Seven Afghan policemen killed as deadly attacks continue
Plague of deadly attacks A string of deadly attacks continued in Herat on Tuesday when a powerful roadside bomb killed at least seven Afghan policemen (BBC, Dawn, Pajhwok). The officers were guards at the Salma Dam and were heading to Herat City, the provincial capital, when they hit the buried device. The Salma Dam, a hydroelectric site, is of strategic importance ...
Plague of deadly attacks
A string of deadly attacks continued in Herat on Tuesday when a powerful roadside bomb killed at least seven Afghan policemen (BBC, Dawn, Pajhwok). The officers were guards at the Salma Dam and were heading to Herat City, the provincial capital, when they hit the buried device. The Salma Dam, a hydroelectric site, is of strategic importance and has been targeted before.
The violence continued elsewhere in Afghanistan when Mullah Abdul Rouf, a Taliban commander, and seven of his followers were killed in a NATO airstrike on the outskirts of Logar province; local Taliban commander Mullah Wahid and an accomplice were killed in Uruzgan province; and four Afghan policemen were killed in Farah province when a man believed to have ties to the Taliban opened fire at their checkpoint (Pajhwok, Pajhwok).
The body of a man was found Tuesday near the U.S. Special Forces base in Wardak Province, where he was last seen being taken for questioning in November (NYT). Afghan officials say the man, Sayid Mohammad, was seen in a video being subjected to torture by Zakaria Kandahari, a translator for a U.S. Army Special Forces A Team. U.S. Special Forces were forced to withdraw from the base in Wardak in March due to allegations that they were involved in the torture and killing of at least 15 civilians in the area. American officials have said their investigations turned up no U.S. military involvement in the murders, and that Zakaria Kandahari is an Afghan citizen, not an American.
Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi told reporters in Kabul on Monday that violence could dramatically increase in eastern Afghanistan since a number of Pakistani madrassas had been closed to allow their students to commit suicide attacks (Pajhwok). Citing intelligence information, Azimi said the students had been specifically tasked with carrying out suicide and bomb attacks and that the country was already seeing an increase in attacks claimed by the Taliban. He went on to say, however, that Afghan forces have the ability to prevent these attacks and are already conducting 90 percent of the operations against insurgents. He expects 100 percent of the operations will be conducted solely by Afghan forces by June of this year.
Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday stating that the number of Afghan women jailed for fleeing forced and abusive marriages, and other "moral crimes," has soared to 600 since 2011, despite the fact that fleeing abuse is not a crime under Afghan law (Pajhwok, Post). Coming a day after the Afghan parliament failed to pass a law protecting women from violence, the report says many of the prisoners interviewed were hoping to escape beatings, stabbings, burnings, forced prostitution, and unscientific "virginity tests." While running away is not illegal, the country’s supreme court has ordered the prosecution of these women, but not the suspected abusers.
On Tuesday as many as 75 schoolgirls were sickened in a suspected poisonous gas attack on a school in Faryab province (Pajhwok). An unknown man hurled a poisonous substance into the air outside the school and a manhunt is currently underway. This attack comes a month after as many as 74 girls fell sick in Takhar province after smelling gas, and is the latest in a string of such attacks against girls’ schools in the country.
Interest of peace
Prime minister-elect Nawaz Sharif on Monday threw his weight behind the idea of a peace process to end the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency when he told newly elected lawmakers from his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, (PML-N) and independent candidates who have joined with the PML-N, that there is no option but to negotiate with the militant group (AFP, ET). Considering the human and material cost of delaying dialogue with the group, Sharif said: "We have lost around 40,000 lives, wasted billions of dollars and ruined our economy as a result. Why can’t we start [a] dialogue…and make our country peaceful?" (ET).
In Nowshera on Monday the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) parties agreed to make joint efforts to restore peace to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (Dawn). JUI-S party chief and Muttahida Deeni Mahaz president Maulana Samiul Haq said that terrorism attacks will automatically end if the provincial and federal governments work to address its root causes and create a foreign policy that is in line with national interests and free from foreign influence.
In Karachi and Hyderabad, however, supporters of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) took to the streets on Monday to protest statements from PTI leader Imran Khan blaming MQM leader Altaf Hussain for the slaying of PTI vice president Zohra Shahid on Saturday (Dawn, Reuters). MQM leaders said they could accept everything but derogatory remarks against Hussain, and Khan is being sued by the party for libel, to the tune of 50 billion rupees (Dawn).
Tensions between the two parties were further heightened when re-polling results in Karachi’s NA-250 constituency showed the PTI won one National Assembly seat and two in the provincial assembly, beating the MQM candidates who were running (ET). Supporters of Khan woke up to good news on Tuesday when it was reported he would walk out of the hospital Wednesday, two weeks after falling 15 feet from a forklift (BBC, Dawn/AFP, ET/AFP). Despite sustaining multiple fractures to his spine and a few broken ribs, Khan has recovered quickly and has already been walking around the hospital, with the help of a back brace. He will have to wear the brace for about four to six weeks and will likely need some physical therapy to fully recover.
U.S. government officials said Monday that while the Obama administration plans to move the CIA drone program to the Pentagon, drone operations in Pakistan will continue under agency auspices, for now, to keep the program covert and maintain deniability for both countries (Reuters). The move is in response to calls for greater transparency of the program and would allow the CIA to return to more traditional spying and intelligence analysis (ET). The news comes as Obama prepares to give a speech on the use of drones as a counterterrorism tool at the National Defense University on Thursday, though it is unclear if the speech will address this shift or the questioned legality of the program.
A new ad by Coca-Cola called "Small World Machines" showcases what happened when two high-tech Coca-Cola vending machines were placed in shopping malls in Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India earlier this year (Post). Instead of traditional machines that require money to purchase a soda, these two were connected and "payment" was extracted by doing something in conjunction with the other – like dancing, tracing images such as peace signs and hearts, and touching hands through the screen. The ad plays to the "McDonald’s theory of conflict resolution," which states no two countries with McDonald’s restaurants will ever go to war. But with PepsiCo dominating the Pakistani market and announcing plans to open a plant in Afghanistan by 2014, peace may be a bit more difficult to achieve than just opening a can of soda (WSJ, BR).
— Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall
More from Foreign Policy
At Long Last, the Foreign Service Gets the Netflix Treatment
Keri Russell gets Drexel furniture but no Senate confirmation hearing.
How Macron Is Blocking EU Strategy on Russia and China
As a strategic consensus emerges in Europe, France is in the way.
What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal
Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.
Russia’s Boom Business Goes Bust
Moscow’s arms exports have fallen to levels not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse.