NATO to end airstrikes in civilian areas

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking after a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and NATO Commander General John Allen on Saturday, said that the U.S. has given assurances that it will end airstrikes against targets in civilian areas after last Wednesday’s accidental killing of 19 civilians in a NATO attack (Guardian, WaPo, ET, NYT). On ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking after a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and NATO Commander General John Allen on Saturday, said that the U.S. has given assurances that it will end airstrikes against targets in civilian areas after last Wednesday's accidental killing of 19 civilians in a NATO attack (Guardian, WaPo, ET, NYT). On Saturday, a spokesman for Karzai noted that the Wednesday incident was "a one sided operation" that was "not coordinated with Afghan security forces." At the meeting with Karzai, Allen apologized for the civilian deaths and noted that the attack violated a previous NATO pact with Afghanistan agreed to in April that made the Afghan government's the final word regarding special operations inside of the country. A U.S. defense official added some nuance after noting later on that "when there is concern over the presence of civilians, air-delivered munitions will not be employed while other means are available."

On Saturday, four French soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in a suicide bombing in Kapisa province, where the majority of the 3,300 French soldiers have operated while in Afghanistan (CNN). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which put the number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan at 87. In the aftermath of the incident, French President Francois Hollande reiterated the French timetable for withdrawal from the NATO-led mission, which is to begin in July and end by the close of 2012.

On Monday, five Afghans were killed after an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman and four of her family members hit a roadside bomb. The Afghan Interior Ministry said the explosion happened in the eastern province of Sar-e-Pul (Dawn). Meanwhile, a separate incident on Monday saw four people killed in Ghazni province after militants purported to be firing a rocket at a nearby government building missed their target (WaPo).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking after a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and NATO Commander General John Allen on Saturday, said that the U.S. has given assurances that it will end airstrikes against targets in civilian areas after last Wednesday’s accidental killing of 19 civilians in a NATO attack (Guardian, WaPo, ET, NYT). On Saturday, a spokesman for Karzai noted that the Wednesday incident was "a one sided operation" that was "not coordinated with Afghan security forces." At the meeting with Karzai, Allen apologized for the civilian deaths and noted that the attack violated a previous NATO pact with Afghanistan agreed to in April that made the Afghan government’s the final word regarding special operations inside of the country. A U.S. defense official added some nuance after noting later on that "when there is concern over the presence of civilians, air-delivered munitions will not be employed while other means are available."

On Saturday, four French soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in a suicide bombing in Kapisa province, where the majority of the 3,300 French soldiers have operated while in Afghanistan (CNN). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which put the number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan at 87. In the aftermath of the incident, French President Francois Hollande reiterated the French timetable for withdrawal from the NATO-led mission, which is to begin in July and end by the close of 2012.

On Monday, five Afghans were killed after an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman and four of her family members hit a roadside bomb. The Afghan Interior Ministry said the explosion happened in the eastern province of Sar-e-Pul (Dawn). Meanwhile, a separate incident on Monday saw four people killed in Ghazni province after militants purported to be firing a rocket at a nearby government building missed their target (WaPo).

Battling terror with the Qu’ran

Reuters was given a rare behind the scenes look into Afghanistan’s National Directorate Security (NDS) — the often reviled intelligence apparatus which has been criticized in the past for the abuse of detainees — and its ongoing program of deradicalization (Reuters). Lutfullah Mashal, chief spokesman of the NDS, said of prisoners under their control that: "We work with them psychologically, we show them movies and films of atrocities of the Taliban and we also take them to mosques to see thousands of worshippers." One of primary methods that NDS officials are using in their efforts to undermine extremism is to emphasize the peaceful nature of the Qu’ran and Islamic culture, something they have sought to do with the inclusion of local clerics and mosques. One prisoner interviewed from Kunar province had previously fallen in with the Taliban in order to attack "foreigners" but had subsequently grown wary: "I don’t want to go to paradise" he noted about the afterlife claims made to him by his terrorist recruiters, "I want to go home."

Violence in Pakistan

Six people were killed and at least 36 injured near Quetta, Pakistan on Monday after a bomb tore through a bus that was carrying at least 100 people. The passengers were traveling from Quetta en route to Naushki (Dawn, ET). The attack comes after two other serious incidences of violence in the country on Friday. In one case, a bus bombing killed 19 people in the northwestern city of Peshawar (AFP), while in the other 16 were killed in a gun battle between tribal police and gang members in Balochistan province (CNN). Elsewhere, reports surfaced Monday indicating that a boy and girl were put to death by the girl’s family in an honor killing in Chowk Korona after the two were found alone in a room together. A formal investigation by the authorities is underway (ET).

Pakistan and India met Monday to hold talks over the disputed Siachen Glacier, often described as the world’s highest battlefield, which India has held since it captured the territory in 1984. Since then, 13 rounds of talks have ended without a resolution, but Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, spoke positively about the hopes for a negotiated settlement to the issue. The talks were to include discussions over the glacier as well as "other matters related to defense affairs (Dawn)."

Two thumbs up in Karachi

On Saturday, the Karachi Arts Council’s open-air theatre was the setting for an evening of poetry and drama put on by the Citizens for Democracy (CFD). The event included a public panel on the difficulties faced by Pakistani civil society and featured poetry readings, a full play, and musical compositions. The evening ended with a reading of "Hum Dekhain Gay" by the famous revolutionary Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (ET).

–Tom Kutsch

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