The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: blowback from Wikileaks disclosures continues
Damage control U.S. officials are reportedly in damage control mode as they seek to limit the impact of the Wikileaks disclosures on the U.S.’s relationship with Pakistan, after Pakistani officials hotly objected to reports that the Pakistani spy service aids the Taliban (NYT, WSJ, AP, ET, Geo, FT, WSJ, McClatchy, Reuters). One senior ISI official ...
U.S. officials are reportedly in damage control mode as they seek to limit the impact of the Wikileaks disclosures on the U.S.’s relationship with Pakistan, after Pakistani officials hotly objected to reports that the Pakistani spy service aids the Taliban (NYT, WSJ, AP, ET, Geo, FT, WSJ, McClatchy, Reuters). One senior ISI official reportedly said that if the CIA does not "denounce the suggestions" of ISI-Taliban complicity, the ISI might need to "reexamine its cooperation" (Wash Post). Gen. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief frequently mentioned in the documents as a link with the Taliban, called the reports "completely baseless" (Times, WSJ).
Current and former intelligence and military officials are concerned about the operational repercussions of the Wikileaks, though the disclosures are not expected to affect the passage of a $60 billion war funding bill currently in the House or drastically change public opinion about the war in Afghanistan (AP, CNN, Wash Post, LAT). White House and Pentagon officials and analysts have emphasized that the documents contained few new revelations, did not generally contradict official assessments of the war, and consisted of mostly low-level material, unlike the Pentagon Papers, to which Wikileaks founder Julian Assange likened this disclosure (Wash Post, CNN, Wash Post).
The U.S. military is on the hunt for the Wikileaker, as some speculate that the Army specialist already awaiting trial for allegedly leaking information about the Iraq war to Wikileaks may be involved (Reuters, Tel, AJE). And Assange said yesterday that 15,000 more documents are currently being reviewed for possible release (Independent).
The AP reports on a video from Col. Imam, the former Pakistani spy kidnapped four months ago by a militant group he said is called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, in which the colonel threatened to reveal the Pakistani government’s "weaknesses" unless it releases the some 160 prisoners demanded by the militants holding him captive (AP). Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami is believed to be an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shiite militant organization that has increasingly targeted the Pakistani government. The group is also holding a British journalist, Asad Qureshi (The News).
The bodies of around 20 suspected militants have been found in Khyber in northwest Pakistan following Pakistani military operations there (Dawn). And Emily Wax has a must-read interview with the chief minister of Indian Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, a "third-generation scion of Kashmir’s most famous political family" (Wash Post).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials have alleged that 52 Afghan civilians were killed on Friday in the Rigi village of Sangin, a district in the southern province of Helmand, in a NATO airstrike, which the alliance disputes (NYT, AP, AFP, BBC, LAT, Bloomberg, CNN). If the Afghan government’s account is true, it would be the highest number of civilians killed since September 2009.
Justin McNeley, one of the two U.S. Navy personnel kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province last week, has been confirmed dead and his body recovered, after the Taliban claimed to have killed him because he resisted arrest (AP, LAT, Pajhwok, AJE, AFP). NATO has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the location of the surviving sailor, and the search continues.
U.S. authorities have arrested two U.S. former soldiers and suspended two Afghan trucking companies from doing business with the U.S. government for at least 18 months because of allegations that the companies helped the soldiers steal $1.6 million in fuel from a base in Logar (WSJ, AP). The two ex-soldiers, who were discharged, were allegedly caught with some $400,000 in cash and have been charged with conspiracy to commit theft of government property; authorities don’t know what happened to the stolen fuel.
Next: bin Laden doppelganger franchise
The actor who played Osama bin Laden in the political comedy Tere Bin Laden, Pradhuman Singh, is considering playing the terrorist leader again in the future, after the success of the satire (Hindustan Times). Singh commented, "I’ve gotten so used to being dressed as Laden…I had almost forgotten what I really look like."