Daily brief: Afghan civilian deaths rising: rights group

Violence and insecurity The death toll from Friday’s suicide bombings on a meeting of tribal elders in Pakistan’s northwestern Mohmand tribal agency has risen to more than 100, thus becoming the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year (Geo, BBC, AP, NYT, Wash Post, Geo, Dawn). A local spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for ...

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Violence and insecurity

Violence and insecurity

The death toll from Friday’s suicide bombings on a meeting of tribal elders in Pakistan’s northwestern Mohmand tribal agency has risen to more than 100, thus becoming the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year (Geo, BBC, AP, NYT, Wash Post, Geo, Dawn). A local spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, and around two dozen prisoners including four insurgents reportedly escaped after the blasts damaged a local jail.

Eleven minority Shia tribesmen were shot and killed on Saturday while taking a security detour through Kabul on a trip between Kurram agency and Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (Dawn, BBC). Sunni militants linked to the ‘Afghan Taliban’ are the main suspects. Also over the weekend, a group of militants attacked a security checkpost in South Waziristan‘s Dwa Toi, sparking a gun battle that left as many as 32 militants and six security personnel dead (Dawn, CNN). And in Khyber, nearly 300 suspected militants have been arrested (Dawn).

Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt have today’s must-read describing how Pakistani distrust of the United States has slowed U.S. efforts to train Pakistani paramilitary soldiers in "how to shoot straight, how to administer battlefield first aid, and how to provide covering fire for advancing troops" (NYT). Nearly 250 troops graduated a 10 week basic training course recently from a center 20 miles from the Afghan border that was designed to train as many as 2,000 at a time. Sebastian Abbot reviews Pakistani counterinsurgency efforts to quell the 60 year old nationalist insurgency in Baluchistan, while Punjabi officials have ordered a vague "crackdown" on banned militant groups (AP, AFP).

Flashpoint

After Indian authorities lifted a curfew late Friday evening, thousands of Kashmiri separatists marched through Srinagar, leading to new clashes between the anti-India protesters and government forces, who reportedly used tear gas and batons to disperse the rock-throwing crowds (AFP, AP). The curfew, which had been lifted for Saturday to allow residents to celebrate a Muslim festival, was reimposed and lifted again on Sunday, and separatists have called for a strike to protest Indian rule (AP, AJE). Indian Army chief Gen. V. K. Singh told Indian television that the "basic reason" Kashmir has been "tense" for some time is that Indian authorities "have not been able to build on the gains that have been made" (NDTV, Hindu, The News).

Poison

Over the weekend, at least 14 Afghan policemen and a district governor were killed in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, some of whom were possibly poisoned beforehand, and in Badakhshan province (AP, AFP, NYT, The News). Several coalition service members and Afghan civilians were killed in roadside bombings over the weekend in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and a NATO spokesman told reporters, "We are taking the oxygen out of the insurgency" (AP, AJE, Reuters).

On Saturday, hundreds of Afghans in Mazar-e-Sharif protested against civilian deaths after a night raid north of the city killed two civilians (Reuters). And an Afghan rights group has assessed that 2010 has been the worst year since 2001 for violence in the country, with 61 percent of civilian deaths caused by the insurgency, compared with 30 percent by coalition forces (AP, AFP). 1,074 civilians were reportedly killed in the first six months of 2010, a slight increase over 2009 (BBC). The report is available here (ARM-pdf).

Afghanistan’s defense ministry announced earlier today than 80 percent of the roadside bombs in the country are made with ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, two ingredients in fertilizers that have been banned by the Kabul government (AFP). And insurgents in southern Afghanistan seem to be getting younger, with most fighters now between 14 and 18 years old, while the U.S. makes slow progress with tribal elders in Charbagh (Reuters, AP).

The art of diplomacy

At next week’s international conference in Kabul, Hamid Karzai reportedly plans to ask for at least 50 percent of the nearly $13 billion pledged to Afghanistan over the next five years to be channeled through the Afghan government, in spite of rampant corruption (Reuters). Kabul’s interior ministry has said security forces will "do their best" to prevent attacks during the two-day conference, but cannot guarantee that nothing will happen (Pajhwok).

Amb. Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to the region, is reportedly trying to move the process of removing up to 50 former Taliban officials from an official U.N. blacklist, a plan which has the support of Karzai but has met with resistance from the U.N., which seeks further proof that the men in question have renounced the insurgency (Wash Post). Karzai has again protested U.S. plans, now headed by Gen. David Petraeus, to expand the program of arming local villagers into anti-Taliban defense forces, out of wariness about creating a "force that will be viewed as a private militia" (Wash Post).

Members of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami insurgent group are reportedly providing occasional tipoffs about the Taliban in northern Afghanistan that have led to Taliban arrests in the past (Tel). Gulbuddin has denied any rifts between his group and the Taliban (Tolo).

Afghanistan’s security forces remain riddled with corruption, drug addiction, and Taliban infiltration, in addition to a flawed system for measuring their progress (Independent). Britain’s top general in Afghanistan adds to the voices calling for the policy of ‘courageous restraint’ to be reviewed (Tel). And Alissa Rubin considers how Afghanistan’s olive and orange groves have risen and fallen over the years (NYT). 

The goodness of your heart

A hotel cleaner in Pakistan’s Gilgit Serena Hotel at the foot of the Karakoram mountains returned some $50,000 left behind by a Japanese NGO worker, earning the praise of the governor of Punjab, who called him a "national hero" (Tel). Essa Khan received a reward of 10,000 rupees (£77, $120) for his trouble.

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