Daily brief: new bin Laden tape threatens France

Threats A new audiotape from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatens to kill French citizens in retaliation for France’s presence in Afghanistan and a new French law that would ban women from covering their faces in public places (AJE, Times, NYT, AFP, CNN, AP). France, which has around 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, may begin a ...

AFP/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Threats

A new audiotape from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatens to kill French citizens in retaliation for France's presence in Afghanistan and a new French law that would ban women from covering their faces in public places (AJE, Times, NYT, AFP, CNN, AP). France, which has around 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, may begin a withdrawal next year (AFP, CNN).

A naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan was arrested by federal law enforcement yesterday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out bombings at the Court House, Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Arlington National Cemetery metro stops in the Washington, DC area (Post, AP, Guardian, Tel). Farooque Ahmed, a 34 year old husband and father with a degree in computer science who lives in a suburb of DC, is said to have met with federal agents he believed were al-Qaeda members beginning in April and turned over sketches and video of the stations. He faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted (AP). The indictment is here (Post-pdf).

Threats

A new audiotape from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatens to kill French citizens in retaliation for France’s presence in Afghanistan and a new French law that would ban women from covering their faces in public places (AJE, Times, NYT, AFP, CNN, AP). France, which has around 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, may begin a withdrawal next year (AFP, CNN).

A naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan was arrested by federal law enforcement yesterday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out bombings at the Court House, Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Arlington National Cemetery metro stops in the Washington, DC area (Post, AP, Guardian, Tel). Farooque Ahmed, a 34 year old husband and father with a degree in computer science who lives in a suburb of DC, is said to have met with federal agents he believed were al-Qaeda members beginning in April and turned over sketches and video of the stations. He faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted (AP). The indictment is here (Post-pdf).

The war in the skies

The third drone strike in 24 hours was reported in the the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan last night, killing as many as seven alleged militants (ET, Geo, AP, AFP, CNN, Pajhwok, BBC). Two separate Pakistani military offensives in the tribal agencies of Orakzai and Mohmand have killed 17 suspected militants (ET). Local Taliban fighters in Mohmand have killed three "common criminals" for allegedly "defaming" the Taliban by calling themselves part of the group while involved in kidnapping for ransom and theft (AFP). In the southern port city of Karachi, gunman wounded two local employees of the Japanese embassy after firing on a car with plates from the Japanese consulate (AP). Police say the attack may have be an attempted robbery. Bonus read: Karachi’s downward spiral (FP). 

Afghan officials are reportedly pressuring American officials to pressure Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens along the Afghan border, and Afghanistan’s national security adviser Rangin Spanta asserted, "If we do not get rid of them, we’re just wasting time, lives and money" (WSJ).

The LA Times has today’s must-read highlighting Pakistan’s "weak" and "hopelessly ineffective" criminal justice system, where legal proceedings are often hampered because of "antiquated judicial procedures" and because Pakistani police officers are said to lack "basic evidence-gathering techniques" (LAT). In Punjab, nearly three quarters of terrorism cases between 2009 and June 2010 ended in acquittals.

The confusing labyrinth of contracting in Afghanistan

The special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, in its first comprehensive audit of U.S. contracts, found a "confusing labyrinth" of agencies and contractors, with $17.7 billion in reconstruction spending from 2007 to 2009 spent with "little coordination" (Reuters, McClatchy). A spokeswoman for the government watchdog organization commented, "Data got better from 2007 on but it remains to be seen whether we’ll ever know how much U.S. agencies spent overall." The report is here (SIGAR-pdf).

The Free and Fair Election Commission, Afghanistan’s main independent election watchdog, is concerned about an apparent discrepancy in voter turnout figures in the September 18 parliamentary contests: the Independent Election Commission initially announced that around four million votes were cast, but last week said 5.6 million ballots were cast (Reuters). Around 1.3 million votes have been tossed because of voting irregularities and fraud complaints, and final results were supposed to be announced on October 30 but may be postponed for several weeks.

Three Afghan police officers were killed in a roadside bombing in Zabul earlier today (AP). The AP considers what lessons the coalition offensive in the Helmand town of Marjah could have for operations in neighboring Kandahar (AP). And the NYT describes the "frigid, finger-shaped stretch of land squeezed between Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China" known as the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan, where neither Taliban fighters nor American soldiers are present and the residents live on a barter economy (NYT).

Afghanistan’s Arnolds

Afghanistan’s body-building team, in search of its first medal, is off to India to participate in the international championships (Tolo). Click here for a slideshow of one of the country’s most popular sports (FP).

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