The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: U.S. officials believe ISI ordered journalist killed

Striking fear U.S. intelligence officials reportedly believe that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) ordered the killing in May of journalist Saleem Shahzad, after Shahzad investigated connections between the ISI and militants (NYT). Intelligence was gathered about the threat to Shahzad’s life before and after his disappearance, and an official said that, "Every indication is ...

ALI AFZAL/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AFZAL/AFP/Getty Images

Striking fear

U.S. intelligence officials reportedly believe that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) ordered the killing in May of journalist Saleem Shahzad, after Shahzad investigated connections between the ISI and militants (NYT). Intelligence was gathered about the threat to Shahzad’s life before and after his disappearance, and an official said that, "Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society."

Carlotta Gall has an interview this weekend a disenchanted anonymous militant commander who said that Pakistan is still working a "broad range" of militant groups, providing planning assistance, training, and protection to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen and others (NYT).  The Tribune reports that TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud is increasingly isolated and losing his grip on the organization (ET, Reuters). And the L.A. Times notes the struggles of the Pakistani army to regain its legitimacy after several months of setbacks (LAT).

Supported by helicopters and air force jets, Pakistan’s army moved into Kurram agency on Monday, in order to clear militants from the area and open a road link to the besieged city of Parachinar (BBC, AP, WSJ, Reuters). A meeting of political parties on Monday in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) opposed the operation and called for political reform in the area, as more than 1,000 families are believed to have fled the current round of fighting (ET, Dawn, ET, Dawn). The Tribune looks closely at the Turis, a Shi’a tribe in Kurram who have fought Taliban incursions, and suffered the consequences, for the last three years (ET).

At least 300 militants operating from Afghanistan attacked a checkpoint in Bajaur on Monday, as Pakistani and Afghan forces traded rocket and mortar fire this weekend (Reuters, DT, ET, DT, AFP). The increase in cross-border violence and retaliation has raised tension between the two neighbors, and prompted on Monday an agreement to create a "hotline" between the two armies (NYT, Dawn, AP, ET). And Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced Sunday that the TTP had "sold" a suicide bomber to the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network for the purpose of targeting a government commander in Afghanistan’s east (Reuters, CNN).

Holding pattern

Karen DeYoung reported Saturday that the CIA has not conducted drone strikes from the Shamsi air base in Baluchistan since April, as aircraft sit idle under Pakistani protection and attacks are launched from U.S. bases in Afghanistan (Post, AP, ET). The U.S. State Department said this weekend that no U.S. military personnel remained at the air base, which Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani denied this weekend had ever been used for drone operations (Dawn, ET). And the Post reports on the global rush to obtain and deploy drones (Post).

The progressive deterioration of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan over much of the past year has reportedly prompted the former to shift supply routes for troops in Afghanistan to Central Asia, in an attempt to minimize supplies that come through the port of Karachi (Post, AFP). Pakistani and American counterterrorism officials are set to meet today, in an attempt to ease tension that has prevailed between the two since the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in the cantonment city of Abbottabad (ET, Geo). And hundreds of Pakistani Islamists gathered this weekend to protest an event hosted at the American Embassy in Islamabad last month to celebrate gay pride (AFP, BBC, AP).

The Post reports this weekend that bin Laden spent much of the last few years fixated on al-Qaeda’s decline, while President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon asserted this weekend that bin Laden had a "support mechanism" in Pakistan (Post, Bloomberg). The AP’s Adam Goldman has a must-read on an unnamed CIA analyst, referred to as "John" who for much of the last decade helped spearhead the hunt for the slain al-Qaeda leader (AP). And unidentified organizers in Lahore’s Punjab university are hosting a poem and essay competition to praise bin Laden (AP, ET).

Rounding out the news, a remote-controlled bomb killed at least three Pakistani soldiers when it struck a convoy near North Waziristan’s capital Miram Shah, while another bomb killed at least five paramilitary Frontier Corps members in Baluchistan, and three police were killed in a militant assault on a checkpoint in Khyber-Puktunkhwa province (AFP/ET, Reuters, Dawn, CNN, AFP, The News). The first witnesses testified this weekend in the trial of seven people, including six paramilitary Rangers, accused of killing a teenager in Karachi (Dawn, NYT, ET). And a Swiss couple kidnapped over the weekend in the province of Baluchistan has reportedly been moved to Pakistan’s tribal areas (ET, AFP, CNN, AP, BBC, DT).

Heading east

In an interview Monday, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus said the focus of the Afghan war would shift in the coming months to the country’s eastern border with Pakistan, as the Times of London reports that the withdrawal of regular troops from the country will be shadowed by an increase in Special Operations Forces (AP, Times). The Times looks at the impending departure from Afghanistan of Petraeus, as well as current U.S. ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry and day-to-day military commander Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez (NYT). And Laura King highlights the issues facing Afghan president Hamid Karzai as the United States gets ready to begin withdrawing troops (LAT).

The Journal reports this weekend that the United States and others have had to reduce funding for the training of Afghan security forces due to budget shortfalls and concerns about the ability of the Afghan government to support a large security force (WSJ). Dawn’s Madiha Sattar details diplomatic cables released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks on U.S. efforts to communicate with the Taliban before 9/11 (Dawn). And the Post reports on the growing demand for Taliban propaganda videos in Kabul, as a United Kingdom soldier was found dead after disappearing from his base in southern Afghanistan under mysterious circumstances (Post, BBC, WSJ, AP, Times, Tel, Guardian, Reuters, AFP).

Afghan police detained eight individuals this weekend in relation to the Kabul Bank crisis, including three Indian nationals who were released shortly after being taken into custody (Reuters, Independent, Tolo). And the former governor of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, who fled Afghanistan last month, said this weekend that he was "ready for execution" if Afghanistan’s government could prove the charges of fraud that have been leveled against him (AP).

Two stories close out the news: Up to 13 people were reportedly killed Saturday when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) destroyed a van in Afghanistan’s southern province of Zabul; nearly 30 people were killed in two days by such explosions across the country (LAT, Reuters, BBC, CNN, AFP). And a grenade attack Sunday on a school in Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province reportedly wounded 25 people, including 17 students (CNN, AFP).

Looking for a miracle on ice

Pakistan’s hockey team lost a close match to Germany this weekend, as the team pursues an Olympic bid in 2012 (The News).

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