Daily brief: Afghan security transition to start in 7 areas
First up for transition Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced earlier today that seven areas of Afghanistan — the provincial capitals of Herat, Helmand, Laghman, and Balkh, in addition to all of the provinces of Bamiyan, Panjshir, and Kabul except for Surobi district — will be in the first phase of transition to Afghan security ...
First up for transition
First up for transition
Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced earlier today that seven areas of Afghanistan — the provincial capitals of Herat, Helmand, Laghman, and Balkh, in addition to all of the provinces of Bamiyan, Panjshir, and Kabul except for Surobi district — will be in the first phase of transition to Afghan security control, scheduled to begin in July (Pajhwok, NYT, AP, Reuters, LAT). The locations "are either relatively free of insurgent activity or have a heavy presence of U.S. and NATO troops that can intervene anytime Afghan security forces become overwhelmed," according to the LA Times, and Reuters adds that the "first phase of the transition is more symbolism than substance."
The AP describes the Taliban’s campaign of assassinating Afghan officials who work with the coalition as "deeply demoralizing," as U.S. officials, casting the assassinations as signs of a desperate force, predict that the "hit teams" will continue to operate (AP). At least 140 government officials were killed last year.
U.S. Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock, pictured in an image published recently by Der Spiegel holding up the head of an Afghan civilian in whose murder he is accused of being involved, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy, and one count of illegal drug use in the hopes of earning a reduced sentence (WSJ). Morlock’s court martial is due to start tomorrow (Seattle Times). U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have been calling Afghan officials to try and limit the damage from the photographs, as U.S. forces fear backlash from the Afghan government and public (NYT, Times, FT, Spiegel).
Militancy around Pakistan
Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and other militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas, initiated peace talks with the Pakistani government, which the government is opening up in anticipation of NATO’s drawdown from Afghanistan in 2014 (ET). Speaking from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Taliban commander Qari Zia-ur Rehman said the Taliban and al-Qaeda have jointly decided to intensify attacks on U.S. targets in Afghanistan in revenge for recent drone strikes in North Waziristan (The News).
The Baluch Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for an attack on a camp of road construction workers with the Frontier Works Organization that left at least 11 dead yesterday near Gwadar, in Baluchistan near the Iranian border (DT, AP, ET, AFP, Dawn, CNN). And targeted killings continue across Karachi (Dawn, ET).
Puppets in Pakistan
Lahore is currently hosting a week-long festival to mark World Puppet Day, featuring puppeteers from India, Norway, and Sri Lanka (The News). Some 1,500 children from different schools across the city participated in the ceremony inaugurating the festival.
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