Daily Brief: U.S. envoy reiterates Afghan role in peace talks
Event Notice: Please join the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program TOMORROW from 12:15 – 1:45 pm as we commemorate the life of Richard Holbrooke, one of the most important American statesmen of the last half-century (NAF). Talks about talks U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his ...
Event Notice: Please join the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program TOMORROW from 12:15 - 1:45 pm as we commemorate the life of Richard Holbrooke, one of the most important American statesmen of the last half-century (NAF).
Event Notice: Please join the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program TOMORROW from 12:15 – 1:45 pm as we commemorate the life of Richard Holbrooke, one of the most important American statesmen of the last half-century (NAF).
Talks about talks
U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his government would be included in any peace talks with the Taliban, as he also dispelled reports that his next stop in Qatar — where the Taliban is looking to set up an office — would mark the beginning of these talks (WSJ, AFP,CNN, NYT). In order for the talks to take place, Amb. Grossman said the Taliban must dissociate entirely from international terrorism and confirm their desire to participate, though the United States has not yet decided whether to comply with Taliban demands for the release of five prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay (McClatchy, Reuters).
A representative and son-in-law of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Dr. Ghairat Baheer, said in an interview last week that he has met with several senior U.S. officials, including former NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker (AP). U.S. officials confirmed that Gen. Petraeus last met with Dr. Baheer in July 2011, and that the United States has "a range of contacts" in Afghanistan to facilitate reconciliation efforts. News of Dr. Baheer’s meetings came just a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he recently met with a delegation from Hizb-i-Islami, the militant political movement led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (McClatchy).
The Afghan Taliban said on Saturday that they had recruited an Afghan soldier who shot and killed four French servicemen on Friday, and on Sunday President Karzai offered his condolences to the French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet during a meeting in Kabul, later calling the incident "isolated and individual," and not representative of the Afghan populace (Reuters AP, AFP). France had threatened in the immediate aftermath of the shootings to conduct an early withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the United States and France agreed Saturday to continue working together to "ensure the continued strength and effectiveness of the mission" in Afghanistan (AFP). The Afghan soldier responsible for the shootings, Abdul Mansour, reportedly told interrogators that he attacked the French soldiers because he was angry about a video that surfaced last week of U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Afghan militants (AFP).
At least 13 people were killed across Afghanistan on Saturday, as President Karzai opened Parliament with a tribute to the 49 senior government officials and tribal elders who were slain over the past year (AFP, NYT). Representative perhaps of the persistent danger in Afghanistan, more than 30,000 Afghans applied for political asylum around the world between January and November 2011 – a 25% increase from the same figure the previous year (Tel). And Afghan food prices have spiked due to the closure of the border with Pakistan following the November 26 NATO airstrike on two Pakistani border posts that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, with the cost of tomatoes quadrupling and the cost of cheese doubling since then (Reuters).
Security fit for a king
Mansoor Ijaz, the key witness at the center of the "Memogate" scandal, has refused to travel to Pakistan to testify because of security concerns; the Supreme Court ordered military protection for Ijaz, but Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani rejected that request as an expensive measure reserved only for heads of state (AP, ET, ET, AFP, Dawn). In addition, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has told Ijaz he may be prohibited from leaving the country if the commission requires further testimony, which appears to Ijaz’s lawyer to be "a well-orchestrated trap to hold Mansoor Ijaz indefinitely." The Posts’s David Ignatius takes a look at the details of the memo case (Post). Farahnaz Ispahani, the wife of former ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, told the Sunday Times she fled Pakistan for fear of being kidnapped by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), after which the ISI could use her kidnapping as leverage to force Haqqani to confess to accusations against him in the "Memogate" case (Sunday Times, Dawn).
A senior al-Qaeda planner who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Province last week, Aslam Awan, was responsible for planning attacks on the West, and had lived in the United Kingdom for four years, according to security sources (Tel, AP, ET). Another U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan killed at least four suspected militants on Monday (CNN, Reuters, BBC, AP, AFP). Reuters’ Chris Albritton has a must-read on the cooperation between Pakistan, the United States and the United Kingdom on conducting successful drone strikes in the tribal regions (Reuters). The Pakistani effort includes the maintenance of an extensive network of "spotters" who monitor targets’ pattern of life, according to a Pakistani security source based in the tribal regions.
More than 100 former senior Pakistani military officers signed a letter delivered to the government Sunday calling for former President Pervez Musharraf to be allowed back into the country without facing arrest (CNN). The officers also protested the "bashing" of the country’s army and the ISI, claiming this weakens "Pakistan’s position as a sovereign and proud nation." On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had denied reports that Musharraf requested to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (ET).
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Sunday released a gruesome video showing the execution of 15 Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers, whose deaths the TTP had claimed earlier this month (AFP, Reuters). A Taliban militant in the video warns the Pakistani Army that "this will be the fate of all of you" if the killing of his "comrades" continues. Meanwhile, police in Kot Addu in Pakistan’s Punjab Province have arrested four people suspected of involvement in last week’s kidnapping of an Italian and a German foreign aid worker, who are now being held for ransom (ET). And the banned Baloch Republican Army claimed responsibility for blowing up a major gas pipeline, disrupting the flow of gas to many areas of Sindh Province (Dawn).
A senior Pakistani official reportedly told Fox News on Friday that Pakistan plans to allow U.S. military trainers back into the country "as early as April or May," but that U.S. drones will be remain banned from being based in Pakistan for the time being (Fox). U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan has continued despite the deterioration in relations between the two countries (CNN). In Balochistan, Frontier Corps troops on Friday confiscated 12 containers of fuel destined for NATO troops in Afghanistan, for whom supplies have been blocked by Pakistan since the November 26 airtrike (ET).
Pakistani investigators visiting India next month will reportedly not be allowed access to Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (AP). And a pharmaceutical factory in Lahore was shut down on Monday, suspected of producing fake heart medicine responsible for the deaths of at least 27 people (Dawn, AP, ET).
The best of the worst
Two female Pakistani writers, Ayesha Jalal and Fatima Bhutto, attended the Jaipur Literary Festival this weekend, where American talk show host Oprah Winfrey also made an appearance (Dawn). Jalal received hearty laughter from the audience when she told them that India had now moved to the number three spot on Pakistan’s list of enemies; the United States is currently number one, and Israel, of course, is number two.
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