The South Asia Channel

Would-be assassins evade security checkpoints in Kandahar

Editor’s note: The editors of the AfPak Channel are proud to announce the release on Tuesday of a new book by Peter Bergen, Manhunt: The 10-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad, which reveals new details of the decade-long hunt, and the final decision to pursue the al-Qaeda leader deep in Pakistani territory (TIME, Post). Close call ...

JANGIR/AFP/GettyImages
JANGIR/AFP/GettyImages

Editor’s note: The editors of the AfPak Channel are proud to announce the release on Tuesday of a new book by Peter Bergen, Manhunt: The 10-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabadwhich reveals new details of the decade-long hunt, and the final decision to pursue the al-Qaeda leader deep in Pakistani territory (TIMEPost).

Close call

Two Taliban insurgents made it through at least one American-operated full-body scanner with pistols hidden under the soles of their shoes on Saturday, and almost succeeded in assassinating the governor of Kandahar, Tooryalai Wesa (NYTAFPAP,LATCNNAJE). The militants killed two of Governor Wesa’s guards and took their weapons, sparking a 30-minute firefight with other security personnel that left both attackers dead. Ten members of the Afghan Local Police force traveling in a pickup truck from a ceremony on Friday were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb (AP,BBC). Children playing outside in the eastern province of Paktika on Monday triggered a buried bomb, which killed two of them and seriously wounded a third (AP).

In a statement sent to the Express Tribune on Saturday, the Afghan Taliban rejected a joint Pakistani-Afghan-American offer to guarantee safe passage to Taliban militants interested in peace talks as an "attempt to divide the militia" (ET). Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI) and member Jack Reed (D-RI) left for a visit to Afghanistan this weekend "to get a firsthand look at security and political developments in the region and their impact on America’s national security" (AP).

Over a decade after the United States began the war in Afghanistan, the country’s capital city still has no official street map, and most streets and houses remain unnamed, unnumbered or unmarked, making police efforts to locate and detain insurgents extremely difficult (Reuters).

Let the drones resume

A U.S. drone-fired missile killed three suspected militants and wounded two others in a strike on an abandoned school in central Miranshah (NYTReutersAJEDawn). It was the first such strike since the Pakistani parliament demanded an end to U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan two weeks ago. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday asserting that the strikes "are in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations" (APWSJ).

British aid worker Dr. Khalil Ahmed Dale, an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who was kidnapped four months ago, was found dead in Quetta on Sunday morning (ET/AFPAJEDawnDTET). Local officials said his body bore multiple bullet wounds and signs of torture. Pakistani security officers continued for a fourth day on Monday their assault against violent gangs in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood (ETAJEDawnDT). At least 20 people have been killed in the last four days, and some residents staged a protest of the security operation on Sunday (ET).

A vehicle packed with explosives was detonated at a bus stand in the Jamrud district of Khyber Agency on Sunday, killing two people and wounding more than a dozen (ETDT). And at least ten people, including five militants of Lashkar-i-Islam (LI), were killed in clashes between LI fighters and a pro-government militia in the Bara district of Khyber Agency on Sunday (Dawn).

Decrying and defying

Following Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s conviction last week on contempt of court charges, opposition leaders have repeatedly called on him to step down (ET, AJEDawnDawnDT, ). But Gilani is standing firm in his position that the court does not have the authority to remove an elected official from power, and that he was only following the rules of the constitution by refusing to support the reopening of a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Friday that the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound a year ago was not a "silver bullet," but it did help to weaken al-Qaeda and make the United States safer (NYT). Meanwhile, a senior official in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) said Friday that his organization deserves credit for providing the CIA in November 2010 with the phone number that would lead to bin Laden’s courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and the knowledge that it had last been detected in Abbottabad (Post). And the Associated Press reported Monday that experts believe al-Qaeda affiliates still pose a significant threat to the United States, despite the U.S. capture or killing of most senior al-Qaeda Central figures (AP).  

In an encouraging effort to improve trade ties between India and Pakistan, Indian firms Mittal Energy Investments and Hindustan Petroleum inaugurated a $4 billion refinery on Saturday near the northern border with Pakistan (BloombergReuters). Chairman of Hindustan Petroleum Roy Choudhury said at the inauguration ceremony that Indian officials have held talks about exporting fuel to Pakistan, while Pakistan said last month it would remove gasoline from a list of banned Indian imports.

The right questions

Two months after the Afghan Taliban launched an interactive Q&A section on their official website, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has received a flood of questions on subjects ranging from of suicide bombings to girls’ education to cricket (BBC). Though many inquirers appeared to be Taliban supporters looking for ways to help the insurgent group, others like Haseeb ur-Rehman posed boldly piercing questions: "Don’t you think that killing all these people in suicide and bomb attacks every day is a big sin?"

 Jennifer Rowland

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