Daily brief: Bin Laden tape threatens France

News about the top In a new audiotape directed at the French people, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden linked the release of two French television journalists who have been held in captivity for more than a year to the pullout of French troops from Afghanistan (AP, AFP, Le Monde, Reuters). Bin Laden’s last audiotape to ...

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan via Getty Images
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan via Getty Images
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan via Getty Images

News about the top

In a new audiotape directed at the French people, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden linked the release of two French television journalists who have been held in captivity for more than a year to the pullout of French troops from Afghanistan (AP, AFP, Le Monde, Reuters). Bin Laden's last audiotape to France was released in October and criticized the planned French ban on Islamic veils. New on bookshelves: Peter Bergen's The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda, available on Amazon.com.

The U.S. has added Qari Hussain Mehsud, a leader in the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who is known for recruiting child suicide bombers and was allegedly somehow involved in the December 2009 suicide attack on a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan that left seven CIA employees and contractors dead, to a terrorism blacklist that will block his finances and assets (Reuters, CNN, AP). Hussain is also purportedly linked to Faisal Shahzad's failed attempt to car bomb Times Square last year.

News about the top

In a new audiotape directed at the French people, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden linked the release of two French television journalists who have been held in captivity for more than a year to the pullout of French troops from Afghanistan (AP, AFP, Le Monde, Reuters). Bin Laden’s last audiotape to France was released in October and criticized the planned French ban on Islamic veils. New on bookshelves: Peter Bergen’s The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda, available on Amazon.com.

The U.S. has added Qari Hussain Mehsud, a leader in the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who is known for recruiting child suicide bombers and was allegedly somehow involved in the December 2009 suicide attack on a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan that left seven CIA employees and contractors dead, to a terrorism blacklist that will block his finances and assets (Reuters, CNN, AP). Hussain is also purportedly linked to Faisal Shahzad’s failed attempt to car bomb Times Square last year.

The al-Qaeda linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan announced that Bekkay Harrach, also known as Abu Talha the German, was killed while leading a joint attack by al-Qaeda, the IMU, and the TTP against Bagram air base in Afghanistan (AP). Harrach’s online threats prompted increased terrorism warnings in 2009.

Showdowns

The Journal reports that U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura are planning to attend the unofficial opening of the Afghan parliament on Sunday, which more than 200 Afghan MPs are set to hold after Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recently-announced delay of one month (WSJ, NYT, Post). If Afghan government forces attempt to stop the parliamentarians from entering the parliament’s headquarters, members reportedly said they would meet in the street or a mosque.

Eikenberry is reportedly annoyed that Karzai is currently visiting Russia "without consultations [about the trip] with any of his coalition partners" (AJE). Karzai is said to be discussing energy concerns and potential Russian training of Afghan military forces.

A remote controlled bomb attached to a bicycle detonated in Dihrawud district of Uruzgan province earlier today as a provincial leader drove by; Amanullah Hotak was not injured (AP). Three people, including a child, were reportedly killed when a roadside bomb detonated in Kandahar city yesterday (CNN, Pajhwok). And the Guardian reports that Linda Norgrove, the kidnapped British aid worker who was killed in Kunar in a rescue attempt last fall, took several photos of her captors with her iPhone (Guardian).

A struggling relationship

Around two thousand people demonstrated in Miram Shah earlier today against U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan, where nearly all of 2010’s strikes were reported (AP). Some 150 Taliban fighters monitored the protests. The Wall Street Journal has today’s must-read describing how the U.S.’s $7.5-billion, five-year civilian aid package to Pakistan faces a host of problems, including concerns about the capacity of local aid groups to absorb the funds, international groups’ unwillingness to display U.S. logos on certain projects, and anti-American sentiment prompted in part by the drone strikes (WSJ). For more about public opinion in Pakistan’s tribal regions, visit PakistanSurvey.org, and for more about the drone strikes campaign from 2004 to the present, visit The Year of the Drone

Two clerics suspected of providing inspiration to the assassin of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, Mufti Hanif Qureshi and Qari Imtiaz Shah, were granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi yesterday, and authorities will now be unable to question the men until next week (ET). The LA Times describes how Qureshi and other hardline clerics have influenced many across Pakistan (LAT).

Nabeel Gabol, the Pakistani minister of state for ports and shipping who resigned yesterday, took it back today after meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad (ET, Dawn). Gilani reportedly assured Gabol that his concerns about Ranger operations in Karachi and other grievances would be addressed. 

Yesterday, six people were killed when suspected Taliban fighters attacked an oil convoy owned by a Hungarian oil and gas company in Kohat, in northwest Pakistan (BBC, AFP, Reuters). Two local oil company officials were reportedly kidnapped. Today, three separate incidents of gunmen attacking NATO supply lines were reported in Baluchistan (AFP). Two people were wounded.

Wax on, wax off

Six months of competitions to win spots on an Afghan karate team kicked off yesterday with 120 athletes in Kabul (Pajhwok). At the end of the contests, three teams of children, young people, and adults will be selected to participate in competitions in Iran.

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