The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Karzai confirms “bags of money” received from Iran
The presidential slush fund On Saturday, the NYT reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, receives a "steady stream of Iranian cash intended to buy [his] loyalty and promote Iran’s interests in the presidential palace," and earlier today Karzai insisted the funds were "transparent" and "to help the expenses" of running ...
The presidential slush fund
On Saturday, the NYT reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, receives a "steady stream of Iranian cash intended to buy [his] loyalty and promote Iran’s interests in the presidential palace," and earlier today Karzai insisted the funds were "transparent" and "to help the expenses" of running the president’s office (NYT, AFP, BBC). Karzai said Iran delivers between five hundred and seven hundred thousand euros "once or twice a year."
Karzai is standing by his decree that private security firms in Afghanistan be dissolved by the end of the year, though he asked international representatives to provide a list of large development projects that require protection (CNN, AP, AFP, AJE). A Western official called the list idea a "non-starter," and a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, who said Afghan forces are capable of protecting aid projects for a fee, asked, "Why not have the money paid to private security companies go to the ministry of interior?" (WSJ). Private protection for diplomats and military bases will be allowed to continue.
AFP reports that 600 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year, compared with 2009’s total of 521 (AFP).
Diplomats and observers continue to assert that there is "less than meets the eye" about recent media reporting over talks between the Afghan government and members of the Taliban insurgency (Guardian, CNN). Pakistani security officials, however, are reportedly frustrated that Karzai has not included them in recent overtures (Post). One senior Pakistani intelligence official warned, "If somebody is trying to keep us out and is striving for sustainable peace, good luck to them." Warlords in northern Afghanistan, reportedly concerned about a Taliban return to power in Kabul, are said to be preparing to rearm their old militias (Tel).
Four Taliban militants wearing burqas or Afghan police uniforms stormed a United Nations compound in the western province of Herat on Saturday, killing three security guards but no U.N. staff (WSJ, AP, Reuters, LAT, Times, Pajhwok, Post, AFP, Pajhwok). The U.N. will reportedly relocate until its offices are repaired but said its operations in Herat will be unaffected.
Joshua Partlow has today’s must-read describing increased operations in the northern Afghan province of Badghis (Post). The Independent profiles the "Sons of Shura" program in Afghanistan, officially called the Afghan Local Police, designed to enlist former Taliban fighters and other armed groups to provide community security (Independent).
Military operations in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar will reportedly last until the end of the year, and a top Afghan border police official said the recent offensive has been a success (Pajhwok, Tolo). The Telegraph reports that Karim Jan, the district governor of Zhari, and American officers there have been frustrated with locals’ "reluctance to turn in or drive out" the Taliban, and Jan is said to have told residents, "If I see anybody supporting those bastards, giving them food or water, I’m going to arrest everyone in the whole town" (Tel). Joao Silva, a photographer for the New York Times, was severely wounded on Saturday after he stepped on a mine in Kandahar’s Arghandab district while on patrol with U.S. troops there (NYT, Pajhwok, Post). In neighboring Helmand, a NATO airstrike may have killed up to 25 people, though NATO said the strike killed 15 insurgents (AP, Reuters, AP). And in Khost, three were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint earlier today (Tolo).
Inside Pakistan’s tribal areas
The U.S. is reportedly pressing Pakistan to allow more CIA personnel into the country to help target militants in the northwest, requests which Pakistan has so far denied (WSJ). While the Obama administration has focused on persuading Pakistan to mount operations in the northwest tribal agency of North Waziristan, officials reportedly say there is a need for Pakistani operations in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan where the Taliban is said to be headquartered. The Pakistani government, which says it will determine the timeline of any North Waziristan operations, claims there are more than 34,000 troops already there (ET). Some 10,000 foreign militants are believed to be in North Waziristan (AP).
The local Taliban council in Miram Shah, the largest town in North Waziristan, issued a pamphlet on Sunday stating that it will seek refuge in Afghanistan if the Pakistani military begins an operation there (Dawn). And on Saturday in Mir Ali, another town in North Waziristan, local residents staged a protest against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, demanding their removal from the region (CNN). Bonus read: public opinion in Pakistan’s tribal regions, by agency (PakistanSurvey.org).
The AP profiles the current state of South Waziristan, where the Pakistani military launched a major offensive a year ago (AP). Dozens of alleged militants were killed in clashes with Pakistani security forces in the tribal areas of Kurram, Orakzai, and Swat over the weekend, and a former bodyguard of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud has reportedly been arrested in Orakzai (AP, Daily Times, Dawn, CNN). In Bajaur, militants blew up another government-run school, bringing the total number of educational institutions destroyed in the last three years to 100 (The News).
In the eastern Pakistani city of Pak Pattan, a bicycle bomb detonated at the gate of the Sufi shrine to Baba Farid Shakar Ganj after dawn prayers today, killing at least six including a senior local government official (AFP, Dawn, Reuters, ET). There have been no claims of responsibility yet.
Three "respected but politically irrelevant interlocutors" appointed by the Indian government to lead dialogue in Indian-administered Kashmir arrived there on Saturday, and separatist leader Mirwais Umer Farooq said he would not meet with the delegation (FT, AFP, PTI). India has accused Pakistan of violating a cease-fire agreement after an Indian Army soldier was killed last night in cross-border firing in Poonch sector, 110 miles southwest of Srinagar (AP, PTI, AFP). Indian forces described the shooting as "unprovoked" and did not return fire.
Who wants to be a millionaire?
In a studio on the outskirts of Kabul, Rahmid Mirzad hosts a gameshow called "Ganjina," or "Treasure," where contestants have the opportunity to win a million afghanis (some $21,000) (Reuters). The program has been criticized for depicting gambling, and was recently brought back on the air after a two-week government ban.