The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: civilian casualties spike in Afghanistan
Taliban "justice" The U.N. released its semi-annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan today, finding that overall civilian casualties have spiked 31 percent after the first six months of 2010, with fully 76 percent of those casualties caused by the Taliban and only 12 percent caused by coalition forces, a nearly 30 percent drop (BBC, ...
The U.N. released its semi-annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan today, finding that overall civilian casualties have spiked 31 percent after the first six months of 2010, with fully 76 percent of those casualties caused by the Taliban and only 12 percent caused by coalition forces, a nearly 30 percent drop (BBC, Reuters, Guardian). 1,271 civilians were killed in the time period and another 1,997 injured. The drop in coalition-caused casualties stems from increased restrictions on airstrikes and the use of heavy weapons while the Taliban are using larger explosives and resorting in much greater numbers to assassinations, including public killings of women and children (NYT, Tel).
Reports differ as to her name and age, but news sources agree that the woman killed by the Taliban yesterday in the northwestern Badghis province for committing adultery was a widow and pregnant when she was flogged nearly 200 times and shot in public (CNN, VOA, AFP). The Taliban claim to have taken 21 Afghan soldiers hostage, and reportedly wish to exchange them for prisoners held by the government (WSJ). An Afghan prisoner attempting to escape this past weekend from a jail in Southern Afghanistan killed two Marines after somehow taking a rifle, before being shot dead (CNN, AFP). And five prominent human rights groups wrote a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange urging the organization to more comprehensively redact the names of Afghans from the documents on the Afghan war published by the group (WSJ).
The Taliban issued a communiqué responding to the most recent TIME Magazine cover showing a young woman, Bibi Aisha, disfigured reportedly by a Taliban court for wanting to leave her husband’s family (AFP). The communiqué’s author accused TIME of lying and wrote, "[a]s far as the story of Aisha is concerned, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has condemned this barbaric, inhumane and un-Islamic act and declares that this case has never been forwarded to any court or persons of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
And NPR has a feature on the changing dynamics of the international mission in Afghanistan as more U.S. troops pour in and other countries are scheduled to withdraw their forces (NPR).
Dirk Frans, the head of the International Assistance Mission (IAM) yesterday named the ten members of his organization’s team killed this weekend in the northeastern Badakhshan province, but said that the IAM would continue its operations in Afghanistan (Tel, NYT). Frans also confirmed that the team’s Afghan driver, who reportedly survived by quoting the Quran at his captors, is being held for questioning by Afghan authorities (LAT). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke condemned the attacks as the FBI joined the investigation of the killings, for which the Taliban have claimed credit (VOA, Wash Post).
Despite vows from other humanitarian aid groups to remain in Afghanistan, some question whether or not the killings — and more broadly the worsening security situation in once-peaceful parts of the country in the north and west — will dampen the Obama administration’s much-talked about "civilian surge" (NYT, TIME, NPR).
Rain, rain, rain
Monsoon rains caused by a "supercharged" jet stream continued to pound different parts of Pakistan with even more storms predicted for the next 24 hours, as U.N. officials declared the total number of people affected by flooding in the country to be more than the 2004 tsunami, Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake, and the Haiti earthquake combined (NYT, Tel, Guardian, Daily Times, Dawn). Rising waters continue to threaten dams in the Sindh province, where millions of residents have been evacuated but government aid seems sparse (Dawn, AP, ET). An International Monetary Fund spokesman said the flooding would cause "major harm" to Pakistan’s economy (Reuters).
The United States has drastically stepped up its aid to Pakistan, pledging up to $40 million for flood relief even as Pakistan requested more aid, especially the deployment of additional helicopters for rescue and aid missions, in overcoming the worsening conditions (Wash Post, CSM). Still they are fighting an uphill battle against resource availability and growing anger in Pakistan at the government’s response to the crisis, as charities linked to banned groups expand their aid operations (LAT). Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Karachi today from his much-criticized European trip (ET).
Zardari reportedly told the Associated Press last Friday that he would be willing to engage in talks with the Pakistani Taliban (AP). The Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a summit in Kabul to discuss security and counterterrorism policy (Daily Times). And the Sindh High Court moved to proclaim former President Pervez Musharraf a "proclaimed offender" after he failed to appear several times before the court to face charges against him (Dawn).
The smell of silver
A Lahore jewelery company has created what they claim to be the biggest silver ring ever made, weighing in at 71.6 kilograms (Daily Times). The creators of the ring, which they named "Fragrance of Love," have petitioned the Guinness Book of World Records for the ring’s inclusion.