The South Asia Channel
U.S. soldier to be charged with murder of Afghan civilians
Accused: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is expected to be charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder, and other violations of military law, for allegedly massacring 17 Afghan civilians — up from an initial count of 16 — on March 11 in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar (NYT, Post, CBS/AP, CNN, Reuters, AP). Experts on military ...
Accused: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is expected to be charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder, and other violations of military law, for allegedly massacring 17 Afghan civilians — up from an initial count of 16 — on March 11 in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar (NYT, Post, CBS/AP, CNN, Reuters, AP). Experts on military law warn that prosecuting Sgt. Bales will not be easy, as the victims’ bodies were not autopsied before being buried, and it will be difficult to get Afghan witnesses to travel to the United States to testify (CNN). It is also unlikely that Sgt. Bales will face the death penalty if convicted (AP).
The Afghan Taliban pledged on Friday to take revenge for the murders, as they "don’t trust such trials" (Reuters). U.S. officials reportedly believe the Taliban’s recent withdrawal from preliminary peace talks with the United States is just a tactical move in response to recent events that have angered the Afghan people, as well as internal conflict over how to proceed with the campaign against NATO forces (Reuters).
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that he would prefer "significant combat power" in 2013, on the order of 68,000 troops, indicating a reluctance to quickly withdraw further forces after the 23,000 "surge" troops leave in September of this year (AP, NYT, Post, Reuters, CNN, LAT). Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the West will give $4 billion per year in military aid to Afghanistan, a decrease of almost two-thirds from the amount currently being spent by NATO member countries on Afghan security forces (AFP, Tel). Karzai also said his government is working to completely end night raids by NATO forces, "which are against our national sovereignty" (Reuters, Post).
Afghan police said Thursday that a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint in Kandahar City, killing two children and injuring two police officers and another six civilians (AP). And a video has surfaced on YouTube that purportedly shows the February 6 crash of a U.S. military helicopter, in which no one on the ground was killed and both pilots survived (Post, BBC).
Pakistan celebrates its 72nd Pakistan Day on Friday with festivals and gun salutes to commemorate the day the All India Muslim League adopted a resolution in 1940 demanding a separate state for Muslims on the subcontinent (ET, DT, The News, Dawn). But violent protests erupted in the restive Karachi neighborhood of Lyari on Friday, as demonstrators threw grenades at storefronts and stones at policemen, who responded with tear gas (ET, Dawn, The News). Residents were protesting what they see as unfounded raids on homes and businesses by police forces.
A bomb sealed inside of a radio exploded Friday on a military base in Wana, the capital city of Pakistan’s South Waziristan, killing a paramilitary solder and his 10-year-old son, who were listening to the Asia Cup cricket final between Pakistan and Bangladesh (AP, ET).
The brother of Osama bin Laden’s youngest widow, Amal al-Sadah, who is being held by Pakistani authorities accused of entering the country illegally, told NBC News in Islamabad that he believes his sister’s health is deteriorating, and she has lost the use of the leg injured during U.S. forces’ raid on bin Laden’s compound last May (NBC).
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama next week while they attend a two-day international summit in South Korea on nuclear security, to discuss the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations (Dawn, AFP). And Pakistani Energy Secretary Ejaz Chaudhry said on Friday that Pakistan plans to officially allow the import of certain good, including gasoline and food products, from India next month (Reuters).
The big picture
260 teams comprising a total of 1,300 Pakistanis are attempting to break the Guinness world record for the largest painting by numbers in Lahore today (ET). The National Hockey Stadium is being used as a staging ground for all of the teams’ 16′ by 11′ canvases, which they will paint in the theme "Colors of Pakistan."
— Jennifer Rowland