Daily brief: NATO pursues insurgents into Pakistan
Cross-border relations In rare cross-border incursions in the last few days, NATO Apache helicopters killed as many as 49 Haqqani network insurgents who had attacked a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan’s Khost province, right across the border from North Waziristan (AP, BBC, Geo, Dawn, Reuters). Though Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, U.S. ...
In rare cross-border incursions in the last few days, NATO Apache helicopters killed as many as 49 Haqqani network insurgents who had attacked a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan's Khost province, right across the border from North Waziristan (AP, BBC, Geo, Dawn, Reuters). Though Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, U.S. officials say they have an agreement that allows border crossing if troops are in hot pursuit of a target or are under attack.
Four suspected U.S. drone strikes were reported in North Waziristan in the last three days, killing around a dozen alleged militants (AFP, Dawn/AFP, AP; AP, BBC, CNN; AFP, BBC, ET, AP). September has seen more reported strikes -- at least 20 -- than any other month since 2004, following January 2010, which had 12 (NAF).
In rare cross-border incursions in the last few days, NATO Apache helicopters killed as many as 49 Haqqani network insurgents who had attacked a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan’s Khost province, right across the border from North Waziristan (AP, BBC, Geo, Dawn, Reuters). Though Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, U.S. officials say they have an agreement that allows border crossing if troops are in hot pursuit of a target or are under attack.
Four suspected U.S. drone strikes were reported in North Waziristan in the last three days, killing around a dozen alleged militants (AFP, Dawn/AFP, AP; AP, BBC, CNN; AFP, BBC, ET, AP). September has seen more reported strikes — at least 20 — than any other month since 2004, following January 2010, which had 12 (NAF).
Pakistan’s minister for defense production, Abdul Qayum Jatoi, was forced to resign over the weekend after accusing Pakistan’s Army of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Baluch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, criticizing the chief justice of Pakistan, and asserting, "There should be equality in corruption. All should be given their due share" (Samaa, Daily Times, ET, The News, ToI, Times, AP, AJE, Reuters). Earlier today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court considered whether to revoke Asif Ali Zardari’s presidential immunity from prosecution in corruption cases, and Pakistan’s prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has canceled a trip to Europe as rumors about a possible change of government swirl (WSJ, Reuters). Analysts say a military coup now is unlikely because the Pakistani Army would inherit the flood disaster (Reuters). The Supreme Court has given the government until October 13 to respond to open corruption probes (Reuters, ET, Dawn, Geo).
Flood watch: U.S. officials are reportedly making a push for American aid to Pakistan’s flood victims to be better branded with the USAID logo, as required; some groups are reluctant to advertise U.S. involvement, which could make them targets for anti-American Islamist militants (AP).
On Saturday India’s home minister, Palaniappan Chidamabaram, offered an eight-point plan that would release some 250 protesters who have bee
n jailed for throwing stones at Indian security forces, compensate the families of those killed in demonstrations, and reduce the number of security checkpoints in the valley (AJE, AFP, Reuters). Syed Ali Geelani, a hardline Kashmiri separatist leader, called the offer a "time gaining exercise…aimed to hoodwink the international community," and issued a ten-day protest calendar (AP, AFP, Hindu).
Operation Dragon Strike begins
Last week, coalition forces began a combat phase of anti-Taliban operations in Kandahar’s Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai districts, involving some 8,000 U.S. and Afghan troops in the first major offensive in Kandahar since Gen. David Petraeus assumed the Afghan command (NYT, Pajhwok, FT, LAT, ABC). In the eastern Afghan province of Laghman, NATO airstrikes reportedly killed some 70 Taliban insurgents, though local residents say many of the dead were civilians and staged protests in the provincial capital (NYT, Tolo, AP). Four aid workers — three Afghan men and one British woman — have been kidnapped in Kunar en route to a ceremony marking the opening of a USAID-funded canal in Narang district (Pajhwok, Tel, Times, AP, Guardian, NYT). The Taliban have denied involvement (Pajhwok).
Bob Woodward begins a three-part series of articles adapted from his new book on the Obama administration’s Afghanistan deliberations, describing the rift between Obama’s military and civilian advisers (Post). Obama’s Wars is being released today.
In the last six months, nearly 2,000 Afghan policemen and some 3,600 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in the insurgency (AFP, Tolo). Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. general in charge of training Afghanistan’s security forces, will ask allies today to contribute 1,000 more specialized trainers to help speed the development of the country’s police and army (WSJ). There are currently around 256,000 people in Afghanistan’s security forces, though planners expect to lose 83,000 in the next 13 months because of death and attrition. The Post reports that the latest figures from JIEDDO show that though the Taliban has planted 30 percent more roadside bombs this year, causing an increase in injuries, fewer coalition troops are dying from the attacks (Post).
A military tribunal begins today to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a court martial for a 22 year old Army Specialist from Wasilla, Alaska, Jeremy Morlock, who is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of three Afghan civilians earlier this year in Kandahar (Reuters, ABC, CNN, AJE, AFP). Four ot
hers have also been charged with murder, and seven more with attempting to block the investigation.
Afghan election authorities have called for a recount of ballots in parts of at least seven provinces, which is expected to rise as more results from the September 18 parliamentary election are examined (AP, Pajhwok). Nearly 60 percent of the complaints received so far are considered serious enough to affect the outcomes of electoral contests; no provinces have posted their results in full yet (NYT, AP). Candidates in Kandahar accused Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother and local strongman, of drawing up a list of winners before the election occurred.
The Southern District of New York has opened a criminal corruption probe into another Karzai brother, Mahmood, a U.S. citizen who owns four properties in the U.S., and is thus subject to U.S. tax laws (WSJ). Karzai has had at least $5.5 million in loans from the U.S. government to finance two housing developments in Kandahar, which he says have been repaid, and the prosecution may focus on any transactions related to those loans.
After taking it off the market last year, Afghan authorities have opened the Hajigak ore mine for tender and invited bids from international mining firms to develop the deposits in central Afghanistan, believed to hold up to two billion tons of high-grade iron ore, which is used in steel making (AFP, Reuters, Tolo). The minister for mines estimated that Hajigak could create as many as 7,000 long term jobs in the area, and thousands more in spinoff industries like construction and logistics.
Three more stories wrap up the weekend’s news: a NATO "red team" is tasked with rethinking how the alliance deals with Afghanistan’s pervasive corruption ("pick your battles;" "tackle what affects [Afghans] day-to-day first") (AP); the Karzai government is cracking down on freedom of the press in Afghanistan, shutting popular news sites and television stations (WSJ); and all three Afghan journalists who were detained by coalition troops or Afghan intelligence services have been released (NYT). Bonus read: Afghanistan’s not-so-free press (FP).
Cricketing in Kenya
After several days of training and playing friendlies in the UAE, Afghanistan’s cricket team has flown off to Kenya for a series of international matches (Pajhwok). The final of the tournament will be played in Dubai in December, and Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Scotland have already qualified.
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