Daily brief: Panetta unanimously confirmed as defense chief
Wonk Watch: Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, "Washington’s Phantom War," Foreign Affairs. Easy win The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed current CIA head Leon Panetta to replace Robert Gates as secretary of defense (Post, BBC, WSJ, AFP, LAT, Bloomberg, CNN). His is the first of several key movements in defense personnel for President Barack ...
Wonk Watch: Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, "Washington's Phantom War," Foreign Affairs.
Wonk Watch: Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, "Washington’s Phantom War," Foreign Affairs.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed current CIA head Leon Panetta to replace Robert Gates as secretary of defense (Post, BBC, WSJ, AFP, LAT, Bloomberg, CNN). His is the first of several key movements in defense personnel for President Barack Obama; top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus will testify at his confirmation hearing to replace Panetta at the CIA on Thursday, the same day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the nomination of Amb. Ryan C. Crocker to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan (Tel, Post).
One of Panetta’s first tasks will be to oversee the withdrawal of "surge" forces from Afghanistan, which President Obama is expected to announce tonight (AP, Tel, CNN). In a break with recommendations from his military commanders, Obama will reportedly announce the withdrawal of 10,000 troops this year — 5,000 this summer and another 5,000 at the end of the year — with the other 20,000 to be pulled out by late next year (AP, Reuters, Tel, Guardian, AP, Times, Bloomberg). The cost of the Afghan war has become a major political issue as Obama seeks to maintain momentum for the war effort even while withdrawing forces (NYT, Post). And the Post talks to U.S. diplomats concerned about the transition to Afghan control as U.S. personnel draw down (Post).
In other news, an attack on a checkpoint in the province of Ghazni has killed six Afghan police, while the AFP reports on the efforts to secure the hotly-contested district of Sangin in Afghanistan’s south (BBC, AFP). Pamela Constable profiles Mullah Qalamuddin, the one-time head of the Taliban’s feared moral police and now a member of Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council (Post). Nick Schifrin has a must-read on the Taliban’s radicalization of 17-year-old Zar Ajam, who was hanged this week for his role in a massacre at a Jalalabad bank (ABC). And the Times looks at how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have helped erase the lines between men and women on the battlefield, despite the ban on women serving in combat (NYT).
The threat within
A Pakistan army spokesman on Tuesday confirmed the arrest last month of Brig. Ali Khan for ties to the banned extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) (Post, BBC, LAT, NYT, CBS, WSJ, Reuters, Guardian, AFP, Tel). Khan, who comes from a well-known military family and served as a commander in Pakistani-administered Kashmir before his transfer to the army’s General Headquarters at Rawalpindi, is one of the most senior officers to face questions over ties with militants (Dawn, ET, The News). The army has also reportedly detained four majors suspected of links to HuT (Reuters, AP). Bonus read: Imtiaz Gul, "Has Pakistan’s military been infiltrated by extremists?" (FP)
A Pew survey conducted in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden found that nearly 63 percent of Pakistanis opposed the operation that killed the terrorist leader, while nearly 70 percent of people saw the United States more as an enemy than a friend (Pew, NYT, ET, CNN). The poll also found that only 37 percent of Pakistanis are in favor of conducting military operations in the country’s tribal areas to root out militants, a 16 percent drop from two years ago (Reuters). A shootout at a police checkpoint near Peshawar has reportedly killed 12 militants, while security forces also fought with militants in Khyber and Orakzai agencies (AP, AFP/ET, Dawn, BBC). And Jason Burke reports that bin Laden’s youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, is expected to be repatriated to Yemen within the next few days (Guardian).
Pakistani prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani approved the proposals for commissions to investigate the death and life in Pakistan of bin Laden and the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, who police have reportedly concluded was killed in Islamabad before being dumped a considerable distance away from the city (Dawn, ET, DT, The News, ET). Pakistani police have also reportedly arrested a suspect in the murder of former minorities’ minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only non-Muslim member of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) cabinet, who was killed in early March (ET, Dawn).
Finally today, The Tribune has the first in a series about the political situation and problems in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and the foreign secretaries from India and Pakistan will meet Thursday to discuss the disputed territory (ET, Reuters). And a Pakistani woman was reportedly stoned to death and shot in an "honor killing" near Mardan (Dawn).
Tour de Kabul
Forty cyclists have begun a dangerous bike race through Afghanistan that will determine who makes the national cycling team (Tel). The race began Monday, and will end in the northern province of Badakhshan.
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