Daily brief: Taliban threaten Afghan election
Operation Cooperation Nearly 5,000 troops — half U.S, half Afghan — began another phase of Operation Hamkari ("cooperation") to secure Zhari, an area just west of Kandahar City which the 101st Airborne Division battalion commander described in blunt terms last month: "Security sucks. Development? Nothing substantial. Information campaign? Nobody believes us. Governance? We’ve had one ...
Nearly 5,000 troops — half U.S, half Afghan — began another phase of Operation Hamkari ("cooperation") to secure Zhari, an area just west of Kandahar City which the 101st Airborne Division battalion commander described in blunt terms last month: "Security sucks. Development? Nothing substantial. Information campaign? Nobody believes us. Governance? We’ve had one hourlong visit by a government official in the last 2 1/2 months" (McClatchy, LAT). The British general who oversees NATO forces in the south, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, said coalition forces, moving slowly, had gone only "slightly further than we’ve gone before" (AP, AP). NATO has launched Taliban-clearing operations there before, in 2006 and 2007, and Taliban fighters trickled back in.
At yesterday’s anti-American protests in Kabul, as many as five people were reportedly shot by Afghan police, and at least 35 police officers and 15 civilians were injured in the violence (NYT, WSJ, LAT). ISAF commanders in Afghanistan are preparing plans to expand a pilot program of village-based police forces to other parts of the country, under the auspices of the Afghan Ministry of Interior (WSJ). Critics are worried that the Afghan Local Police Initiative, under which as many as 10,000 men will be given training and weapons, could pose a security threat without close oversight.
The Taliban and Afghan authorities are continuing to hold their positions about this Saturday’s parliamentary elections: the Taliban say they will derail the vote with violence, threaten voters, and encourage a boycott, and Afghan officials say, "The security is fine. We have taken care of the security" (AFP, AP, USAT). The U.N. has pulled a third of its international personnel from Kabul because of security concerns (Guardian). More than 1,000 of the country’s nearly 7,000 polling centers will be closed on election day, "effectively disenfranchis[ing]" 1.5 million Afghans, which could "deepen ethnic rivalries by creating electoral imbalances and accelerate a growing disengagement from the Afghan central government that has fed the Taliban’s resurgence" (Post).
Reuters reports that the former chairman and former chief executive of the struggling Kabul Bank, recently taken over by Afghanistan’s Central Bank because of suspected financial irregularities, were each paid $500,000 bonuses last year (Reuters).
The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari, met yesterday in Islamabad and pledged mutual cooperation and more intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism (NYT, Geo, Tolo, Pajhwok, AP, WSJ, ET). Karzai observed, "The reality is that they (the militants) must have a base somewhere. Those who are attacking us in Afghanistan and those who are attacking you in Pakistan don’t come from, say, the Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso or Brazil or any other place you can imagine."
A second drone strike yesterday reportedly targeted a house in Datta Khel in North Waziristan, bringing this month’s total number of strikes to 13 (Dawn, CSM, The News, CNN, AFP, Dawn). A strike earlier this week reportedly killed a first cousin of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a Taliban commander called Saifullah (AFP, Dawn). In the northwestern Pakistani city of Hangu, a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman claimed responsibility for the recent murder of a Pakistani journalist, who he said was biased toward the Pakistani military and ignoring the TTP’s viewpoints (Daily Times).
Flood watch: The IMF announced yesterday it would give Pakistan a $451 million loan in one installment for flood relief (AFP, Dawn). Visiting two relief camps in Sindh, Obama administration representative to the region Amb. Richard Holbrooke emphasized the U.S.’s aid to the flood victims, who now face threats from diseases like malaria (AP, Dawn, Independent). The NYT considers how the flooding has renewed old debates about water management along the Indus, and the Telegraph describes the recent furor in Pakistan over plans for a 900 million rupee ($10.5 million) statue
of Benazir Bhutto, with many arguing that the funds should be used for flood relief (NYT, Tel).
Five Kashmiri protesters were killed yesterday in fire from Indian forces, and six Indian security personnel were injured across the valley as demonstrations continue (AP, Daily Times, AJE). The Indian government has agreed to send a cross-party delegation to investigate the situation in Kashmir, possibly over the weekend, but did not reach a decision about possible changes to emergency powers laws that give Indian forces broad leeway to use force in Kashmir (PTI, Hindu, Hindustan Times). Separatist leaders dismissed the planned visit as a "public relations ploy" (AP).
An American agricultural adviser from Texas has organized a cattle roping competition in the Afghan town of Barak-i Barak on October 1 for some 50 Afghans and American soldiers (McClatchy). The winner of the contest, which will use a dummy steer, will receive custom made belt buckles.
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