The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: U.S. investigates 9/11 attack threat

Threat perspectives The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday warned of a "specific, credible, but unconfirmed" threat of a terrorist plot around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in either New York or Washington (NYT, Post, Tel, AJE, ABC, WSJ, Times, AFP, Guardian, BBC, CNN, AP). The suspected plot, believed to involve three ...

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Threat perspectives

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday warned of a "specific, credible, but unconfirmed" threat of a terrorist plot around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in either New York or Washington (NYT, Post, Tel, AJE, ABC, WSJ, Times, AFP, Guardian, BBC, CNN, AP). The suspected plot, believed to involve three people — including one American — who entered the United States from Afghanistan last month, is also said to potentially involve a vehicle-borne explosive and have originated with new al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (Tel, NYT). While security is being tightened in both cities, officials say events scheduled to commemorate 9/11 will go ahead as planned.

As the attacks’ anniversary approaches, the Times has an in-depth series reflecting on the war in Afghanistan a decade after it began, while Reuters reports on the progressive degradation of al-Qaeda’s core leadership, beset by arrests and drone strikes and "almost certainly incapable" of another attack on the scale of 9/11 (NYT, Reuters). Officials continue to debate whether or not Pakistan knew of the presence of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan before he was killed, while Pakistan has barred visitors from reaching bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad (Politico, AP). And based on a survey of estimates, the Times pegs the cost of the 9/11 attacks to the United States, in economic damage and foreign wars alike, at $3.3 trillion (NYT).

Friendly fire

NATO admitted Thursday that U.S. forces had accidentally killed BBC and Pajhwok journalist Omaid Khpalwak in a case of "mistaken identity" during a Taliban raid on a government compound in Uruzgan province in July (Guardian, NYT, BBC, AP). The NATO summary of the incident claims that the soldier who shot Khpalwak saw him clutching an object in his hand and reaching for something, leading the soldier to conclude that he was a suicide bomber; however, early reports on the incident included claims from Afghan police — later retracted — that Khpalwak held up his press card, and identified himself in English as a journalist, before being shot 11 times (NYT, Reuters, Times, Tel, BBC, CNN).

In an interview Thursday, American ambassador to Kabul Ryan C. Crocker said that the Taliban would need to "feel more pain" from military operations before being ready for peace talks (WSJ, AFP). From the Panjshir Valley, where anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed by al-Qaeda suicide bombers 10 years ago today, Reuters highlights the concern about a possible peace deal with the Taliban (Reuters). And during a visit to Islamabad Wednesday, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen reportedly faced criticism from top Pakistani generals for not clearing out Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sanctuaries in eastern Afghanistan (Dawn).

A new audit by the State Department inspector general as well as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has concluded that the cost of the civilian "surge" in Afghanistan since 2009 has been close to $1.7 billion (Post). The Monitor continues its series on the American fighting in the eastern Pech Valley (CSM). And Reuters looks at what American soldiers see as the "longer" war in Afghanistan, even after U.S. forces withdraw (Reuters).

Shock and awe

Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik gave a closed briefing to Pakistan’s cabinet about the violence in Karachi and efforts to stop it Thursday, leading one cabinet member to compare the detailed descriptions of torture and killing to, "the trailer of a horror movie" (Dawn). The Supreme Court panel investigating killings in the city criticized Karachi’s police for not doing enough to stop the violence Friday, as roundups by the paramilitary Rangers in the past few days have resulted in the detention of "hundreds" (Dawn, ET, DT, ET, ET). And in an emergency party meeting Thursday, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain said that "foreign forces" stoking the violence in Karachi sought the disintegration of Pakistan, and that these same forces wanted Hussain killed (ET).

Pakistan’s cabinet on Thursday requested Afghanistan’s help in freeing the nearly 30 boys held captive in Afghanistan by the TTP (AFP, ET). And Pakistani authorities tell the Tribune that kidnap victims Warren Weinstein and Shahbaz Taseer have both been "sold" to organized crime networks for a fee (ET).

Finally, the twin suicide attacks Wednesday in Quetta have reportedly prompted city authorities to crack down on illegal immigrants (ET). Indian authorities have arrested two more people in Indian-administered Kashmir in relation to the bomb blast this week that killed 13 in front of the country’s High Court, as police try to determine who is responsible for the explosion (Reuters, Post). And Pakistan will reportedly accelerate construction of a gas pipeline to Iran despite American opposition to the project (AP, Reuters).

Let the sunshine in

In order to confront a burgeoning energy crisis, the Punjab provincial cabinet has approved a "pilot" program to outfit government buildings and some hospitals with solar energy technology (ET). The province’s energy supply is currently estimated to be 4,000 Megawatts below demand.

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Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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