Quarter of U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by end of September

The Rack: Luke Mogelson, "Pacifists in the Cross-Fire" (NYT Magazine). Moving out: The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said Wednesday that 23,000 of the 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be home by September 30, 2012, but that decisions about further troop reductions will be made after this fall because the United States ...

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

The Rack: Luke Mogelson, "Pacifists in the Cross-Fire" (NYT Magazine).

Moving out: The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said Wednesday that 23,000 of the 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be home by September 30, 2012, but that decisions about further troop reductions will be made after this fall because the United States will still need "significant firepower" in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014 (CNNReutersAP). Gen. Allen's comments come just two days after NATO leaders agreed this weekend to end all international combat operations in Afghanistan by mid-2013.

More than 120 Afghan schoolgirls and three teachers were hospitalized on Wednesday after being poisoned by some kind of spray, according to an official for the northern Afghan Province of Takhar (CNNReutersBBCAJE). Authorities are blaming the poison attack on the Taliban, who have carried out similar attacks in the past.

The Rack: Luke Mogelson, "Pacifists in the Cross-Fire" (NYT Magazine).

Moving out: The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said Wednesday that 23,000 of the 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be home by September 30, 2012, but that decisions about further troop reductions will be made after this fall because the United States will still need "significant firepower" in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014 (CNNReutersAP). Gen. Allen’s comments come just two days after NATO leaders agreed this weekend to end all international combat operations in Afghanistan by mid-2013.

More than 120 Afghan schoolgirls and three teachers were hospitalized on Wednesday after being poisoned by some kind of spray, according to an official for the northern Afghan Province of Takhar (CNNReutersBBCAJE). Authorities are blaming the poison attack on the Taliban, who have carried out similar attacks in the past.

The senior police detective in Badakhshan Province said Thursday that the gunmen who kidnapped two female Western aid workers and their three male Afghan colleagues are holding the hostages in a remote, mountainous district and demanding money for their release (Reuters). The detective also said he does not believe the kidnappers have any connection to the Taliban or other insurgent groups in the country.

Slow and steady

Gen. John Allen also said Wednesday the United States has "made real progress" in improving its relationship with Pakistan in the past several weeks by at least having conversations that the two nations weren’t having before (AP). LA Times correspondent Alex Rodriguez wrote Tuesday about a growing worry amongst some in Pakistan that their government risks losing U.S. aid funds and a seat at the table during negotiations on the future of Afghanistan (LAT). 

A U.S. drone strike on a militant compound in North Waziristan on Thursday killed ten suspected militants, in the second such attack in two days (ReutersNYTAPPost). Pakistan’s Ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said Thursday that the United States should respect a Pakistani court’s decision to jail Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani who helped CIA officers find Osama bin Laden (Reuters/ET). A jail official said Thursday that Dr. Afridi is in "poor health" and is being held in solitary confinement for his own protection (AFP).

Pakistani Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar and Indian Home Secretary RK Singh are meeting in Islamabad Thursday for two days of talks aimed at revising the strict bilateral visa regime (ETDawn). A new visa regime is seen as key to normalizing trade relations between the two countries.

Hip-hop in Pakistan

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday interviewed Pakistani rapper Adil Omar, who raps in English but intersperses his lines with references to the weather and traffic jams in his home country (WSJ). In one song he quips "You wonder why I’m cocky, ‘cos I stay burning hotter than a summer in Karachi."

 Jennifer Rowland

Jennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

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