The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: U.S. ups pressure on Pakistan over detained diplomat
The Rack: An occasional new AfPak Channel Daily Brief mini-feature with highlights from the magazine rack. First up: Michael Hastings, "King David’s War," Rolling Stone and Dexter Filkins, "The Afghan Bank Heist," New Yorker. Send suggestions! Pressure growing Yesterday, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter met with Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari to pressure him ...
The Rack: An occasional new AfPak Channel Daily Brief mini-feature with highlights from the magazine rack. First up: Michael Hastings, "King David’s War," Rolling Stone and Dexter Filkins, "The Afghan Bank Heist," New Yorker. Send suggestions!
Yesterday, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter met with Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari to pressure him to have Raymond Davis, the U.S. diplomat who shot and killed two Pakistani men — who the Post reports were intelligence agents assigned to tail him after he crossed a "red line," according to a Pakistani intelligence official — in Lahore last month, released from custody (AP, Post, AFP, ET). The U.S. has suspended all high-level dialogue with Pakistan over the issue, and a February 24 trilateral meeting with the U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan set to take place in Washington is now in doubt. The U.S. maintains that Davis has diplomatic immunity, but has not clarified what his job in Pakistan was; American officials say he vetted "questionable visa applicants," while early reporting said his job was "security" related (Post).
A new report from USAID, the U.S. State Department, and the Pentagon on civilian aid to Pakistan finds that accountability and progress metrics are lacking; "one year after the launch of the civilian assistance strategy in Pakistan, USAID has not been able to demonstrate measurable progress" (AP). The government of Sindh is launching a new sales tax on all goods and fuel transported to Afghanistan (BBC). More than 80 percent of NATO supplies to Afghanistan go through Pakistan.
The LA Times highlights the problem of extremism in Pakistan’s security forces, noting that experts believe "police departments and other security agencies lack the money and manpower to carry out psychological evaluations of applicants," and "once an officer is on the force, often there is no system in place to detect whether the officer has become influenced by extremists" (LAT). Today in Pakistan’s northwest, a police inspector was killed when gunmen and remote controlled bombings targeted a security checkpost on the outskirts of Peshawar, a roadside bombing in Bannu killed two soldiers, and clashes in Orakzai left a dozen militants dead (AP, Geo, ET/Reuters, AFP).
Springtime in Afghanistan
Yesterday’s Taliban suicide bombing in Kandahar city reportedly killed an Afghan interpreter working with foreign troops, who are gearing up for an expected increase in fighting this spring (Pajhwok, AP). In Kabul, a bomb exploded at a crowded intersection, and no casualties were reported, several hours after Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that provincial reconstruction teams will "have to close" as the Afghan government assumes security responsibility for the country, a process NATO said yesterday is scheduled to begin in the first half of this year (AP, Reuters). Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus reiterated his support for the Afghan Local Police program, of which Karzai’s government and other critics have been wary (FT). The ALP aims to arm thousands of local recruits to protect their villages, which critics worry could "fuel conflicts and empower the kind of militia commanders who ravaged Afghanistan during years of civil war in the 1990s."
My not so big fat Afghan wedding
Afghan ministry of justice officials are reportedly considering legislation to limit the size of Afghan weddings, in order to reduce pressure on grooms feeling competitive with family members over the extravagance of wedding celebrations (Tel). The law would seek to ban the practice of men paying dowries and buying expensive gifts for the bride and her family, and cap guest lists at 300, while limiting per-head costs to £2.80 in Kabul and £2.10 in other places.