Daily brief: 1,400 more Marines to be sent to Afghanistan
More Marines The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Pentagon has decided to send an additional 1,400 Marine combat forces to Afghanistan, ahead of the anticipated spring fighting season, to be deployed mostly in and around Kandahar in the south of the country, a move likely to be questioned by some congressional Democrats ...
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Pentagon has decided to send an additional 1,400 Marine combat forces to Afghanistan, ahead of the anticipated spring fighting season, to be deployed mostly in and around Kandahar in the south of the country, a move likely to be questioned by some congressional Democrats (WSJ). Officials are also said to be considering replacing some support units with combat troops.
British defense secretary Liam Fox emphasized yesterday that Britain’s withdrawals from Afghanistan will be conditions-based, dampening domestic hopes that British troops could begin returning this year (WSJ). Fox also asserted, "I think only recently we have been in a position to give the military what they have actually asked in terms of what they need to do the mission and we are seeing successes" (AP). Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, of some 140,000 international forces.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to hold a peace jirga in the coming months, a decision made during a trip by representatives of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, tasked to pursue peace talks with insurgents in Afghanistan, to Islamabad (AFP, Pajhwok).
Cheers and tears
Yesterday as Mumtaz Qadri, the alleged assassin of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, entered court to be charged with murder and terrorism, he was reportedly showered with rose petals from hundreds of lawyers and other supporters, and religious groups lauded the assassination, which Qadri said was motivated by Taseer’s efforts to change Pakistan’s blasphemy laws (AP, NYT, Post, WSJ, McClatchy, LAT, FT, Daily Times, Independent). Several outlets note that the polarized reactions to Taseer’s death — support for Qadri or thousands of mourners who attended yesterday’s funeral in Lahore — highlight deepening fractures between Pakistan’s secular and religious forces. Qadri appeared before an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi today, though the hearing was reportedly delayed by a crowd of supporters, who again tossed flowers (AFP, The News, Geo). He is due back in court on January 10 (ET).
Investigators are focused on determining whether Qadri acted alone or whether the shooting, which Pakistan’s law minister, the PPP’s Babar Awan, said was a "political murder," was part of a broader conspiracy, and some of Qadri’s fellow Elite Police are reportedly being interrogated about why they did not shoot him as he attacked the governor (ET, ET, Dawn). A year and a half ago, Qadri’s supervisor called him a "security threat" because of extremist views, and another officer reportedly said Qadri should not be allowed to guard important people (Dawn, Reuters). The Press Trust of India reports that a spokesman for Qari Hussain, a leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, said Qadri was "from among us" (PTI). Whether Qadri has any links to militant groups is currently unclear. Bonus reads: Asra Nomani and Saba Imtiaz on Taseer’s assassination (FP, FP).
Pakistani officials are reportedly frustrated with what they claim are "exorbitant prices and a snail-pace delivery timeline" for U.S. surveillance Shadow drones, a dozen of which the Pentagon offered to sell Islamabad a year ago (Reuters). And half a dozen anonymous U.S. officials tell Reuters that relations between the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI are at a low point because of the Pakistani military’s ongoing unwillingness to mount operations in North Waziristan, alleged ISI support for militants, and concerns that the ISI leaked the name of the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, who was withdrawn late last year following the publication of his identity in Pakistani media (Reuters).
Wanted: reward offered
Officials at the Kabul Museum are offering rewards of between 10,000 and 20,000 afghanis for information leading to the recovery of artifacts that have been lost or stolen from the museum’s collection over the last several decades (Pajhwok). Around 500 historic items have been turned in since 2002.
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