Daily brief: two policemen arrested in Benazir assassination case

Editor’s note: the AfPak Channel Daily Brief will be off until January 3, 2011. Happy holidays and new year! Special AfPak Channel Feature: The Hidden War — Stories You Missed in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010 (FP).  As the year comes to an end, the AfPak Channel asked its contributors to list the "Stories You ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's note: the AfPak Channel Daily Brief will be off until January 3, 2011. Happy holidays and new year!

Special AfPak Channel Feature: The Hidden War -- Stories You Missed in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010 (FP).  As the year comes to an end, the AfPak Channel asked its contributors to list the "Stories You Missed" in this troubled region -- and to explain why these will be the ones making headlines in 2011.

Investigating the investigators

Editor’s note: the AfPak Channel Daily Brief will be off until January 3, 2011. Happy holidays and new year!

Special AfPak Channel Feature: The Hidden War — Stories You Missed in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010 (FP).  As the year comes to an end, the AfPak Channel asked its contributors to list the "Stories You Missed" in this troubled region — and to explain why these will be the ones making headlines in 2011.

Investigating the investigators

Pakistani police have arrested two senior police officers, former Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz and former superintendent of police Khurram Shahzad, on accusations of dereliction of duty over the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto (AFP, ET, The News). A prosecutor had previously accused the two of being responsible for hosing down the scene and destroying key evidence, and for failing to provide Bhutto with adequate security and today he said, "Several other points need to be investigated;" bail has been denied to the two men, and court is adjourned until January 7.

Pakistani officials reacted angrily to yesterday’s report in the New York Times that the U.S. is seeking to expand ground operations on Pakistani territory, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit asserting, "We have drawn a red line and any move to cross it will have a serious consequence" (Times, LAT). NATO also sharply denied that the U.S. military has any such plans.

Reuters considers tensions between Iran and Pakistan, following a December 15 double suicide bombing in the Iranian town of Chabahar that was claimed by Jundollah, a Sunni militant group believed to be based in Baluchistan (Reuters).

Tensions with allies

NATO is investigating claims that five Afghan civilians were killed when coalition forces returned fire against militants in the Sangin district of Helmand province, and the provincial governor’s office issued a statement calling for NATO to "pay attention to civilian casualties" (AP, AP). There were at least 6,215 civilian casualties this year through October, a 20 percent rise over the same time last year, and some 75 percent of which were attributable to insurgents; casualties caused by coalition forces have fallen 18 percent this year, according to the United Nations. The Taliban called the U.N. report "fabricated" (Reuters).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar said earlier this week that international forces have not provided adequate weaponry for Afghan security forces, stating, "I would agree that time and effort was spent training the Afghan national army and police. But we will not agree that a lot of time and effort was spent in equipping the national security forces" (LAT). Omar also called for more focus on Afghanistan’s economic development. Up to 3,000 teenage soldiers and police were recently removed from Afghanistan’s armed forces, to be trained in different fields (Pajhwok).

Iran has reportedly been carrying out a blockade along its western border with Afghanistan for going on three weeks, preventing almost 2,000 fuel tanker trucks from entering the country because of claims that the fuel would supply coalition forces, though the Afghan government says the imports are for civilian use only (WSJ). The blockade could push up fuel prices ahead of Afghanistan’s harsh winter, and has already deprived the Afghan government of $3.5 million in customs fees in Nimroz alone.

Yesterday a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ oversight committee released the results of an investigation into multi-billion dollar Pentagon fuel contracts at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, a key supply hub for the war in Afghanistan, criticizing the DoD for failing to perform adequate due diligence into Mina Corporation and its sister company Red Star Enterprises, despite "?serious allegations of corruption, significant political and diplomatic fallout in Kyrgyzstan, the companies’ unusual behavior and hyper-secrecy" (Tel, Post, NYT). The report is available here (House).

BBMing in Pakistan

The Lahore-based Five Rivers technology firm has developed what is currently the top paid application for Blackberry, the Photo Editor Suite (AFP, Daily Times). The seven year old company has 50 employees and its product manager told the press, "We feel we are on top of the world. This is incredible."

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