The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Talks with the Taliban may resume soon

Fits and starts The Post reports that talks between the United States and the Taliban will resume as soon as they receive approval from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will be meeting with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman next week (Post). The Times details the quiet role Grossman has ...

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Fits and starts

The Post reports that talks between the United States and the Taliban will resume as soon as they receive approval from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will be meeting with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman next week (Post). The Times details the quiet role Grossman has played in secret talks with the group, even as the Taliban said in an emailed statement Thursday that peace talks will not mean the end of fighting (NYT, WSJ, AP). And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to acknowledge the possibility Wednesday that Taliban leaders could be transferred from the prison at Guantánamo Bay as part of a confidence building measure with the group (AP).

Both Karzai and the Taliban have condemned a video that surfaced this week and appears to show U.S. Marines in Afghanistan urinating on dead Taliban fighters, though the Taliban said the video would not break up talks with the United States (BBC, Tel, Reuters). The Pentagon is investigating the video, the content of which could constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions (Tel, Guardian, CNN, LAT, Post, BBC, Reuters).

A top-secret National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan given to President Obama last month reportedly concluded that the Taliban have not given up on their goals of taking control of Afghanistan by force, and that corruption, poor governance, and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan continue to undercut any gains made by international forces on the ground (McClatchy, LAT). And the Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib reports on the double-game believed to be played by some Afghan police, taking money and support from international forces while in some cases providing aid to the Taliban (WSJ).

Crisis of confidence

Tension continues to rise in Pakistan following the firing of Defense Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi on Wednesday, even as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has tried to downplay his recent spat with Pakistan’s army (NYT, Post, BBC, Tel, ET, Dawn, ET). Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met behind closed doors with his top military commanders Thursday, as the country’s increasingly embattled president Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai for a brief trip, reportedly to attend a wedding and undergo a medical checkup (AP, Reuters, AP, Tel, BBC, Dawn, Reuters). The United States has tried to stay out of the widening conflict, as the State Department said Wednesday that the United States has not tried to intervene between the military and civilian government, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey called Kayani Wednesday, but said he did not seek any assurance that Pakistan’s army would not stage a coup (Dawn, Dawn).

Suspected Baloch rebels ambushed a convoy of paramilitary Pakistani soldiers on Wednesday, killing 14 in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces ever to take place in the province (ET, BBC, Tel, Dawn, Reuters). In Peshawar, meanwhile, authorities are reportedly planning to build an "enclave" for diplomatic personnel, in order to ensure their security (ET). And in Karachi, a lawyer who argued cases related to missing persons in front of the Sindh High Court in cases was shot dead along with his driver by two unidentified gunmen Wednesday (Dawn).

Finally, Pakistan’s Supreme Court will hear former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani’s petition challenging the formation of a special commission to investigate the "Memogate" affair on January 17 (Dawn, ET). And a report prepared by former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and the Economist Intelligence Unit says that Pakistan has the second least-secured nuclear material in the world, after only North Korea (ET).

Risky business

The star of one of Afghanistan’s most popular television programs, a local take on the American counterterrorism drama "24" called "Eagle Four" said in an interview this week that he had received hundreds of death threats due to his role in the show (Guardian). However, the actor, Najebullah Sadiq, said that he would continue with the show, funded partially by NATO, in the hopes that "Eagle Four" will help improve the image of Afghanistan’s police.  

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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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