Daily brief: Petraeus assumes Afghanistan command
Crossfire Four Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan suicide bombers armed with rockets and car bombs attacked a Pakistani paramilitary base in the Lower Dir town of Timergarah on Sunday night, killing one Pakistani soldier and wounding around a dozen more (AFP, AP, BBC, Geo, Geo). In North Waziristan, Pakistani security forces reportedly killed a TTP commander with a ...
Four Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan suicide bombers armed with rockets and car bombs attacked a Pakistani paramilitary base in the Lower Dir town of Timergarah on Sunday night, killing one Pakistani soldier and wounding around a dozen more (AFP, AP, BBC, Geo, Geo). In North Waziristan, Pakistani security forces reportedly killed a TTP commander with a $234,000 bounty on his head, Ameerullah Mehsud, on Monday (ET, AFP, Geo, AP). Mehsud was said to be the TTP commander for the Waziristan towns of Makeen and Razmak. The NYT checks on the Pakistani military’s ongoing operations in the country’s tribal regions, observing, "While eliminating some Pakistani Taliban insurgents, the long campaign has dispersed many other fighters, forcing the Pakistani Army in effect to chase them from one part of the tribal areas to another" (NYT).
In a rare sign of cooperation between two main political parties in Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed late Saturday to hold a national conference to discuss ways to counter terrorism in the country (NYT, Dawn, ET, Daily Times, AP). The last national conference on terrorism, two years ago in Islamabad, fizzled out and "responsibility for tackling terrorism was handed to the Army" (NYT).
The Pakistan People’s Party has called on the government of Punjab, run by the Pakistan Muslim League-N, to crack down on militancy in the province; PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif called for the Pakistani government to negotiate with Taliban fighters who are "ready to talk and ready to listen," and yesterday the Pakistani government reiterated its willingness to talk with militants who will surrender (Daily Times, Reuters). Sharif, admitting that the policy he pursued as prime minister in the 1990s of supporting the ‘Afghan Taliban’ was a failure, said Pakistan should "abandon this thinking that Pakistan has to keep influence in Afghanistan" (AP).
Pakistani police have arrested half a dozen suspects in the May attack on the minority Ahmadi sect in Lahore that left at least 80 dead (Geo, AJE). Police across Punjab struggle with corruption, lack of equipment, limited information sharing from Pakistan’s intelligence services, and under-equipment, and Pakistani Barelvi clerics have accused some of Punjab’s top officials of having contacts with the Taliban (AP, BBC).
Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo have a must-read describing the "schizophrenic relationship" between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the ISI, which has run suspected double agents to collect information about how the CIA operates in Pakistan (AP). The AP also explores the "seeming contradiction" between al-Qaeda’s diminished strength and the "synergy of terrorist groups" that have shown "an expanding desire to kill Americans," in the words of Adm. Mike Mullen (AP).
Two people were killed earlier today in the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, Srinagar, when security forces shot at a crowd of people objecting to the death of another protester yesterday (AFP, BBC, PTI, ToI). Srinagar has been at the center of "furious separatist demonstrations" and curfews since June 11, when a teenager died from a police tear gas shell (AFP, Hindustan Times, CP). At least 13 civilians have been killed in the last month in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.
In it to win it
Gen. David Petraeus officially assumed command of the Afghan war on Sunday, stressing unity of effort and asserting that "We are in this to win" at a subdued ceremony in Kabul (AFP, LAT, WSJ, NYT, Wash Post, AP, Wash Post). Some Afghans are concerned that the rules of engagement laid down to protect civilians under Gen. Petraeus’s predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal may be changed (LAT). Gen. McChrystal is said to be "crushed" by his abrupt change in circumstances (NYT). Mark Landler takes a broader look at the relationship between the State Department and the Pentagon in light of Gen. McChrystal’s comments criticizing some of the civilian leadership in Afghanistan, writing that both sides may now "want to avoid a zero-sum game" and "the military and civilian sides need each other" (NYT).
Vice President Joe Biden, on a trip to Iraq, urged Afghan leaders to "get in the game" because "we’re not here forever" (AFP). And Sen. John McCain, who visited Kandahar yesterday, told a press conference in Kabul, "The Taliban know that Kandahar is the key to success or failure" (AP).
Dozens were killed in a three-day operation in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that reportedly broke up a militant drug ring, and nearly 40,000 pounds of narcotics were destroyed (CNN, BBC, AJE). The Telegraph describes the Helmand town of Sangin, where nearly a third of all British fatalities in Afghanistan have occurred, calling it a "harsh place with little room for forgiveness" and "the most dangerous spot in the country" (Tel). And the Kajaki Dam, a major hydroelectric power source in Helmand, might not be operational until 2014 because the materials needed to complete the project cannot be delivered because of security concerns (Tel).
An Afghan appeals court overturned the conviction of a British former Army officer who had been convicted of bribery and was serving a two-year sentence in Pul-e-Charki prison (BBC, CNN, Guardian, AFP). Bill Shaw, who maintained that he thought he was paying a legitimate fine to have two vehicles released from Afghan intelligence, is still reportedly in prison while legal formalities are completed.
In Kandahar, the U.S. has reportedly deployed its "heaviest troop presence" since 2001, and U.S. forces are building around a dozen checkpoints along the province’s main roads (FT). Some 600 members of the Afghan National Civil Order Police are staffing the new checkposts (AP). However, a host of ongoing problems — lack of trust between Afghan civilians and the Afghan government, and between U.S. forces and their Afghan counterparts, limited governance, corruption, Taliban attacks, little development — plague the Kandahar operations (LAT). The district chief of Logar province’s Barak-i-Barak reportedly survived a Taliban attempt on his life on Monday (Pajhwok).
Two more must-reads round out the holiday weekend: the LA Times reports that 79 drone crashes in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost at least $1 million each, though no lives are lost when the unmanned aerial vehicles malfunction (LAT); and the Post describes how members of the Obama administration’s civilian surge are trained, writing, "Finding civilians with the appropriate skills who were willing to leave home for a year or more of grueling days doing difficult work in a dangerous place, often while living in primitive conditions, has not been easy. Finding those civilians fast has been impossible" (Wash Post).
A badge and a burqa
Some 700 of Afghanistan’s 100,000 police officers are women, short of NATO’s goal of bringing on 5,000 female cops (Wash Post). All but five of the 23 female officers in Kandahar are widows, sole breadwinners for their families.
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