Daily brief: Karzai calls for 2014 security handover
Target: 2014 As expected, at today’s international conference in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai affirmed his commitment to have Afghan security forces take the lead on military operations in Afghanistan by 2014, and asked the international community to channel 50 percent of its funding through the Afghan government within two years — compared with 20 ...
As expected, at today’s international conference in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai affirmed his commitment to have Afghan security forces take the lead on military operations in Afghanistan by 2014, and asked the international community to channel 50 percent of its funding through the Afghan government within two years — compared with 20 percent now (AP, AFP, NYT, Wash Post, BBC, Times, LAT, Pajhwok). The timeline, observes the NYT, is "nonbinding and essentially unenforceable," though it may help bolster domestic political support in countries where the Afghan war is increasingly unpopular (NYT). A draft of the conference communique is available here (NYT). Cheat sheet: the Kabul conference (AJE).
Kabul is on lockdown for the conference, with increased security at additional checkpoints, but several rockets fired at the Kabul airport caused the plane carrying U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt to be diverted to Bagram air base (AP, AJE, The Local).
Before the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Karzai met to discuss the security transition, reintegration of Taliban fighters, and corruption (AFP, Tolo, Wash Post, Pajhwok). Clinton also emphasized that the rights of Afghan women will not be forgotten amid discussions of Taliban reconciliation (AFP). The Guardian reports that the Obama administration is warming up to the idea of supporting the Karzai government’s negotiations with senior members of the Taliban through intermediaries, a policy to which it was previously "lukewarm" (Guardian). Indian sources remain concerned about negotiations with the Taliban (NDTV).
Afghans without power
The AP has a must-read describing the electricity shortage in Afghanistan, where only 10 percent of Afghans have access to electricity, up from 6 percent in 2001 (AP). Nearly 500,000 of the country’s 4.8 million households are connected to the national power grid, after some $1.6 billion spent on energy projects, and many rely on small, private-use diesel generators. Around a third of the Afghan population lives below the poverty line (Times).
And in the Arghandab river valley in southern Afghanistan, fighters trained outside of the country are proving deadly for the coalition (AP).
During her recent two-day visit to Islamabad, Hillary Clinton met with noticeably less hostility than she did during her October 2009 trip, though she still faced "substantial resistance" from a skeptical Pakistani public (NYT, WSJ, Wash Post). Clinton commented, "Of course there is a legacy of suspicion that we inherited. It is not going to be eliminated overnight."
The Pakistani Army has reportedly killed three suspected would-be suicide bombers as they attempted to enter a military firing range in Mardan, a city some 30 miles from Peshawar in northwest Pakistan (AP, Dawn). A member of the Baluchistan Nationalist Party has been shot and killed in Qilat town, after last week’s assassination of the party’s secretary general in Quetta (AP). Pakistan’s Express Tribune considers the use of prescription drugs for suicide bombers, and writes that since 2002, 248 suicide attacks have killed some 3,000 civilians and 2,500 military personnel in Pakistan (ET).
David Coleman Headley, the Chicago man who has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, has reportedly told Indian interrogators that all 10 of the attackers in the deadly 2008 Mumbai assault received training from Pakistani Navy "frogmen" — personnel trained to dive, swim, and fight (ToI, Hindustan Times, Bloomberg, PTI). Headley has also reportedly identified the voices of two Pakistani ISI officers believed to be in "constant contact" with the militants during the 60-hour attack.
Thousands of Indian security forces are patrolling the streets of Indian Kashmir in anticipation of more protests after police opened fire on the funeral procession of a man locals say drowned in a river in Baramulla after being chased by police over the weekend (CP, AFP, Hindu, ToI). One person was killed and 14 wounded in the firing on the funeral crowd, bringing the total number of Kashmiris killed since June to 17. Kashmiris have been using Facebook and other social networking sites to report on the events and upload videos, prompting Indian authorities to threaten to prosecute users they claim are instigating civil unrest by distributing inflammatory information (FT).
Unveiling the bad burqa puns
Noorain Khan writes, "Every time news about another hijab/niqab/burqa ban hits the press, editors rejoice: this is their chance to coin THE ultimate veil pun," and lists dozens of punny headlines including several "veiled threats" that "unveil the truth" about the headscarves (Jezebel). Controversy has shrouded the debate over the head coverings.
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