Daily brief: U.S. may indict Karzai brother

The diplomatic and military squeeze The U.S. and NATO are reportedly supporting efforts by the Afghan government to reconcile with some elements of the Taliban, with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying yesterday in Brussels, "Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, I think we ought to take advantage of that" (AP, Post, AJE, Tolo). ...

A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images
A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images
A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images

The diplomatic and military squeeze

The U.S. and NATO are reportedly supporting efforts by the Afghan government to reconcile with some elements of the Taliban, with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying yesterday in Brussels, "Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, I think we ought to take advantage of that" (AP, Post, AJE, Tolo). Airstrikes against Taliban fighters have "risen sharply" over the last four months, increasing nearly 50 percent over the same time last year, and Gen. David Petraeus has also reportedly upped Special Forces raids in "what appears to be an intensifying American effort...to break the military stalemate" in parallel with diplomatic efforts at reconciliation (NYT).

Gen. Petraeus also confirmed that NATO has allowed a "senior Taliban commander" to attend talks in Kabul (Reuters). A State Department spokesman said the U.S. does not see Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, as "qualifie[d] to play a constructive role in Afghanistan's future," and a Taliban spokesman insisted the group is not involved in any peace talks (AFP, AP).

The diplomatic and military squeeze

The U.S. and NATO are reportedly supporting efforts by the Afghan government to reconcile with some elements of the Taliban, with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying yesterday in Brussels, "Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, I think we ought to take advantage of that" (AP, Post, AJE, Tolo). Airstrikes against Taliban fighters have "risen sharply" over the last four months, increasing nearly 50 percent over the same time last year, and Gen. David Petraeus has also reportedly upped Special Forces raids in "what appears to be an intensifying American effort…to break the military stalemate" in parallel with diplomatic efforts at reconciliation (NYT).

Gen. Petraeus also confirmed that NATO has allowed a "senior Taliban commander" to attend talks in Kabul (Reuters). A State Department spokesman said the U.S. does not see Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, as "qualifie[d] to play a constructive role in Afghanistan’s future," and a Taliban spokesman insisted the group is not involved in any peace talks (AFP, AP).

The Post reports that federal prosecutors are considering indicting Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s older brother Mahmoud, a U.S. citizen who used to live in Maryland, on tax evasion charges related to the sale of a Dubai villa in 2008 (Post). Mahmoud commented, "I know myself. I’m very clean."

Eight NATO troops were killed in five separate attacks yesterday across Afghanistan, and three were killed earlier today, bringing the three day total to 17 (AP, Reuters, LAT, AP). 2010 has been the deadliest year since 2001 for the alliance, with more than 585 foreign troops killed this year compared with 521 last year. The new Dutch prime minister said recently that his government would consider a NATO request to send police training forces to Afghanistan "as soon as possible" (FT). The Dutch pulled out of Uruzgan province in August.

Supply lines attacked again

Earlier this morning, militants armed with petrol bombs and assault rifles attacked a two-truck NATO convoy en route to the border crossing in Khyber, destroying the first truck and killing the driver and his assistant (CNN, AP, ET, RFE/RL). Farther south in the tribal areas, a suspected U.S. drone strike killed a handful of alleged militants outside Mir Ali in North Waziristan (AP, ET, Dawn).

A video of the Awami National Party-aligned academic Ajmal Khan, who was kidnapped by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in early September, has been released and shows the professor calling for the government to negotiate with the group for his release because he is a "heart patient and cannot live here any longer" (ET, AFP). One ANP and five MQM activists have been killed in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi over the last few days (Daily Times, Dawn, The News).

During meetings in Washington next week, Pakistani officials will reportedly raise their demand for a civilian nuclear deal with the U.S., like the one the U.S. has with India, which the U.S. is likely to deny (WSJ). Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, has reiterated his support for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts and said he expects a Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan, which he called the "epicenter of terrorism" (WSJ).

Flood watch: The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan," a group of international donors, is meeting today in Brussels to discuss Pakistan’s flood relief efforts (Dawn, AFP, Bloomberg). The World Bank said yesterday that damage from the floods is estimated at $9.7 billion, and Pakistan has received $1.5 billion in relief aid so far (WSJ).

The pomegranate beat

Afghanistan has exported 50 tons of pomegranates to India via Pakistan’s Waga harbor, officials say (Tolo). Afghanistan’s chamber of commerce and industries said India is the best market for Afghan agricultural products. 

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