The South Asia Channel

Red Cross offices attacked in Afghanistan for first time

Surprising assault Three suicide bombers attacked the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jalalabad on Wednesday, killing one security guard and wounding another, though all seven Western employees were safely evacuated (NYT, BBC, Dawn, Reuters). Since the ICRC established an office in Afghanistan more than 30 years ago, it has ...

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

Surprising assault

Three suicide bombers attacked the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jalalabad on Wednesday, killing one security guard and wounding another, though all seven Western employees were safely evacuated (NYT, BBC, Dawn, Reuters). Since the ICRC established an office in Afghanistan more than 30 years ago, it has never been the target of an attack, and was even praised in a Taliban statement last June for its work delivering messages from family members to imprisoned Taliban militants.

According to his lawyer, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will plead guilty next week to murdering 16 Afghan civilians in a bloody midnight rampage last March, in order to avoid receiving the death penalty that is being sought by prosecutors (AP, BBC, AFP, Reuters, NYT, WSJ). Defense attorneys say Bales had used drugs and alcohol the night of the murders, but that he does not want to claim he is mentally unfit to stand trial.

The U.S. military has launched a formal investigation into whether lax security was to blame for an attack on a Marine base in Helmand Province last year that resulted in the deaths of two Marines and the destruction of some $200 million worth of materiel (Post). Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus was the top U.S. commander at the base in question at the time, but he did not order an investigation into the attack in the immediate aftermath, and has said he was unable to do so because the base is a NATO facility and out of his jurisdiction. Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, disagrees, and ordered the formal investigation.

For the first time in 12 years of war, Afghan security forces are taking on this summer’s fighting season with lead responsibility for 90 percent of the country, but they are still very dependent on the Western air power and medevac capabilities that have shored up the nascent forces until this point (AP). A U.S. Army soldier in eastern Nangarhar Province, Lt. Col. Matthew Stader, says the Afghan National Army brigade he is mentoring needs at least another year of training before it is ready to take on security operations entirely on its own.

Casualty confirmed

Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday that informants on the ground had reported the burial of Pakistani Taliban deputy leader Waliur Rehman, who was believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on Wednesday morning (Dawn, AP). Rehman had a $5 million U.S. government bounty on his head, and had been accused of involvement in a 2009 suicide bombing at a U.S. base in Khost, Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of seven CIA employees.

Authorities in Pakistan have suspended a four-day polio vaccination drive following Tuesday’s attack on two female polio workers on the outskirts of Peshawar, in which a gunman killed one and wounded the other (AP). And Pakistani fighter jets bombed militant hideouts in Kurram Agency on Thursday, killing 17 militants and destroying four of their compounds (Dawn).

Illicit sales

Pakistani investigators believe that between July 2010 and February 2013, a group of powerful government officials illegally sold at least 2,000 diplomatic passports for huge sums of money to people who shouldn’t have been holding such documentation (ET). The illegal racket continued even after three individuals were detained at the Lahore airport and admitted that they had purchased their diplomatic passports for 2 million rupees each, but Pakistani investigators were hesitant to probe high-level officials.

Jennifer Rowland

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