The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Biden meets with Pakistani leaders, Zardari heads to U.S.

Biden to Pakistan, Zardari to U.S. During a one-day visit to Islamabad yesterday in which he met with Pakistani leaders including Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, American vice president Joe Biden emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, assured Pakistanis ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Biden to Pakistan, Zardari to U.S.

During a one-day visit to Islamabad yesterday in which he met with Pakistani leaders including Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, American vice president Joe Biden emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, assured Pakistanis that the U.S. is not planning to send "boots on the ground" to Pakistani territory, and reportedly discussed potential military operations in North Waziristan, which have been a point of contention between the U.S. and Pakistan (AP, NYT, CNN, LAT, Dawn, Dawn, Pajhwok, ET, Daily Times, Daily Times, Post). Several hours after Biden’s public remarks, a suicide car bomber attacked a police station and adjoining mosque in the northwest district of Bannu, which borders North Waziristan, killing at least 20 including several police officers (AP, AJE, Geo, ET, Reuters). A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan took responsibility for the attack. Earlier today, a remote controlled bombing in Bannu killed three policemen and a bombing at a checkpoint in Bara, near Peshawar, left one officer dead (AP). And in southwest Baluchistan, the nationalist Baluch Republican Army claimed an attack on a gas pipeline (AFP).

Zardari left for the U.S. last night in order to attend a memorial service tomorrow in Washington for the late Amb. Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan (AFP, Dawn). Some analysts point out that Zardari’s trip of more than a week to DC, London, and Dubai exposes him to "renewed criticism for ignoring the country’s myriad problems," and the trip is being compared to Zardari’s "absence last year at the height of the country’s massive flooding" (WSJ).

The AP has today’s must-read describing Pakistani police documents related to the assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer last week, highlighting that the man who shot and killed him, the 26 year old Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned to guard the president and prime minister 18 times over the last three years despite having been declared "not suitable for any sensitive security duty" in 2004 (AP). Pakistan’s police force is seen as being especially at risk among Pakistan’s security forces for extremist infiltration.

Looking ahead

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters yesterday, "The violence will be worse in 2011 than it was in 2010 in many parts of Afghanistan," calling 2010’s security gains "tenuous and fragile" (AFP). Germany is planning to begin withdrawing some of its 4,600 troops from Afghanistan this year (WSJ).

Earlier this morning, a bomb outside a music shop in a marketplace in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad killed a child, and in Kabul, hundreds of protesters marched to demonstrate against the execution of Afghans in Iran (AP).

McClatchy has a pair of articles about American money in Afghanistan, the first reporting that the U.S. government is paying the consulting company Tetra Tech DPK, which had "no experience in Afghanistan," some $15 million for an effort with questionable results to boost Afghan confidence in the country’s legal system (McClatchy); and the second finding that "U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale programs and projects grew from just over $1 billion to nearly $3 billion despite the government’s questions about their effectiveness or cost" (McClatchy).

Over sideways and under

Yesterday in Kabul, a carpet processing factory that can handle up to 7,000 square meters of carpet per month was opened, and will employ around 100 Afghans (Pajhwok). USAID funded the project to the tune of around $200,000.

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