Daily brief: Senate committee gives dire warning on Afghanistan

Dependence A new report released Tuesday evening by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s majority staff warns that failures in the nation-building and aid programs in Afghanistan mean that the country may face "a severe economic depression" after foreign troops withdraw in 2014 (SFRC, Post, BBC, AP, AJE). The report sharply criticizes the way the nearly ...

PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images
PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images
PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

Dependence

A new report released Tuesday evening by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's majority staff warns that failures in the nation-building and aid programs in Afghanistan mean that the country may face "a severe economic depression" after foreign troops withdraw in 2014 (SFRC, Post, BBC, AP, AJE). The report sharply criticizes the way the nearly $320 million per month in American aid money is spent, and argues that both military and civilian aid programs are poorly managed, unsustainable, often overwhelm local economies, and fuel corruption, in a country where nearly 97 percent of gross domestic product comes from foreign military and development spending (Post). The committee will hold confirmation hearings today for Amb. Ryan Crocker, who has been nominated to serve as the next ambassador to Afghanistan. Bonus read: Art Keller, "Ailing Aid" (FP, FP).

The report's release comes as President Barack Obama faces increasing political pressure to withdraw forces rapidly from Afghanistan, and the White House said yesterday that Obama's decision on troop reductions would be announced soon (AP, AP, Times). The Times of London reports that Obama is considering withdrawing all 30,000 "surge" troops from the country by late next year (Times).

Dependence

A new report released Tuesday evening by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s majority staff warns that failures in the nation-building and aid programs in Afghanistan mean that the country may face "a severe economic depression" after foreign troops withdraw in 2014 (SFRC, Post, BBC, AP, AJE). The report sharply criticizes the way the nearly $320 million per month in American aid money is spent, and argues that both military and civilian aid programs are poorly managed, unsustainable, often overwhelm local economies, and fuel corruption, in a country where nearly 97 percent of gross domestic product comes from foreign military and development spending (Post). The committee will hold confirmation hearings today for Amb. Ryan Crocker, who has been nominated to serve as the next ambassador to Afghanistan. Bonus read: Art Keller, "Ailing Aid" (FP, FP).

The report’s release comes as President Barack Obama faces increasing political pressure to withdraw forces rapidly from Afghanistan, and the White House said yesterday that Obama’s decision on troop reductions would be announced soon (AP, AP, Times). The Times of London reports that Obama is considering withdrawing all 30,000 "surge" troops from the country by late next year (Times).

In his remarks yesterday morning, German Ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the UN’s Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee Peter Wittig said that the Afghan government has filed requests to remove 50 former Taliban officials from its lists (AFP, WSJ, DT). The Guardian reports that any move to change the sanctions regime will have to overcome current objections from Russia, China, and India (Guardian).

Finally today, the head of the provincial council in the normally peaceful province of Bamian, Jawad Zehak, was found beheaded Tuesday, days after his kidnapping by unknown attackers (LAT, RFE/RL, Reuters, Pajhwok). The BBC reports on the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan’s once-tranquil north (BBC). And Der Spiegel notes that the growing instability in the north is helping to shift local opinion against the German troops based there (Der Spiegel).

Drone wars

Two new drone strikes reportedly took place this morning in North Waziristan near the border with South Waziristan, targeting a vehicle and a purported militant training camp and killing up to 23 people (AP, AFP, CNN, Dawn, ET, Reuters, BBC). The new attacks are part of a rash of strikes following reports of the death of militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri last Friday, whose fate is still in doubt both in Pakistan and the United States (AFP, Reuters, Press Trust of India). And in Chicago jury deliberations start today in the trial of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of helping support the 2008 Mumbai attacks, for which Kashmiri was also indicted in the United States (Chicago Tribune, Dawn, NDTV, AP, Chicago Tribune, AP, Bloomberg, Globe and Mail, Reuters, NYT).

In written answers provided ahead of his scheduled Senate testimony tomorrow, CIA director Leon Panetta, nominated to be the next U.S. secretary of defense, praised Pakistani defense cooperation with the United States, but said that further military aid will be "informed" by Pakistani cooperation on American security requests (Bloomberg). Afghanistan-based militants attacked a patrol and a checkpoint in the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram this morning, as a senior Pakistani general yesterday defended the role Pakistani forces are playing in combating militancy in the country’s tribal areas (AP, Dawn, NPR). And on Monday a Pakistani court "framed charges" filed first in 1995 against the head of the banned Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Mohammad, for allegedly attacking a police post and committing treason (The News).

Rounding out today’s news, a report from a Pakistani think tank run by parliamentarian Sherry Rehman has sharply criticized Pakistan’s government for not doing enough to protect religious minorities and challenge the country’s blasphemy law (BBC). A paramilitary officer near the city of Quetta told an investigative committee that he did not order the shooting at a checkpoint of five foreigners originally suspected to be carrying explosives, though he said he did fire several shots at them himself (Dawn, ET). Five tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces were destroyed in an explosion near the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan (AP). And the debate over Pakistan’s budget and taxes continues to rage, and Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani yesterday called for an accelerated signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States (Dawn, ET).

Sound attack

Concerned about noise pollution, Islamabad’s police force is reportedly trying to make the capital a "noise-free city" (DT). The force has even set up a special group within the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) to enforce regulations and check for excess noise.

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