Daily brief: Suicide bomber strikes Karzai memorial

Wonk Watch: "The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa’ida" (Combating Terrorism Center). Death after death At least four people were killed at one of Kandahar’s largest mosques this morning, including the chief cleric for the region’s provincial council, Hikmatullah Hikmat, when a teenaged suicide bomber with an explosive concealed in his turban struck a ...

Mamoon Durrani/AFP/Getty Images
Mamoon Durrani/AFP/Getty Images
Mamoon Durrani/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: "The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa'ida" (Combating Terrorism Center).

Death after death

At least four people were killed at one of Kandahar's largest mosques this morning, including the chief cleric for the region's provincial council, Hikmatullah Hikmat, when a teenaged suicide bomber with an explosive concealed in his turban struck a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai (Guardian, NYT, BBC, Tel, AP, Reuters, WSJ). The attack comes after Afghan president Hamid Karzai worked to bolster his family's power and authority in Kandahar, naming his brother Shah Wali Karzai to take Ahmed Wali's place as the head of the family and the Popalzai tribe (WSJ, NYT, McClatchy).

The killing comes at a time when Karzai is faced with a number of challenges, and removes a crucial bulwark of support for the embattled president in Afghanistan's south (AP, NYT, TIME, Reuters). The BBC examines the violent state of Kandahar, while the Post notes that Ahmed Wali's killing has prompted other Afghan leaders to question their own security (BBC, Post). And Thom Shanker has a must-read on the U.S. effort to gather biometric data on insurgents and others in Afghanistan, as the first U.S. troops to leave the country transferred their authority Wednesday for an area outside of Kabul to another regiment (NYT, AP).

Wonk Watch: "The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa’ida" (Combating Terrorism Center).

Death after death

At least four people were killed at one of Kandahar’s largest mosques this morning, including the chief cleric for the region’s provincial council, Hikmatullah Hikmat, when a teenaged suicide bomber with an explosive concealed in his turban struck a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai (Guardian, NYT, BBC, Tel, AP, Reuters, WSJ). The attack comes after Afghan president Hamid Karzai worked to bolster his family’s power and authority in Kandahar, naming his brother Shah Wali Karzai to take Ahmed Wali’s place as the head of the family and the Popalzai tribe (WSJ, NYT, McClatchy).

The killing comes at a time when Karzai is faced with a number of challenges, and removes a crucial bulwark of support for the embattled president in Afghanistan’s south (AP, NYT, TIME, Reuters). The BBC examines the violent state of Kandahar, while the Post notes that Ahmed Wali’s killing has prompted other Afghan leaders to question their own security (BBC, Post). And Thom Shanker has a must-read on the U.S. effort to gather biometric data on insurgents and others in Afghanistan, as the first U.S. troops to leave the country transferred their authority Wednesday for an area outside of Kabul to another regiment (NYT, AP).

Also Thursday, a United Nations report determined that the first six months of this year were the deadliest for Afghan civilians since fighting began in 2001, with 1,462 civilians killed (BBC, WSJ, Reuters, AP).

It’s all in the details

The CIA on Wednesday admitted an attempt to use a vaccination program for hepatitis to obtain DNA from family members of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but said the effort was part of a real program to vaccinate children against the virus (Post). Reports about the incident have already prompted concern in Pakistan about vaccination programs (AP). And Pakistan’s government is reportedly moving towards releasing a prominent doctor detained for his involvement in the ruse, Shakil Afridi, whose family has gone into hiding according to Dawn (Guardian, Dawn). Bonus read: Christopher R. Albon, "The hidden perils of covert action" (FP).

The first talks took place Wednesday between senior Pakistani and American officials since the United States announced a cutoff of $800 million in military aid to the country this weekend, as U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis met with Pakistani army leaders in Islamabad and Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha was scheduled to meet with CIA and Defense Department officials (AP, Dawn, ET). The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John Allen, is scheduled to be in Islamabad Thursday. And Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed concern about the aid suspension Wednesday (ET, DT). Bonus read: Ahsan Butt, "A meaningless aid cutoff" (FP).

At least 14 people are dead in Karachi after Pakistan provincial minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member Zulfikar Mirza insulted Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain during televised remarks (ET, ET, AP, AJE, Dawn). Mirza and Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik apologized for the remarks Thursday, as violence in the city continues unabated (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET).

Three stories round out the Pakistan news: The governor of Pakistan’s Central Bank resigned Wednesday, making him the second to do so in just over a year (Reuters, ET, DT, The News). Pakistan’s federal cabinet met for the first time ever in Quetta Wednesday, and said they will constitute a commission to investigate the 2006 killing of Baluch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti (ET, Dawn, DT). And a blast in the town of Chaman on the Afghan border in a house where explosives were believed to be stored killed four people this morning (BBC, Dawn).

Flashpoint

Indian authorities are searching for evidence of the group responsible for Wednesday’s coordinated triple bombings in Mumbai, which killed at least 21 people (NYT, Toronto Star, WSJ). While authorities have not identified the suspected perpetrators of the bombing, public speculation fell on Pakistan-based groups, as well as homegrown organizations (Guardian, Tel, Globe and Mail, WSJ). Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the bombings (Dawn, DT).

And finally, supporters of the anti-Indian jihadist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen rallied in Muzzafarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administer Kashmir Wednesday, to call for a "Kashmiri" representation at talks between India and Pakistan, and also calling for holy war against India (AFP).

First in flight

Afghanistan’s first four female officers to qualify to be pilots in their country’s army have begun their training at Texas’ Lackland Air Force Base, where they will perfect their English before pursuing flight school (Tel, AP). The women, who will operate helicopters, could be certified to fly by September 2012.

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