The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Panetta to Pentagon, Petraeus to CIA: reports
Tune in today: an on-the-record, all-day conference at the New America Foundation on the state of al-Qaeda and its affiliates ten years after September 11, 2001 (NAF). Change at the top The Associated Press reported this morning that as part of a reshuffling of President Obama’s Afghanistan war team, current CIA chief Leon Panetta ...
Tune in today: an on-the-record, all-day conference at the New America Foundation on the state of al-Qaeda and its affiliates ten years after September 11, 2001 (NAF).
Change at the top
The Associated Press reported this morning that as part of a reshuffling of President Obama’s Afghanistan war team, current CIA chief Leon Panetta will be named secretary of defense to replace outgoing secretary Robert Gates, while current International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) head Gen. David Petraeus will replace Panetta at the CIA (AP). Yesterday the AP reported that that the Obama administration is likely to nominate veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, replacing current ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who is expected to depart in the next few months (AP, NYT, Reuters, Post). The move would bring Crocker back to South Asia, where he was ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 until 2007 and opened the post-Taliban U.S. embassy in Kabul. Gates said yesterday that no decision has been made about the number of U.S. troops to begin withdrawing in July (Reuters).
An Afghan Air Force officer reportedly opened fire on international troops this morning insider an Afghan Air Force facility at Kabul Airport after an "argument," reportedly killing at least six U.S. soldiers (BBC, Reuters, CNN, AJE). The Taliban have claimed credit for the shootings (AP).
In a letter to Afghan president Hamid Karzai yesterday, the country’s justice minister indicated that Monday’s escape of nearly 500 Taliban prisoners from the Sarposa jail in Kandahar was likely conducted with help inside the prison and the surrounding areas (NYT, LAT, Tolo). He also blamed Afghan and ISAF forces for not discovering and disrupting the plot, which reportedly involved a well-constructed tunnel with electricity and a pipe for circulating air (AP, Reuters). And British immigration authorities are set to deport two Afghan converts to Christianity, despite concern that the men will be killed or imprisoned upon their return to Afghanistan on account of their new faith (Guardian).
Friends and allies
Matthew Rosenberg reports in a must-read story that during an April 16 meeting, Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told Afghan president Karzai that the United States had "failed them both" and urged Karzai instead to form a long-term partnership with Pakistan and China to rejuvenate Afghanistan’s economy and bring about a peace deal with the Taliban (WSJ). While U.S. officials downplayed the significance of the report, Gen. Petraeus has reportedly met with Karzai three times since April 16.
The United States is set to release nearly one billion dollars in aid money to Pakistan by early June, according to Pakistani finance minister Hafeez Shaikh, as part of the Kerry-Lugar bill as well as the Coalition Support Fund (ET). This comes two days after a former Pakistani representative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the IMF considers Pakistani economic officials to be "deceitful" on the subject of tax reforms, and said that in 2008 the IMF refused an $11.3 billion loan to Pakistan, which they only granted after coming under U.S. pressure (ET, Daily Times). India and Pakistan have opened their first trade talks since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (AFP).
The Pakistani Taliban yesterday claimed credit for two bomb attacks on buses carrying Pakistani naval personnel in Karachi, which killed four and wounded over 60 people (AJE, ET). NATO and Afghan forces reportedly attacked a border post in Angoor Adda in South Waziristan this morning, wounding up to four Pakistani soldiers, while another cross-border clash in North Waziristan was reported late last night (ET, Dawn, AP). And the Express Tribune reports that Pakistani security agencies have put a hold on political reforms in the country’s tribal areas, arguing that such reforms cannot take place as long as fighting is going on in the tribal areas and in Afghanistan (ET).
The Pakistan Tennis Federation is reportedly planning a tournament featuring the country’s top players in the embattled province of South Waziristan (ET). The tournament is set to take place sometime after the Davis Cup concludes in July.