Daily brief: Zardari: flood recovery will take years
The falling of the rain As flood waters inundated dozens more villages in Pakistan’s Sindh province, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his government’s response to the flooding, saying that the criticism over his trip to Europe is actually a sign of how much he is "wanted" at home (Geo, Dawn, ET, AP, Tel, Independent, ...
The falling of the rain
The falling of the rain
As flood waters inundated dozens more villages in Pakistan’s Sindh province, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his government’s response to the flooding, saying that the criticism over his trip to Europe is actually a sign of how much he is "wanted" at home (Geo, Dawn, ET, AP, Tel, Independent, Guardian, AP, McClatchy). Zardari also said recovery from the flooding will take at least three years. The Pakistani government has reportedly decided to issue three-month "relief work" visas to foreign aid workers, with the exception of Indians and Israelis (The News, Hindu). The government announced that it will give 20,000 rupees ($230) to every family affected by the floods, and a Pakistani official said that this week’s full moon could increase the risk of more flooding in Sindh (AP, AFP).
Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is set to hold talks today with senior doctors, health ministry officials, U.N. representatives, and NGOs to discuss the health implications of the flooding, which has put millions at risk for diseases like cholera (BBC, AP). Talks are underway between Pakistan and the IMF as Pakistan seeks to loosen the terms of the $11.3 billion lending program (FT). The BBC is featuring a map of areas affected by the floods, and the Post observes how $18 billion in U.S. civilian and military aid to Pakistan over nine years has not led to increased U.S. popularity there (BBC, Post).
The brother of a national assembly member and senior leader in the Awami National Party, the secular Pashtun nationalist group, was killed in Karachi by unknown gunmen yesterday (Dawn, Daily Times, ET, The News). In addition to yesterday’s attacks in Kurram and South Waziristan, a bomb in a cart exploded on the outskirts of Peshawar, killing the leader of a local anti-Taliban militia and two others, and wounding three children (AJE, Geo, LAT). In the northern tribal area of Bajaur, one Pakistani paramilitary soldier was killed when dozens of militants reportedly attacked security checkposts in the area yesterday (Daily Times).
The 53rd reported drone strike this year killed as many as 20 people, including up to seven civilians, and fighters in the Afghan Taliban and/or Haqqani network yesterday just outside the main town of North Waziristan (Reuters, Geo, Dawn/AFP, CNN, AJE, Daily Times, AP). There have now been as many drone strikes reported so far in 2010 as there were in 2009 (NAF).
The high-wire act
The commanding general of NATO’s training mission for Afghan security forces Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV said yesterday that Afghanistan’s police and army forces won’t reach their full capacity until October 2011, three months after the Obama administration’s scheduled deadline for the start of U.S. withdrawal, because of ongoing problems with illiteracy, desertion, and resignations (NYT, AP, AFP, Times, Reuters). The recruitment goals for the Afghan Army and police by October 2011 are 171,600 and 134,000 respectively; currently there are 134,000 members of the army and 115,500 police officers.
Siobhan Gorman has today’s must-read examining how the CIA’s station chief in Kabul, a former Marine in his 50s known by his nickname of "Spider," is playing the role of "security blanket" to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to one of Spider’s former colleagues (WSJ). The relationship between Karzai and the station chief dates to before the start of the Afghan war, and in December 2001, the chief reportedly saved Karzai’s life by shielding him from an accidental bomb drop on a meeting with other tribal leaders.
An Afghan official blamed the U.S. and foreign contractors for Afghanistan’s endemic corruption, saying they have created an "economic mafia" and calling on the international community to work with the Afghan government to address graft (NYT, Wash Post). The two Western-backed anti-corruption agencies in Afghanistan have not taken any action against Karzai’s family, despite widespread allegations of its involvement in corruption.
Tear down or move these walls
Afghan officials and residents of the district of Tala Wabarfak in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan have accused NATO of killing as many as eight civilians during an early morning raid (NYT, AFP, Pajhwok, AP). Heavy fighting has been reported in Nimroz and Uruzgan, and coalition forces reportedly killed up to 40 Taliban fighters east of Kabul (AP). In Nangarhar, a bomb reportedly targeting a district police chief injured six (Pajhwok). In spite of ongoing insecurity, Karzai ordered the 10 foot tall blast walls that encircle various government buildings, embassies, banks, and other potential targets in the Afghan capital to be taken down or moved, in order to improve traffic flow in the city (AP).
The Post reports that a militant campaign of violence and intimidation ahead of next month’s Afghan parliamentary elections is cowing candidates and voters alike, with authorities announcing that 938 of the country’s 6,835 polling centers will be closed on voting day, September 18, because of security concerns (Post). "I’m not going to vote. I can’t risk my life for nothing," a shopkeeper in Kandahar told the AP (AP).
Museum of Afghan Archaeology
Archaeologists have found as many as 42 artifacts from Buddhist temples, some dating back to the second century, while excavating near Aynak in central Logar, where China is mining copper ore (Pajhwok). The finds include coins, statues, frescoes, and beads.
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