Daily brief: Crocker sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan

In with the new Amb. Ryan C. Crocker was sworn in as the new U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Monday, two days after NATO forces handed security in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to their Afghan counterparts (Post, AFP, DW). Crocker, who opened the first post-Taliban U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and takes over from former Afghan ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

In with the new

Amb. Ryan C. Crocker was sworn in as the new U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Monday, two days after NATO forces handed security in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to their Afghan counterparts (Post, AFP, DW). Crocker, who opened the first post-Taliban U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and takes over from former Afghan war commander-cum-diplomat Karl Eikenberry, said that "there will be no rush for the exits," in the country, while promising that the United States does not seek permanent bases in Afghanistan (Post, CNN, AP, Reuters). And the AFP reports on the tenuous but improving security situation in the southern Arghandab Valley, while the AP looks at the continued violence in Helmand province, whose capital Lashkar Gah was transferred to Afghan control last week (AFP, AP).

Suspected Taliban insurgents kidnapped and strangled an eight-year-old boy in Helmand this weekend after his father, a driver for a local police commander, refused to hand over his police truck (NYT, CNN, Slate, AFP). The Taliban denied responsibility for the killing, calling the allegations against them "propaganda." In Paktika province, NATO and Afghan officials this weekend said that as many as 80 militants had been killed in a raid on a training camp reportedly run by the Haqqani Network (NYT, CNN). Five Afghan civilians were killed when their car struck a mine in the northern province of Faryab on Friday, while NATO forces acknowledged Monday that five children had been wounded in a helicopter raid in Helmand (AFP, AFP). 

In with the new

Amb. Ryan C. Crocker was sworn in as the new U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Monday, two days after NATO forces handed security in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to their Afghan counterparts (Post, AFP, DW). Crocker, who opened the first post-Taliban U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and takes over from former Afghan war commander-cum-diplomat Karl Eikenberry, said that "there will be no rush for the exits," in the country, while promising that the United States does not seek permanent bases in Afghanistan (Post, CNN, AP, Reuters). And the AFP reports on the tenuous but improving security situation in the southern Arghandab Valley, while the AP looks at the continued violence in Helmand province, whose capital Lashkar Gah was transferred to Afghan control last week (AFP, AP).

Suspected Taliban insurgents kidnapped and strangled an eight-year-old boy in Helmand this weekend after his father, a driver for a local police commander, refused to hand over his police truck (NYT, CNN, Slate, AFP). The Taliban denied responsibility for the killing, calling the allegations against them "propaganda." In Paktika province, NATO and Afghan officials this weekend said that as many as 80 militants had been killed in a raid on a training camp reportedly run by the Haqqani Network (NYT, CNN). Five Afghan civilians were killed when their car struck a mine in the northern province of Faryab on Friday, while NATO forces acknowledged Monday that five children had been wounded in a helicopter raid in Helmand (AFP, AFP). 

An unfinished report from the bipartisan congressional committee, The Commission on Wartime Contracting, has reportedly concluded that the United States has "wasted" $34 billion in money paid to contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of nearly $200 billion in contracts paid in the last decade (WSJ, Reuters, Tel). And Karen DeYoung summarizes a still-to-be-completed year-long U.S. Army investigation that concludes that millions of dollars from a $2.16 billion contract paid to trucking firms in Afghanistan has wound up in the hands of insurgents (Post).

Also this weekend, The AP talks to Hussein Kazemi, a 19-year-old Afghan asylum seeker in Norway who fled his country two years ago, only to be wounded four times in the devastating attack last Friday by Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik on a camp for Labor Party youth activists outside of Oslo (AP).

Bloodbath

At least 44 people have been reported killed in renewed violence in Karachi this weekend, bringing the total number of people killed in July in the city up to approximately 185 (Reuters, BBC, ET, AJE, Dawn, DT, CNN). The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government has pushed political dialogue in the city, as additional paramilitary forces have been sent to quell the violence, and police are conducting door-to-door searches in the city’s most violent areas (ET, Dawn, DT, ET, ET, DT, Dawn).

Pakistan’s new foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar held talks with U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton this weekend during a regional forum, and said afterwards that Pakistan did not need "cajoling" in order to take on militants (Reuters, DT). The U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly voted Friday to defund a $7.5 billion civilian aid package to Pakistan, though such a provision is unlikely to become law (Dawn). And the Times has a must-read story this weekend about the efforts of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to keep watch on the Pakistani diaspora in the United States, and threaten those who criticize the country’s military (NYT).

The commission investigating the May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden will meet for the second time today, and may reportedly hear testimony from intelligence officials about whether or not the ISI was aware of bin Laden’s presence in the country (Dawn). A series of communications between the ISI and the Punjab police in April released to press agencies this weekend purportedly shows that the radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) was planning a series of "Arab Spring" protests in Pakistan; the communiqués also claim to show that HuT is actively trying to infiltrate Pakistan’s military and academia (ET). A Pakistani soldier was killed Sunday when security forces disrupted an attempted suicide attack on a South Waziristan checkpoint, while the Tribune highlights the "resurgence" of violence in Pakistan’s border areas (ET, AP, AFP, ET).

Rounding out this weekend, Canadian authorities announced that they had arrested an alleged Pakistani "war criminal," Arshad Muhammad, outside of Toronto — though officials did not say what crime Muhammad is suspected of committing (Dawn). Dawn reports that Pakistan is likely to request a new aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Dawn). The aid agency Islamic Relief this weekend said that Pakistan was not adequately prepared for a potential new round of flooding (Guardian). And the commissioner for the district of Loralai in Baluchistan said that a Swiss couple kidnapped early this month from his district were likely still alive, though he did not provide evidence to support the claim (ET).

Flashpoint

After meeting with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of a regional conference this weekend, Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik announced that Pakistan would send a committee to India to help investigate the 2008 Mumbai attacks (ET, Dawn, AFP). Pakistani foreign minister Khar will be in India this week for talks, and will also reportedly meet with leaders from Indian-administered Kashmir (ET, ET). And India has released 87 Pakistani fishermen detained last year and early this year in a "goodwill gesture" towards Pakistan (ET).

Super size Islamabad

The Post notes this weekend that as anti-American sentiment rises in Pakistan, so is the country’s taste for American fast food (Post). Pakistan recently got its first Hardee’s restaurant, and it currently boasts 21 McDonald’s stores.

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