Daily brief: 4th drone strike in Pakistan in 24 hours kills 5
The air war Two more drone strikes have been reported in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, bringing the total number of strikes in the last 24 hours to four and strikes this month to eight (Geo, AP, AFP, CNN, Geo, AP). Two separate explosions have killed at least 13 people in Pakistan today: ...
The air war
The air war
Two more drone strikes have been reported in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, bringing the total number of strikes in the last 24 hours to four and strikes this month to eight (Geo, AP, AFP, CNN, Geo, AP). Two separate explosions have killed at least 13 people in Pakistan today: a remote-controlled roadside bomb in the tribal agency of Kurram killed at least ten Sunni Muslims in a reported sectarian attack, and an explosion outside the home of the provincial finance minister of Baluchistan left three dead (AP, Reuters, AFP, ET, Dawn, Geo).
Pakistan has banned five Baluchi militant organizations, and Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik promised "targeted operations" against the groups, though not on the scale of those in the Swat Valley last year (ET, Daily Times, Dawn, The News). Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps have been given policing powers in the province.
Pakistani authorities reportedly plan to bring charges against three "educated, relatively wealthy" Pakistanis suspected of having helped failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad meet with top Pakistani Taliban leaders in the tribal regions and sending him money (AP, LAT, Dawn, Samaa). The three have been held since early May.
Flood watch: Al Jazeera has today’s must-read describing how a growing number of Pakistanis in need of flood aid are complaining that minority groups like the Shia and Ahmadi communities are being discriminated against (AJE). Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani told the AP that the flooding has stretched Pakistan’s military thin and affected its ability to fight extremists in the tribal areas, particularly North Waziristan (AP).
Message from Mullah Omar
In a message to the United States distributed in four languages, leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan Mullah Omar asserted that the Taliban is winning and commented that U.S. leaders "have wasted hundreds of billion of dollars of your tax money in the shape of financial expenditures and your manpower in Afghanistan and have still been wasting them" (AJE, BBC, AP).
The "long-delayed push" by coalition forces in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar has begun "in fits and starts, and with mixed results," reports the NYT (NYT). In neighboring Helmand province, NATO has reportedly opened the first police station in Marjah, site of a major offensive this spring, with some 300 trained police officers (NYT). And the last brigade of U.S. soldiers ordered to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration’s 30,000-troop surge has assumed authority for a swath of Paktika in eastern Afghanistan (WSJ).
ABC News reports that a former employee of a company with contracts to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army has claimed that more than a quarter of translators failed their language exams and were deployed anyway (ABC). The Army is reportedly investigating the company. The Guardian reports on 12 U.S. soldiers who face charges for murdering or covering up the murders of three Afghan civilians who were allegedly "killed for sport" earlier this year (Guardian).
Hands off those anti-corruption agencies
Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly plans to limit the direct involvement of Western investigators in two anti-corruption organizations in the Af
ghan government, prompting one U.S. official to assess, "What he’s proposing would effectively neuter these two bodies" (Post). Afghanistan’s attorney general added that while Karzai supports the work of the anti-corruption groups, he wants them to be Afghan-led (AP).
In light of the ongoing crisis at the Kabul Bank, some Afghans are reportedly questioning whether Western-style banking is the right plan for Afghanistan, where the hawala system dominated for centuries (Post). Some five percent of Afghans have bank accounts, and depositors have withdrawn $300 million of Kabul Bank’s $500 million cash assets in the last week. The FT profiles the "high life" of Afghanistan’s elite in Dubai, and, according to Hamid Karzai’s brother and the third largest shareholder of the Kabul Bank, "When the Taliban took over, anyone with money moved away, mostly to Dubai" (FT). Mahmoud Karzai lives in a beachside villa in Dubai.
The UNODC reportedly plans to announce that opium poppy production in Afghanistan has fallen this year because of a disease in the crops, but that there are still enough stocks to keep heroin production in business (Reuters).
Nine years later
Today is the nine year anniversary of the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir," the legendary anti-Taliban rebel leader in Afghanistan (Tolo, MSNBC, Reuters). Afghan Army soldiers attended a memorial ceremony in Kabul last night — photos here (MSNBC).
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