Daily Brief: U.S. to take on advisory role in Afghanistan
Movin’ on out The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said for the first time publicly on Tuesday that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will begin stepping back and letting Afghan forces take charge over the next year (NYT, LAT, WSJ, Reuters). The United States plans to embed special advisory teams in Afghan units, which ...
Movin' on out
Movin’ on out
The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said for the first time publicly on Tuesday that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will begin stepping back and letting Afghan forces take charge over the next year (NYT, LAT, WSJ, Reuters). The United States plans to embed special advisory teams in Afghan units, which "in many respects will be a preview of how we see our forces postured in the years to come," and which will help with planning operations and calling in close air support or medevac helicopters when needed. Gen. Allen’s comments came as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a surprise visit to Kabul, where he told U.S. troops, "we’re winning this very tough conflict" (AFP, AJE, CNN).
Both Sec. Panetta and Gen. Allen spoke positively about future cooperation between U.S. and Pakistani troops along the Afghan-Pakistan border, since the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops at the border last month caused a chill in the relationship between the two militaries (CNN, AP, Post, Dawn). The BBC on Tuesday looked at the difficulties the United Stated has faced in trying to expand its Afghanistan supply routes beyond Pakistan, an especially important initiative since Pakistan closed its roads to NATO trucks following last month’s deadly incident (BBC).
In other Afghanistan news, a local government official who was a leader in fighting drug smuggling was killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province (AP). And the AFP looks at the significant challenges Afghanistan’s health care system has yet to overcome, despite the encouraging progress shown by a recent Afghan Ministry of Public Health report (AFP). Bonus read: Acting Afghan Minister of Public Health Dr. Suraya Dalil, "On the Road to Recovery" (FP).
The spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Wednesday that the president will be discharged from a Dubai hospital on Thursday, following reports from a source close to Zardari that the president’s trip was caused by a "mini-stroke," not a mild heart attack as was previously reported (CNN, AP, AFP, WSJ). Saeed Shah reports that although Pres. Zardari formally occupies a "largely ceremonial" role in the Pakistani government, his real power comes from his position as the joint head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which leads the country’s governing coalition (Guardian). The PPP released a statement Tuesday saying that "it is optional, not binding" for Zardari to answer questions given to him by the commission investigating the May 2 U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound (ET).
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland on Tuesday clarified recent media reports that the United States had suspended $700 million in aid to Pakistan, saying the cuts would not impact civilian aid, and that the freeze on military aid is still being debated in Congress (ET, Dawn). In Pakistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar suggested that Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were behind the deadly turban bomb attack on former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, in response to Afghan allegations that Pakistani militants carried out the assassination (AFP, Dawn). At the end of a two-day conference of Pakistani diplomats and government officials, a decision was made to renegotiate two important agreements made with the United States in 2002 that allowed NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan to be transported across Pakistan (ET).
Two Frontier Corps troops were killed Wednesday when their vehicle hit a landmine in the southern province of Balochistan (ET). Militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Agency killed two members of a local pro-government militia on Wednesday (ET/Reuters). And four people were killed in renewed violence in Karachi’s volatile Lyari neighborhood, during a gun battle between two banned organizations (ET).
Popular Pakistani bhangra singer Abrarul Haq recently ignited a media firestorm in Pakistan when he reportedly joined Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (ET). But the music icon, whose real age is a closely-held secret, says, "it is the love PTI members have for me that instigated this announcement, but I haven’t joined the party yet."
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