Daily brief: Second CIA station chief leaves Islamabad

The Rack: Nicholas Schmidle, "Getting bin Laden" (New Yorker). Shadow wars For the second time in seven months, the CIA station chief in Islamabad has left the country, as U.S. officials cited "medical reasons" for the early withdrawal (ABC, AFP). The station chief, who reportedly led the intelligence gathering operation that tracked down Osama bin ...

David Burnett/Newsmakers
David Burnett/Newsmakers
David Burnett/Newsmakers

The Rack: Nicholas Schmidle, "Getting bin Laden" (New Yorker).

Shadow wars

For the second time in seven months, the CIA station chief in Islamabad has left the country, as U.S. officials cited "medical reasons" for the early withdrawal (ABC, AFP). The station chief, who reportedly led the intelligence gathering operation that tracked down Osama bin Laden's compound in the city of Abbottabad, is said to have had a contentious relationship with Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) that resulted in officials originally scheduling his rotation out of the country for September, 10 months into his tour (Independent, CBS). The chief's departure is expected to help improve U.S.-Pakistan relations, though Pakistan has placed restrictions on U.S. diplomats' travel within the country (Dawn, AFP, ET, AP).

The Rack: Nicholas Schmidle, "Getting bin Laden" (New Yorker).

Shadow wars

For the second time in seven months, the CIA station chief in Islamabad has left the country, as U.S. officials cited "medical reasons" for the early withdrawal (ABC, AFP). The station chief, who reportedly led the intelligence gathering operation that tracked down Osama bin Laden’s compound in the city of Abbottabad, is said to have had a contentious relationship with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) that resulted in officials originally scheduling his rotation out of the country for September, 10 months into his tour (Independent, CBS). The chief’s departure is expected to help improve U.S.-Pakistan relations, though Pakistan has placed restrictions on U.S. diplomats’ travel within the country (Dawn, AFP, ET, AP).

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum Friday, U.S. president Barack Obama’s adviser on Pakistan Gen. Douglas E. Lute said that the U.S. has six months to deliver a "knockout punch" to al-Qaeda following bin Laden’s death, and that the U.S. should "double down" on measures to target al-Qaeda leaders, believed to be a reference to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas (NYT, LAT, DT). The remarks came after former U.S. director of national intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair at the same conference called on the United States to put the strikes on hold, and only launch the missiles with Pakistani approval (Post, AP). A suspected strike Monday in South Waziristan has reportedly killed at least four militants, and Dawn reports that ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha formally requested an end to the attacks last month during a visit to Washington (AFP, Reuters, AP, Dawn).

Also this weekend, the Tribune cites an anonymous source who told the paper that the United States supposedly pushed back the operation against bin Laden, out of concern for the impact it would have on relations with Pakistan (ET). The commission investigating bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan has been delayed, as ISI director Lt. Gen. Pasha, scheduled to brief the group today, is in China on an official trip (ET, ET). And an attack by militants on the city of Kashgar in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang was, according to China’s government, led by militants who had trained in camps in Pakistan (Dawn).

Internal strife

Dozens have been killed in ongoing violence in the city of Karachi, despite peace efforts from the government and major political parties (ET, Reuters, Dawn, ET, The News, Dawn, DT, Dawn). Unidentified gunmen just outside Quetta killed 11 Shi’a bus passengers Saturday in what is believed to have been a sectarian attack, just a day after seven others were killed in the province (AJE, Reuters, BBC, CNN, NYT, DT, Dawn, ET). A bomb in Quetta killed two children Monday, as a strike against sectarian violence shut down much of the city (Dawn, BBC, ET).

Police arrested 10 alleged Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants in Karachi this weekend (ET, Dawn). The United Nations on Friday designated the TTP to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations (AP, AFP). Pakistan’s military said this weekend that it had retaken 90 percent of Mohmand agency while Al-Jazeera reports that as many as 2,500 former Pakistani servicemen helped Bahraini authorities suppress protests in that country (ET, AJE). And in Sindh province Monday, gunmen destroyed 10 NATO tankers in the city of Khairpur (ET, Dawn).

Also this weekend: Pakistan’s Central Bank unexpectedly cut interest rates, as Pakistani leaders reportedly consider a new strategy to seek aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Bloomberg, ET). Reuters reports on continuing anger against Pakistan’s government a year after devastating floods struck the country (Reuters). The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will soon re-join Pakistan’s government, starting in Pakistani-administered Kashmir (Dawn, Dawn). A Pakistani court this weekend dismissed a 13-year-old corruption case involving the Swiss company SGS, clearing those accused, who included Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (ET). Pakistan’s government is considering creating several new provinces, including South Punjab and Hazara (Dawn, ET). And Pakistani mangoes were on display in Chicago this weekend, in the hopes of easing an effort to export the fruit to the United States (Dawn).

Finally, the holy month of Ramadan has begun in Pakistan, after a dispute amongst scholars about the timing of the moon sighting that marks the month’s beginning (ET, Dawn).

Unclear boundaries

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan Friday, where he cited progress against key insurgent groups like the Haqqani Network, expressed his concern about a recent uptick in insurgent violence, and told the BBC that his greatest concern was instability along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where U.S. forces are reportedly beefing up security (Reuters, AFP, Reuters, BBC, NYT). Mullen also said that top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen had been ordered to come up with an initial plan by October to withdraw 10,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year, and said the U.S. military is watching to see if the Taliban take a break from fighting during Ramadan (AP, AFP, Reuters, BBC). Mullen also faced questions from soldiers about the potential impact on their pay of the debt ceiling crisis and possibility of an American default on loans (Reuters, CNN, AP).

A suicide bombing Sunday on the police headquarters in the provincial capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah, killed twelve policemen and a child (LAT, BBC, WSJ, Post, RFI, AP, Reuters). A bomb attack on a joint NATO-Afghan patrol in the eastern province of Paktia killed two foreign soldiers and five Afghans Friday (NYT). And four Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in a NATO airstrike in the province of Nuristan this weekend, while the Independent looks at the increasing toll the war on the Taliban is taking on civilians (AP, Independent).

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced Sunday that the organization had arrested an Afghan Army officer who reportedly confessed to plotting attacks in Kabul as part of a Taliban cell (AFP, BBC, CNN). The AP spoke to an unnamed Western official this weekend who said that the Taliban were not behind the killing of Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai last month, as Afghan politicians and officials have increased their personal security following a spate of high-profile killings (AP, AFP). And the Times of London looks at the growing Taliban efforts to target interpreters working with foreign forces (Times).

Rounding out the weekend, Afghanistan’s attorney general has sent the names of several suspects in the fraud at the Kabul Bank to Afghan courts for trial, while an Afghan prosecutor said as many as 40 people were involved in scams that took nearly $900 million from the bank in bad loans (NYT, AP). An Afghan watchdog group warned this weekend that warlords and poor governance might imperil profits from giant iron ore deposits in the provinces of Bamiyan, Parwan, and Wardak (Reuters). A United Nations report this weekend warned about the heroin trade in Afghanistan, saying that trafficking in the country generated $61 billion in Afghanistan in 2009 out of $68 billion in total opium production for that year (ET, Reuters). And a group of Afghan journalists are pressuring the government to investigate the death of BBC reporter Omed Khpalwak in a militant assault last week on a government compound in Uruzgan (Reuters).

Shattered dreams

Afghanistan’s men’s basketball team will not get the chance to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, after they were unable to obtain visas for a tournament in Uzbekistan (NYT). The disappointing news followed months of furious efforts to obtain the required permission.

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