The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: TTP suicide bombing at Peshawar funeral kills 37

Event notice: Join the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine this Friday at 12:15pm EST in Washington, DC for a discussion of Peter Bergen’s new book, The Longest War, which the New York Times called "essential" and "highly informed" (NAF). Funeral dirge As many as 37 people were killed and more than 100 wounded ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Event notice: Join the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine this Friday at 12:15pm EST in Washington, DC for a discussion of Peter Bergen’s new book, The Longest War, which the New York Times called "essential" and "highly informed" (NAF).

Funeral dirge

As many as 37 people were killed and more than 100 wounded earlier today when a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan suicide bomber, believed to be a boy in his teens, targeted the funeral of the wife of a local anti-Taliban lashkar leader in the suburbs of the northwestern city of Peshawar (AP, NYT, AFP, ET/Reuters, Geo, Dawn, Post). A witness said, "The suicide bomber very easily came here and joined the participants. There was not a single policeman to check him." In the Dera Bugti area of Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province, five civilians were killed in a landmine explosion near a small pickup truck (AP).

For the first time, the Pakistani military has provided official, on-the-record details about the U.S. drones program in the country’s northwest, describing militant fatalities from the strikes in North Waziristan from 2007 to 2011 (Dawn). Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood, who is in charge of troops in the tribal agency, stated, "There are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements." For more about the drone strikes, visit "The Year of the Drone," and for more about how drone strikes are viewed in Pakistan’s tribal areas, visit PakistanSurvey.org.

Aaron Mark DeHaven, the American contractor who overstayed his visa and was detained, has been released from a Peshawar jail after paying the $23,500 bail (AFP). Chris Allbritton explores how Pakistan’s various Islamist parties are coalescing around a shared hatred of the United States (Reuters).

Caught in the middle

The United Nations has released its annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, finding that in 2010, which saw a 15 percent increase from 2009 in the total number of civilians killed in conflict, insurgents were responsible for 75 percent of the 2,777 total conflict-related civilian deaths in the country (AP, NYT, Reuters). The report also notes that targeted killings of Afghan government officials, aid workers, and civilians perceived to be supportive of NATO forces or the Afghan government more than doubled from the previous year, and observed a 26 percent decline in the number of civilian deaths caused by Afghan and coalition forces. The Journal reports that even as coalition forces have reduced this number, 44 Afghan civilians were killed by coalition helicopters in 2010, up from 10 in 2009 (WSJ). Bonus read: the war over Afghan civilian casualties (FP).

The Post reports that many American experts deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration’s ‘civilian surge’ "remain hunkered down in the capital, Kabul, removed from the front lines where they are most needed," and that programs designed to improve the Afghan government’s capacity in 80 "key terrain" districts have fallen "far behind schedule" (Post). Two-thirds of the 1,100 American civilian officials in Afghanistan are posted in Kabul, according to the State Department. McClatchy adds that there is "no clear plan" to reduce the number of foreign civilian advisers in Afghan government ministries (McClatchy).

Afghan president Hamid Karzai said yesterday that he will arrange an Afghan jirga to discuss the terms under which U.S. forces might stay in Afghanistan after 2014 (Guardian). Karzai also rejected calls from members of parliament to disband the special tribunal he ordered set up to investigate claims of fraud in last year’s parliamentary elections, referring the MPs to Afghanistan’s supreme court (Pajhwok). 

Mixed messages

Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus gave an interview to the NYT describing "an improving overall picture" of security in Afghanistan, "offering a preview of what is likely to be his argument next week when he testifies before Congress for the first time since he took over command of coalition forces in Afghanistan" (NYT). Although operational tempo has increased "enormously," militant reintegration and local police training efforts have "only modest momentum." U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates met with leaders of an Afghan Local Police force in the Arghandab river valley in Kandahar, where he was "encouraged," though he noted that gains are "fragile and reversible" (WSJ, AP). In the Sangin district of Helmand province, where 29 Marines have died in the last five months alone and which he also visited yesterday, Gates commented on the recent "dramatic turnaround" in security conditions (NYT).

From Ghazni province, C. J. Chivers has today’s must-read analyzing how the U.S. military has "slowly, almost imperceptibly" shifted from fighting the Taliban for influence in "well-known and conventionally defined areas" to waging "a campaign for scattered villages and bits of terrain" (NYT). A colonel describes the "great disconnect" between the "intense efforts of American small units at the tactical level and larger strategic trends."

And the State Department has renewed its travel warning for Afghanistan, cautioning that the security situation remains "critical" (AFP).

Reclaiming territory

The AP visited Pakistan’s scenic Swat Valley ski slopes, once controlled by Taliban fighters and used as a training and logistics base, for a few downhill runs (AP). Pakistan’s only ski resort, Malam Jabba will cost some $4 million to reconstruct properly, according to tourism officials.

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