Daily brief: Kabul Bank shareholders’ assets frozen
A violent weekend The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing yesterday morning on a police station in the northwestern Pakistani town of Lakki Marwat that killed up to 19 people, including nine policemen and four schoolchildren (AFP, AP, Dawn, Reuters, BBC, AJE, Guardian, Geo, WSJ, Tel). It is the third attack claimed ...
A violent weekend
A violent weekend
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing yesterday morning on a police station in the northwestern Pakistani town of Lakki Marwat that killed up to 19 people, including nine policemen and four schoolchildren (AFP, AP, Dawn, Reuters, BBC, AJE, Guardian, Geo, WSJ, Tel). It is the third attack claimed by the TTP in a week. The death toll from Friday’s bombing at a Shiite rally in Quetta has risen to 65, and the TTP has again threatened to attack targets in the U.S. and Europe in response to suspected U.S. drone strikes in northwest Pakistan (Post, ET, Daily Times, Reuters, AFP, Daily Times, Reuters). The group also threatened to attack "prominent politicians and important personalities" on Eid later this week, and to continue suicide attacks on security targets (The News, Dawn).
Four separate drone strikes were reported in the northwest tribal area of North Waziristan over the long weekend, bringing the total number of reported strikes under the Obama administration to 109 (CNN, Dawn, AP, BBC, Geo, Geo, AFP, AP, NAF). Elsewhere in the tribal regions, the Express Tribune reports that girls’ schools were blown up in the Swat Valley on Friday night, the first since the last major Pakistani military operation there ended more than a year ago, and on Monday near Peshawar (ET, Daily Times). And 14 alleged militants were killed in Kurram when explosives in their vehicle exploded and in clashes with Pakistani security forces (Geo).
Flood watch: As advancing floodwaters threaten two more towns in Pakistan’s Sindh province, the United Nations is preparing to ask member nations to give an amount that will be at least double its original request of $460 million for reconstruction aid — and many Pakistanis have chosen to stay in their hometowns rather than evacuate (Samaa, AP, AFP, AJE, LAT). More than three million Pakistanis have yet to receive food aid, and farmers are worried that they won’t be able to plant this season, meaning they will not be able to harvest until 2012 (AP, AP). An area the size of England was underwater at the peak of the flooding, and some 2,000 schools in Khyber-Puktunkhwa have been damaged by the floods and bombings (AP, Geo). Carlotta Gall has a must-read describing some of the long term political, social, and security implications of the flooding (
After about a week’s lull in violence, Indian security forces shot and killed three anti-India protesters yesterday in Palhalan, a village some 30 km north of the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, Srinagar (AP, Reuters, Hindu, The News, Hindustan Times). A little-known separatist leader, Masarat Alam Bhat, has reportedly used YouTube recruitment videos and locally-published ‘protest calendars’ to organize demonstrations in the valley, which he said will intensify after Eid (WSJ).
Worried Afghans continued queuing over the weekend at branches of the troubled privately owned Kabul Bank, and customers have reportedly withdrawn about 60 percent of the bank’s cash deposits, despite reassurances from the Central Bank chairman that the Afghan government will lend the Kabul Bank "as much as it wants" to keep it solvent (FT, AFP, AP, NYT, Post, NYT). In an effort to contain the crisis, Afghan authorities have reportedly barred the sale of properties in Kabul that are held by the principal owners of the Kabul Bank, and frozen their assets — excluding Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother, the third largest shareholder, who does not have property registered in his name (Post, NYT, Times, BBC, Reuters, BBC). The properties in Kabul are "rather insignificant compared with the luxury villas in Dubai, where shareholders hold far more lucrative investments directly linked to the losses from Kabul Bank" (NYT).
The Afghan government is reportedly preparing as much as $400 million to bail out the bank, and the U.S. is pressing for a thorough investigation of allegations of corruption (WSJ, WSJ). Treasury Department officials say that while U.S. officials are providing technical assistance to the Afghan government, "No American taxpayer funds will be used to support Kabul Bank" (AP).
A candidate for next weekend’s Afghan parliamentary elections was wounded in a grenade attack in Ghazni on Friday, and the Taliban in Afghanistan have threatened to disrupt election day, September 18, with attacks on polling places (AP, Reuters, AP). The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission has already reportedly received some 1,500 complaints of fraud; initial results from the contests should be available four days after election day, but final results might not be out until the end of October. The LA Times reports on the difficulties of being a female candidate for parliament, and the New York Times asks, "What if government corruption is more dangerous than the Taliban?" (LAT, NYT). Bonus read: why the West should care about Afghanistan’s fraudulent election (FP).
Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that he plans to announce the members of the High Peace Council, a group to seek peace talks with the insurgency, after Eid (AFP, AP, Tolo). The group will reportedly include former members of the Taliban and members of Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin. The NYT reports that of the $100 million earmarked by Congress for Taliban reintegration programs in Afghanistan, only $200,000 has been spent, and the "flow of Taliban fighters seeking to reintegrate has slowed to a trickle" (NYT).
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is reportedly seeking an additional 2,000 troops for the war effort, though it’s unclear whether the effort would bring U.S. troop levels above the extra 30,000 soldiers authorized by the Obama administration (CNN, Tel, Reuters). The general said yesterday that the plans of a small, anti-Islam evangelical church in Gainesville, FL to burn copies of the Quran on Septembe
r 11 "could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort" in Afghanistan, where protesters have already demonstrated in the capital (CNN, AFP, AP, AFP, BBC).
In the southern Afghan province of Helmand, U.S. Marines and British civilian advisers are reportedly at odds over the pace of reconstruction projects, military operations against the Taliban, and the acceptance of a former warlord who is now a police chief (Post). Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes, "The Americans contend that the British forces they replaced this spring were too complacent in dealing with the Taliban. The British maintain that the Americans are too aggressive and that they are compromising hard-fought security gains by pushing into irrelevant places and overextending themselves."
Earlier today, the chief of a district in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan was killed by the Taliban, according to Pajhwok (Pajhwok). A remote controlled motorcycle bomb killed four Afghan policemen and three civilians in the northern province of Kunduz on Saturday (AFP). In Kabul on Sunday night, Sayed Hamid Noori, a well-known Afghan journalist, was stabbed to death outside his home, prompting a police investigation (AP, Tolo). Bonus read: Afghanistan’s not-so-free press (FP).
Several more stories round out the weekend: some 600,000 street kids in Kabul face dangers from the insurgency, drugs, abuse, and gangs (Reuters); the Sunday Times of London reports that "at least five Iranian companies in Kabul are using their offices covertly to finance Taliban militants in provinces near the capital" (Times); Russia is "positioning itself for active reinvolvement in Afghanistan," where Russian engineers could help renovate infrastructure projects (Independent); and the Kajaki Dam remains a symbol of "initial success, current frustration and an uncertain future" of U.S. involvement in southern Afghanistan (LAT).
Afghan Judo chop!
Later this week, three Afghan judo athletes will participate in the 16th annual Judo World Cup in Tokyo (Tolo). The two female athletes are expected to do particularly well.
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