Afghan Taliban abducts 12 ALP officers from Zabul province

Wonk Watch: "How to Save the War in Afghanistan," Anthony Cordesman (RCW). Taken The Afghan Taliban abducted a dozen members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in the village of Kala Khel in Zabul province on Thursday, and the local residents couldn’t be happier (NYT, Pajhwok).  According to Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, and ...

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Wonk Watch: "How to Save the War in Afghanistan," Anthony Cordesman (RCW).

Taken

Wonk Watch: "How to Save the War in Afghanistan," Anthony Cordesman (RCW).

Taken

The Afghan Taliban abducted a dozen members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in the village of Kala Khel in Zabul province on Thursday, and the local residents couldn’t be happier (NYT, Pajhwok).  According to Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, and the villagers, the police had been beating them and stealing from them since they arrived about five months ago.  The ALP militias were created by coalition forces about three years ago to help patrol remote villages and give Afghans stake in fighting the Taliban.  While some have successfully engaged the local population and repelled Taliban attacks, in other areas, the ALP has earned a thug-like reputation.  It is unclear what the Taliban plan to do with the hostages.

In another attack on a police checkpoint, at least two militants were killed in Nangarhar province on Friday when they stormed the police post in the Haska Mina district (Pajhwok).  According to Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the governor’s spokesman, three policemen were also wounded in the attack but they were able to beat back the assailants.  The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the strike but disputed the numbers, saying that four policemen had been killed.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday saying that there were "serious deficiencies" in the government’s contract award to the Rome-based International Development Law Organization for the Afghanistan Justice Training Transition Program (AP, Wired).  The $50-million program is designed to train Afghanistan’s justice sector and promote the rule of law, but Sopko’s audit says the award does not appear to contain the necessary oversight provisions.  Marie Harf, a State Department deputy spokeswoman, said the contract included a 50-page addendum that outlines a robust monitoring program.  The International Development Law Organization responded by saying there were factual errors in Sopko’s letter.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, the deputy operations chief of the International Security Assistance Force, told Reuters on Thursday that pockets of al-Qaeda militants will likely endure in Afghanistan, but added that they have lost the ability to mount serious attacks (Reuters).  Osterman said small numbers of al-Qaeda fighters remain in the mountainous Nuristan province and are "just trying to survive at this point." 

Whodunit? 

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s brazen assault on the Sukkur headquarters of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence in Sindh province, but it is unclear which faction is truly responsible (NYT, VOA).  At least two commanders with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan told reporters that their group had carried out the attack, but a representative for the Jundullah splinter group said it had launched the attack in retaliation for the death of deputy leader Waliur Rehman in a drone strike in May.  The confusion partly stems from the fact that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban’s spokesman, was fired earlier this month and his replacement, Sheikh Maqbool, has yet to assume his duties.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) announced on Friday that it will boycott the presidential election to be held on Tuesday, July 30 (Dawn, ET).  PPP leader Raza Rabbani, who had been nominated for the position, said his party had no choice but to boycott after the Supreme Court overruled the Election Commission of Pakistan and moved the election date from August 6 to July 30. The Awami National Party and the Balochistan National Party, who had aligned themselves with the PPP, released statements saying they were boycotting the election as well.

Twenty bodies were discovered on Thursday by Pakistani authorities in the Bara region of Pakistan’s Khyber district (RFE/RL).  Military officials identified the dead as militants who were killed during an army operation earlier this month, but that information could not be independently verified.  Locals have accused the army of killing innocent people during these raids, and a similar discovery earlier this year sparked protests in the region. 

According to the Associated Press, the United States has drastically scaled back the CIA drone program in Pakistan and has restricted the strikes to high-value targets in response to growing domestic criticism of the program (AP).  The report cites data from the New America Foundation that shows the number of strikes have steadily decreased from a peak of 122 in 2010 to just 16 so far this year, as well as government officials who say the move is also a concession to Pakistan’s army.  While the Pakistan army used to support the program, the officials said it is now concerned that the strikes are breeding more militants.  Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has long spoken out against the drone strikes and the CIA program will likely be discussed when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Islamabad next week.  Bonus read: "New view of drone death toll," Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland (CNN).

Lack of beard

Nomination papers for Mamnoon Hussain, the presidential candidate for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, were accepted by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Friday, despite objections from other presidential candidates (ET).  One in particular, Zahoor Hussain, said Hussain was over the required retirement age of 65 and that "according to Islamic practices [he] should have a beard."  It is unclear what party Zahoor is connected to, but the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, lacks a beard as well so it’s clearly not a prerequisite for the job.

— Bailey Cahall 

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