The South Asia Channel

Afghan peace negotiator slain in Kabul

Deadly blow: Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a leading member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, as he left made his way to a government meeting on reconciliation in Kabul on Sunday (NYT, Post, CNN, Reuters, BBC, Guardian, AP, WSJ, LAT). A former Taliban minister who served as an important liaison between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents, Rahmani’s death strikes ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Deadly blow: Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a leading member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, as he left made his way to a government meeting on reconciliation in Kabul on Sunday (NYTPostCNNReutersBBCGuardian, APWSJLAT). A former Taliban minister who served as an important liaison between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents, Rahmani’s death strikes another blow to the stalled peace talks with the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied his group’s involvement in the assassination. Also on Sunday, the Afghan government released a list of the next 122 districts in which responsibility for security will be transferred from NATO to Afghan forces, a process that Afghan authorities expect to complete in about six months (CNNAPABC). This is the third of five security transition stages, and includes the transfer of all provincial capitals as well as districts in Kapisa, Uruzgan and Parwan provinces.

Gunmen in Afghan police uniforms shot and killed two NATO service members in the Gereshk district of Helmand Province on Saturday, a day after a man wearing an Afghan Army uniform shot and killed an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan (NYTBBC, GuardianTelReutersNAF). Nine civilians were killed, including a provincial council member, and at least seven wounded on Monday by an explosion in a crowded market in the northern province of Faryab (NYTBBCAJE).

The Times’ Graham Bowley reported Saturday on the U.S. military’s extensive use of aerostats, 117-foot-long helium balloons equipped with cameras, in Afghanistan, irking many locals who feel they are constantly being watched and will continue to be watched even after international troops leave the country in 2014 (NYT). The dirigibles allow NATO to keep an eye on likely targets for attack, and help to catch insurgents planting roadside bombs. And Elisabeth Bumiller profiles Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, America’s only current prisoner of war, who was captured by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 (NYT).

Exercising their recently obtained power to veto NATO’s suggested operations, Afghan commanders have reportedly refused over a dozen times in the past two months to act on NATO intelligence about high-value targets, saying the night raids required to get the men would result in civilian casualties (Post). The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is quickly shifting the U.S. military strategy from broad counterinsurgency operations to a focus on involving Afghan troops in the fight against militants (Post). "The sooner I can get [Afghan troops involved], while I still have the time and the combat power, the more I can catch them if they fall," Gen. Allen said in a recent interview.

Top-level talks

Gen. John Allen met with Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani on Saturday, the latest in a series of high-level meetings between American and Pakistani officials attempting to improve strained relations (AP). A U.S. official said Monday that the United States has been holding intensive talks with Pakistan in recent weeks, aimed at reopening the NATO ground supply routes to Afghanistan, which Pakistan shut after NATO helicopters fired on Pakistani military posts last November (AP). And on Sunday, top military commanders from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) met in Rawalpindi to discuss border control measures, as well as mechanisms to prevent accidental cross-border incidents (DawnET).

A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle killed one police officer and wounded a dozen civilians on Saturday in Peshawar (AP). Almost half a million residents have reportedly fled Khyber Agency since the Pakistani military began an offensive against militants there in January (AFP). Pakistani helicopters struck militants hideouts on Monday, killing nine suspected Taliban fighters, and injuring five others (ET). Militants in Mohmand Agency attacked a check post run by the local anti-Taliban militia on Monday, killing a senior militia volunteer and injuring ten others (ETDawn). Militant attacks targeting foreign aid workers are reportedly on the rise in Pakistan (CNN).

U.S. legislators from both the Republican and Democratic parties advised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter on Friday to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization (APReutersLATAFP). Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said during interviews in London that he does not believe al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan, and that there is not enough evidence against Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Muhammed Saeed to arrest him (Dawn).

The Associated Press has obtained the six-page manifesto of a senior Pakistani military officer, Brig. Ali Khan, who is being held in Rawalpindi on charges of plotting with four other officers and the militant group Hizb-ut-Tahrir to take over the military, and end counterterrorism ties with the United States (AP). 

Legal lyricists

The 77-page, detailed version of the Pakistani Supreme Court’s judgment against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — released last week — finds its basis not only in Pakistani law and legal precedent, but also in the poetry of legendary Arab poet Khalil Gibran (Newsweek). According to Newsweek, the Prime Minister scoffed at the document: "This is the first judgment in the world’s legal history in which excessive use of poetry has been made the basis of conviction. Are the people of this country in future to be punished on the basis of poetry?"

 Jennifer Rowland

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