilian or Taliban (Wash Post).
Drones, explosions, and the media
A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes hit targets in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region of North Waziristan over the weekend, killing as many as ten (Geo, Daily Times, ET, AP, BBC, AFP, Daily Times, Guardian, Dawn). There have now been 44 reported drone strikes in 2010, compared with 53 in 2009 (NAF). Yesterday, Pakistan launched a process for resettling the 300,000 people who fled South Waziristan last fall ahead of a Pakistani military operation there (AP). And Karachi has seen nearly 300 targeted killings so far in 2010, roughly double that in 2009, while four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a militant ambush in Bajaur earlier today (AP, AFP).
At least 18 people were killed and 44 injured earlier this morning when a truck carrying chemicals in the southern Pakistani city of Hyderabad exploded after pressure built up in its storage tank (AP, ET, Geo, Dawn). Authorities have ruled out terrorism in the incident.
A pair of articles about Pakistani media are must-reads for the weekend; the Journal observes that in Pakistan, criticizing the unpopular Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari makes for good ratings and advertising revenue (Journal); and the Post writes that the U.S. embassy in Islamabad is hard at work issuing corrections of major errors in Pakistani reporting about U.S. foreign policy (Post).
And the AFP visits the Torkham checkpoint, the main border crossing on the Khyber Pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, calling it a "smuggler’s delight" (AFP).
The appeals process
As expected, the five young Americans convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in Pakistan and sentenced to 10 years in jail have appealed the verdict in Lahore’s high court (ET, Dawn, AP, AFP). The court is set to hear the appeal in several days; the men were arrested last fall in Sargodha, Pakistan and claimed they wanted to travel to Afghanistan to do humanitarian work.
Islamic schools for women
Pakistan’s chain of conservative Islamic schools for women, Al-Huda (Arabic for "guidance") is thriving, according to the AP, though it is criticized for promoting intolerance and gender segregation (AP). One estimate puts the number of women who have earned diplomas from the Al-Huda schools since 1994 at 15,000.
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