The South Asia Channel

U.S. senator filibusters confirmation of CIA director John Brennan

U.S. senator filibusters confirmation of CIA director John Brennan

The Rack: Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai, "The Taliban Peacemakers" (Daily Beast).

He’ll talk your ear off

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke for nearly 13 hours on Wednesday in a successful effort to filibuster President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, John Brennan, because of concerns about the administration’s policy on using drones for targeted killing operations (Post, NYT, NPR, AP). The Senate is expected to eventually confirm Brennan as head of the CIA, but as director he will continue to face tough questions over the agency’s drone program, as well as a 6,000-page report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that reportedly accuses agency officials of intentionally misleading the White House, Justice Department and Congress about the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday grilled Attorney General Eric Holder on the still-classified legal memos justifying the killing of American citizens in drone strikes, and the circumstances in which the Obama administration believes it can use military force on U.S. soil (NYT). The White House recently showed the classified documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in a move designed to quell opposition to the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was arrested by CIA agents in Jordan this month after he was deported from Turkey, according to a Turkish newspaper on Thursday (AFP). Abu Ghaith appeared in a propaganda video alongside bin Laden soon after the attacks on 9/11.

Finally, the administration is reportedly taking a close look at the current relevance of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, a joint resolution passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 that provided the legal basis for U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates all over the world (Post). Officials at the White House, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies are pushing to see the resolution also justify action against terrorist groups that have little or no ties to al-Qaeda Central.

Let’s call the whole thing off

The most powerful political party in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), called Wednesday for a sweeping, city-wide strike to force the government to take action against the perpetrators of a massive bombing that killed 48 people in a Shi’a Muslim neighborhood of Karachi on Sunday (AP). MQM leaders later called off the strike, though, after businesses in the city protested.

The bodies of two Pakistani paramilitary officers who were kidnapped on Wednesday were found in a graveyard in Karachi on Thursday (ET). And at least five suspected militants were killed during security operations in Orakzai tribal agency on Thursday (Dawn).

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Moazzam Ahmad Khan, told reporters on Thursday that Pakistan will go ahead with the planned Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline despite U.S. opposition, and President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to travel to Iran on Monday for the groundbreaking of the project (AFP/Dawn). And lastly, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Wednesday that the United Kingdom will invest £10 million in a mining program in Afghanistan designed to help the country reach some of its estimated $1-3 trillion underground mineral reserves (BBC).

Stranger than fiction

Persistent violence has forced Lahore to discontinue popular cultural events like kite-flying and music festivals, but last month, thousands of people turned out to attend the Lahore Literary Festival (NYT). Many came specifically to see Mohsin Hamid, the author of a new novel called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. One man stood up to tell the crowd that he had come to the festival specifically to experience the sex and drug scenes in Hamid’s novels.

— Jennifer Rowland