The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Iran joins Afghanistan meeting
For the first time For the first time, Iran sent a representative to a meeting of the U.S. and NATO-dominated International Contact Group on Afghanistan, which convened yesterday in Rome and discussed coalition military and political strategy (NYT, Post, Tel, FT, Tolo, Reuters). The Iranian delegate, Mohammed Ali Qanezadeh, is the director of Asian affairs ...
For the first time
For the first time, Iran sent a representative to a meeting of the U.S. and NATO-dominated International Contact Group on Afghanistan, which convened yesterday in Rome and discussed coalition military and political strategy (NYT, Post, Tel, FT, Tolo, Reuters). The Iranian delegate, Mohammed Ali Qanezadeh, is the director of Asian affairs at Iran’s foreign ministry, and also attended an in-depth PowerPoint briefing by top Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus, on NATO’s strategy for transitioning control to Afghan forces. Bonus read: Behind the Lines on Iran in Afghanistan and Pakistan (FP).
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission is expected to release preliminary results from the September 18 parliamentary contests tomorrow, with final results due in early November (WSJ, LAT). Ballots from around 10 percent of the country’s voting centers have been thrown out because of complaints of fraud, and the number of disqualified ballots could be more than a million. And the Afghan government has reportedly decided to audit all of the country’s private banks, after a corruption scandal nearly brought down the Kabul Bank (AFP).
As coalition forces focus on southern Afghanistan, the Taliban are making inroads in the north, where they have reportedly set up parallel local administrations and courts (WSJ). A NATO spokesman said yesterday that while the coalition is "chok[ing] insurgent supply routes in some parts of Afghanistan," Taliban fighters have adapted and are seeking to supplement their reduced resources by "expanding illicit taxation" of Afghan villagers (AP). And in Marjah, the southern Afghan town that was the site of a major coalition offensive earlier this year, one soldier described the insurgency by observing, "It’s like fighting ghosts. They’re in and they’re out. They’re quick. They’ve been doing this a long time … (and) they’re good at it" (AP).
The spy agency involved
Indian government documents about the interrogation of David Coleman Headley reportedly show that Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI was "heavily involved" in preparations for the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, though they also suggest that ISI supervision of the militants was "often chaotic" (Guardian). At one Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp, Headley reportedly said he received instruction from a member of the Pakistani Army, and claimed that every "major official within the group had a handler" from the ISI (AP). The sole surviving gunman in the Mumbai attacks spat on a camera and argued with prison officials earlier today during a hearing appealing his death sentence (PTI, AFP).
Pakistan’s election commission has suspended more than 140 lawmakers for failing to disclose their assets, including several ministers (Dawn, AP, AJE). Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said yesterday that he believes Iran doesn’t have a "justification to go nuclear" (AFP). Qureshi will be leading a delegation of Pakistani officials coming to Washington for meetings with the Obama administration this week, and the NYT has a look-ahead (NYT). CNN reports that the U.S. is expected to announce a $2 billion, five-year aid package to Pakistan aimed at bolstering the country’s fight against militants (CNN). The funding comes in addition to the $7.5 billion, five-year Kerry-Lugar bill and military aid.
Targeted killings continue in Karachi, with 14 people killed since yesterday (ET, Daily Times, Dawn, AP). Pakistani authorities have arrested dozens of suspects in connection with the recent uptick in violence. For the second time in 24 hours, gunmen on motorbikes in Baluchistan attacked vehicles carrying NATO supplies for the war in Afghanistan, damaging two tankers (AFP). And in North Waziristan, a suspected U.S. drone strike killed at least five (AFP, AP, ET, CNN).
Flood watch: The U.N. announced earlier today that at least seven million people are still lacking shelter in the aftermath of the summer’s flooding (AFP). Nearly two million homes have been damaged and destroyed.
Masarat Alam, a hardline separatist leader who is the general secretary of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and aide to Syed Ali Geelani, was arrested yesterday by police in Indian-administered Kashmir, and authorities have imposed a curfew in four districts of the valley in anticipation of possible protests (HT, ToI, AFP, CNN, BBC). Alam has been evading capture since he began the "Quit Kashmir" campaign in June that set off protests and curfews, some of which led to clashes with security forces in which more than 100 people have died.
The Afghan Wright Brother
A 10th grader from Ghazni has made what is called Afghanistan’s first homemade plane is waiting for government permission and a technical inspection to fly it (Pajhwok). The two-seater, three-wheeled aircraft can fly about 20 kilometers, according to the teenage pilot, Sabir Shah.