Daily brief: U.S. Afghan review reports progress

Event notice/Wonk Watch: Join the New America Foundation today at 9:30am EST for the release of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point’s new report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qaeda and its Periphery (pdf). Details and RSVP here. The Afghan war review Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks this morning about the ...

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Event notice/Wonk Watch: Join the New America Foundation today at 9:30am EST for the release of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point's new report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qaeda and its Periphery (pdf). Details and RSVP here.

The Afghan war review

Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks this morning about the war in Afghanistan, a year after he ordered 30,000 additional troops deployed to the country, the White House has released a summary of the administration's review of the war assessing that the strategy is "showing progress" and "al-Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001," though asserts that gains made against the Taliban in Afghanistan "remain fragile and reversible" and notes that "consolidating those gains will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks" (WSJ, NYT, Post, AP, Reuters, BBC, AP, The News). The document also anticipates that U.S. troops can begin withdrawing and handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces in some areas of the country in July 2011, as planned, though the Post notes that the next "big Afghan battle" will be over how many troops to withdraw, reporting that "skeptics in the administration have decided to hold their fire until late next spring" (Post, WSJ). And according to a new public opinion poll, 60 percent of Americans think the Afghan war is not worth fighting, up more than 20 points since Obama's election (Post). The five page unclassified summary is available here (FP-pdf).

Event notice/Wonk Watch: Join the New America Foundation today at 9:30am EST for the release of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point’s new report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qaeda and its Periphery (pdf). Details and RSVP here.

The Afghan war review

Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks this morning about the war in Afghanistan, a year after he ordered 30,000 additional troops deployed to the country, the White House has released a summary of the administration’s review of the war assessing that the strategy is "showing progress" and "al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001," though asserts that gains made against the Taliban in Afghanistan "remain fragile and reversible" and notes that "consolidating those gains will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks" (WSJ, NYT, Post, AP, Reuters, BBC, AP, The News). The document also anticipates that U.S. troops can begin withdrawing and handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces in some areas of the country in July 2011, as planned, though the Post notes that the next "big Afghan battle" will be over how many troops to withdraw, reporting that "skeptics in the administration have decided to hold their fire until late next spring" (Post, WSJ). And according to a new public opinion poll, 60 percent of Americans think the Afghan war is not worth fighting, up more than 20 points since Obama’s election (Post). The five page unclassified summary is available here (FP-pdf).

A roadside bomb in the western Afghan province of Herat, close to the border with Turkmenistan, has killed 14 members of one family and wounded four others (AFP, AP, Tolo). The NYT has a pair of must-reads today assessing the Taliban’s strength in different areas of Afghanistan, writing that "stepped-up operations in Kandahar province have left many in the Taliban demoralized, reluctant to fight and struggling to recruit" in the south, even as Kunduz city is "increasingly besieged" and the Taliban are "expanding their reach" in the north (NYT, NYT). An Afghan official said earlier today that four Afghan soldiers were killed in a NATO airstrike in Helmand; the alliance is investigating (Pajhwok, ISAF).

Today and tomorrow, Pakistan has sealed the Torkham checkpoint, a key point in NATO’s supply line in Afghanistan, because of security concerns related to Muharram religious processions (Pajhwok). And the LA Times profiles the Hazara community of Afghanistan (LAT). 

Targeted

British outlets report that two white British converts to Islam, one of whom was reportedly named Steve, who were alleged members of al-Qaeda were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan several days ago (BBC, Tel, Guardian, Times). The militants, ages 25 and 48, were using the pseudonyms Abu Bakr and Mansoor Ahmed, and had reportedly traveled to North Waziristan to join al-Qaeda. The AP and Reuters report a drone strike in Khyber, which has rarely if ever been targeted (AP, Reuters). Click for more details about every reported drone strike in northwest Pakistan since 2004, including a map (NAF). 

Al-Qaeda has repeated its calls for revenge on behalf of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani scientist who was sentenced to 86 years in prison for trying to kill U.S. personnel in Afghanistan (AFP). Clashes continue between Pakistani security forces and militants in Orakzai agency (Dawn).

Police in Karachi have arrested three suspected members of the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for allegedly planning attacks on the Ashura religious procession in the southern port city, which began today and continues tomorrow (ET, ET). Muharram processions are underway in cities across Pakistan, and a low-intensity explosion has been reported in Peshawar, injuring at least 15 people including women and children (Dawn, ET). And the Islamist political party the JUI-F, after quitting the ruling coalition earlier this week, has decided to join the opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly (Dawn).

Bitter loss

Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team fell to Nepal 13-0 in the South Asian Women’s Games, currently going on in Bangladesh (Pajhwok). The football federation of Afghanistan is planning to launch a web site, called "Teams," a step toward professionalizing soccer in the country (Tolo). 

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