The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: American held in Pakistan worked with CIA
The Rack: Steve Coll, "U.S.-Taliban talks," New Yorker; Stanley McChrystal, "It takes a network," Foreign Policy; Ahmed Rashid, "How Obama lost Karzai," Foreign Policy. Firestorm The Guardian broke the story that Raymond Davis, the American detained in Lahore for fatally shooting two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him late last month, worked for ...
The Guardian broke the story that Raymond Davis, the American detained in Lahore for fatally shooting two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him late last month, worked for the CIA as a security contractor, and American outlets were quick to follow up, stating that the U.S. government had asked them to withhold Davis’s CIA affiliation out of concerns for his safety in prison (Guardian, Guardian, Guardian, WSJ, NYT, Post, LAT, ABC, Reuters, AFP, Tel). Davis was essentially a security guard providing physical protection to those affiliated with the embassy and consulate, attached to the CIA’s Global Response Staff, and was reportedly carrying out "area familiarization" — basic surveillance designed to allow operatives to become familiar with their surroundings — at the time of the shooting on January 27. The relatives of one of those killed said they would turn down any offers of compensation (Times).
Davis has also worked for the security contracting company formerly known as Blackwater, according to U.S. officials, and the CIA team he was affiliated with in Lahore reportedly tracked Pakistani militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, though U.S. officials deny that Davis himself was involved in militant surveillance (Guardian, NYT, AP, ET, Reuters). Davis is currently being held in a separate part of the Lahore jail which also houses some 4,000 militants; his guards have had their guns taken away out of concern that one of them may try to kill him, and dogs are tasting his food to make sure it’s not poisoned (WSJ). The Journal reports that the ISI’s decision to leak Davis’s CIA ties "reflect[s] Pakistani anger over U.S. conduct in the case;" the U.S. maintains Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released immediately.
U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton phoned Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to express as much, and Gilani reiterated that Davis’s status will be determined by a court in Lahore (ET, Daily Times, AFP, Dawn, The News, The News). The Punjab government reportedly refused a request from the U.S. consulate in Lahore to remove surveillance cameras from Davis’s cell (ET). Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports that Davis is on a hunger strike, which the embassy denies (ET). Bonus read: C. Christine Fair on diplomatic duplicity (FP).
Return of the drones
And after a pause of nearly a month, which some analysts and Pakistani officials attributed to Davis’s detention and U.S. officials said was related to the weather, a pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes killed around a dozen suspected militants in North and South Waziristan (Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC, The News, Geo/AFP, Newsweek). An Iraqi al-Qaeda figure who managed the group’s finances in Pakistan was said to be killed in the South Waziristan strike. Greg Miller reports that in spite of the escalated pace of the drone strikes under the Obama administration, "the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased" (Post). Each strike reportedly costs more than $1 million. And Ken Dilanian writes that the U.S. chose to forgo a chance to target Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani insurgent network, because women and children were nearby, and that civilian deaths from the program have fallen (LAT).
The bodies of two men accused of spying for the Americans and helping coordinate drone strikes were found on the road between Miram Shah and Datta Khel in North Waziristan on Sunday (The News, AP). The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan released a video showing the execution of former ISI official Col. Imam, who had been kidnapped last spring by a group called the Asian Tigers, in the presence of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who was once believed killed in a drone strike (The News, Tolo, ET). The TTP claimed Col. Imam had helped provide information to the CIA to target Hakimullah with drone strikes; Col. Imam’s family said he had gone to the region to try and negotiate a ceasefire between the militant group and Pakistani security forces.
An Indian appeals court has upheld a conviction and death sentence for the sole surviving gunman from the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, Ajmal Kasab (WSJ, AJE, ToI, NDTV, AP, ET). He could still appeal to India’s supreme court.
The Post examines trade between India and Pakistan, where commerce is all but "choke[d] off…under a dizzying web of rules" (Post). Some research suggests that bilateral trade, currently around $2 billion annually, could grow 20 to 50 times under more liberal trade policies; illicit trade is estimated at as much as $10 billion per year.
A pair of bombings shook Afghanistan this weekend, killing as many as 78: 38 were killed, including 21 Afghan security officers, in a seven-person coordinated suicide attack on a branch of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad claimed by the Taliban and carried out as Afghans were collecting their salaries (FT, NYT, Pajhwok, WSJ, Post, Pajhwok, AP, AFP, Reuters); and up to 40 people all believed to be civilians were killed on Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber seeking to stop sign-ups for the NATO-backed Afghan Local Police program attacked a census office in Kunduz (NYT, Tolo, AFP, Pajhwok, AP, BBC, McClatchy, CNN, AJE, WSJ). The ALP has met with mixed reviews from Afghans interviewed by the AP, some of whom are concerned about the presence of warlord-led militias (AP).
NATO disputes the governor of Kunar’s assertion that joint Afghan-coalition operations in the Egal Valley of the eastern Afghan province killed more than 60 civilians in recent days, stating that video footage shows 36 insurgents carrying weapons (Post, NYT, WSJ, Pajhwok, Reuters, LAT, AP, Times). NATO is sending a team to the area to investigate. Participants in a meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul claim that top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Davis Petraeus suggested that "some pro-Taliban parents in contact with a government official decided to create a civilian casualty claim to pressure international forces to cease the [operation in Kunar]. They burned hands and legs of some of their children and sent them to the hospital," assertions which reportedly deeply offended some attendees of the meeting (Post). Gen. Petraeus declined to comment.
Carlotta Gall reports that some mid-level Taliban commanders are war-weary and reluctant to return to some battlefields after having fled coalition offensives in Afghanistan by seeking refuge in Pakistan, in spite of pressure from the Taliban’s leadership in Pakistan, which is encouraging them to return (NYT). The Karzai government’s High Peace Council is sending a delegation to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo to discuss the possible release of some Taliban detainees as a gesture toward reconciliation with the insurgent group (AP).
And the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Friday against the New Ansari Money Exchange, one of the largest lending houses in Afghanistan, and 15 of its top executives on allegations of laundering billions of dollars of drug money (AP, NYT, Post).
A downhill battle
Two sisters from Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan province have won gold and silver medals in the giant slalom in the recent South Asian Winter Games in India, the first time Pakistani women have medaled in skiing (ET). The Wali sisters grew up in Ratto, a snowy area of the Astore Valley, where their father was posted in the army.