Daily brief: Details emerge on U.S.-Taliban talks in Germany

Wonk Watch: "Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan," by Graeme Blair, C. Christine Fair, Neal A. Malhotra, and Jacob N. Shapiro (SSRN). Progress? The German magazine Der Spiegel has translated its report from Monday that secret, direct talks are being held in Germany between the United States and the Taliban (Der Spiegel). ...

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

Wonk Watch: "Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan," by Graeme Blair, C. Christine Fair, Neal A. Malhotra, and Jacob N. Shapiro (SSRN).

Progress?

The German magazine Der Spiegel has translated its report from Monday that secret, direct talks are being held in Germany between the United States and the Taliban (Der Spiegel). Tayyab Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's onetime office manager and now "personal spokesman," is said to be representing the Taliban. Bonus: Thomas Ruttig, "The Battle for Afghanistan: Negotiations with the Taliban" (NAF).

Breakdown

Wonk Watch: "Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan," by Graeme Blair, C. Christine Fair, Neal A. Malhotra, and Jacob N. Shapiro (SSRN).

Progress?

The German magazine Der Spiegel has translated its report from Monday that secret, direct talks are being held in Germany between the United States and the Taliban (Der Spiegel). Tayyab Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s onetime office manager and now "personal spokesman," is said to be representing the Taliban. Bonus: Thomas Ruttig, "The Battle for Afghanistan: Negotiations with the Taliban" (NAF).

Breakdown

A U.S. Army private diagnosed with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder has been sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for the murder of an Afghan prisoner in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province last October (Reuters). The private’s family said he had a history of mental illness and sought help from army specialists after hearing voices; the family said the doctors gave him two psychiatric drugs and sent him back to his unit.

Afghan commandos, with assistance from NATO ground forces and airpower, forced Taliban fighters yesterday out of a government building in Duab district in the isolated eastern province of Nuristan (NYT, Tel, ABC, Tolo). Taliban forces continue to control the province’s Waygal district, which they seized at the end of March.

Also yesterday, unidentified militants set fire to cell phone towers in the northern province of Jawzjan, and the central province of Logar (Pajhwok).

Misplaced joy

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley took the stand for a third day yesterday in the trial of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who is accused of providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, describing Rana’s praise for the attacks and telling the jury that afterwards the two listened to tapes of attack coordinator Sajid Mir reportedly communicating with the attackers during the fighting (Tel, WSJ, Reuters). Headley also said that he briefed Rana about his scouting trips to Mumbai, as well as his later plans to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (AFP). Headley told the jury that he had also scouted and toured a nuclear site in India, and that most of his planning was allegedly done in coordination with a retired Pakistani military officer named Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, known as "Pasha" (ET, WSJ).

Moving to cross-examine Headley, defense attorney Charles Swift sought to undercut the former’s credibility, asking him about what Swift termed a long history of lies, focusing on Headley’s time as a DEA informant, which he used as a cover to train with Lashkar-e-Taiba, and what Headley called further "espionage training" under the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) (NYT). A senior ISI officer yesterday denied Headley’s allegations, calling Headley’s testimony "his opinion" (ET). The Department of Justice has made available all of the exhibits shown during the trial (DOJ). Bonus: explore the New America Foundation’s newly-released and searchable database of homegrown terrorism arrests since 9/11 (NAF).

Duck and cover

Responding to fears over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the wake of the deadly raid last Sunday on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said yesterday that the TTP had no designs on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, calling that concern an "excuse" to push Pakistan to fight the Taliban (WSJ). Pakistan’s navy yesterday reduced the number of militants it initially said were involved in Sunday’s raid on the Mehran naval base, announcing that only four militants were involved in the attack (ET). Anonymous naval officers told the Express Tribune that they believed the attack was in part an inside job, saying the attackers knew the base "inside out" and went directly for where the American-donated aircraft were located and where American and Chinese technicians were working (ET). The militants were reportedly communicating wirelessly with their "commander" during the assault (The News).

Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani pushed back on criticism following the raid, saying that Pakistan would use, "all appropriate means" to target militant sanctuaries in Pakistan (AP, Bloomberg, ET, Dawn).

Whispered presence

The U.S. will "reduce its footprint" in Pakistan, according to a U.S. military spokesman yesterday, following a request from Pakistan’s government (CNN, BBC, Guardian, AFP). While there are believed to be between 200 and 300 U.S. personnel in Pakistan, the reduction will hit the number of military trainers in the country, which Reuters reports will drop from about 120 to less than 50 (Reuters).

Dawn reports that according to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, Pakistan’s finance minister in 2009 asked then-U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson to keep him informed of direct support for the Pakistani military, who he said did not inform the civilian government of the aid it was receiving (Dawn). He also reportedly told Patterson that under dictator Pervez Musharraf only $250 million out of $6.6 billion in military aid actually went to fighting militants, with the rest funneled into Pakistan’s budget. Another leaked cable from 2005 detailed the concern in the United Arab Emirates that their cooperation with the United States against militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been exposed (Dawn).

Protests have broken out recently across Pakistan in response to increasing power cuts that keep many households to eight hours of power a day as summer heat rises in the country (FT). Pakistani anti-drug police yesterday seized 825 pounds of heroin, which has a street value of $44 million, and is the largest heroin bust in Pakistan’s history (AFP). In Kurram a "militant commander" was killed in fighting Tuesday after an army leader hinted that there would be a renewed military offensive in the agency (Dawn). And near the North Waziristan capital of Miram Shah, militants fired a mortar at a military post, with no casualties (Reuters).

Rocky: Kabul

The Times of London reports on three Afghan sisters, Sadaf, Shapnam, and Fahima, training to compete in the 2012 London Olympics on Afghanistan’s boxing team (Times). Their family was forced to flee for Iran following the Taliban’s takeover, so that the sisters could receive an education.

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