At least 16 people injured in Khyber Paktunkhwa market blasts

The Rack: "Enemy Inside the Wire: The Untold Story of the Battle of Bastion," Matthieu Aikins (GQ).  K-P explosions At least 16 people were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday as two different bomb blasts rocked the restive area (ET).  According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the first blast occurred inside a NATO shipping container ...

MOHAMMAD KARIM/AFP/Getty Images
MOHAMMAD KARIM/AFP/Getty Images
MOHAMMAD KARIM/AFP/Getty Images

The Rack: "Enemy Inside the Wire: The Untold Story of the Battle of Bastion," Matthieu Aikins (GQ). 

K-P explosions

At least 16 people were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday as two different bomb blasts rocked the restive area (ET).  According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the first blast occurred inside a NATO shipping container near Jamrud’s Karkhano market and the second explosion took place in Bannu’s Zargara market, near a local girl’s school.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack.

After Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Karachi on Wednesday and announced that the Sindh Rangers, a paramilitary force, would help restore law and order to the city, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said that the country’s security agencies had identified more than 450 criminals and militants who are wanted for various crimes, including extortion, kidnappings for ransom, targeted killings, and terrorism in the city, and that they would be the focus of impending security actions (Dawn, ET, RFE/RL).  Khan added that a civil society group would oversee the Rangers’ actions and that no action would be taken against innocent civilians (ET).  Fourteen people were killed in Karachi on Wednesday, the day the government outlined the basic parameters of the security operation, and three suspected militants were killed in clashes with police personnel on Thursday, underscoring the city’s fragile security situation (Dawn).

Younis Dagha, the Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan province, told reporters on Thursday that the suspected terrorist mastermind behind the attack on foreign trekkers in Nanga Parbat in June has been arrested (Dawn, ET).  According to Dagha, Qaribullah, the former chief of the Pakistani Taliban’s Chilas unit, was behind the attack that left 10 international hikers and their Pakistani guide dead at their Himalayan base camp.  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $6.7 billion loan for Pakistan on Wednesday, providing it with money needed to pay off previous loans (AFP, Reuters, RFE/RL).  To secure the Extended Fund Facility loan, which is aimed at helping countries with "serious balance-of-payments problems," Pakistan committed itself to a number of economic reforms to bring down its deficit, reduce the frequent electricity shortages that plague the country, and improve its tax collection.  The IMF’s approval allowed for the release of a first installment of $540 million; the remaining amount of the loan will be paid out evenly over three years. 

Not over 

During a news conference with reporters on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, a top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said that while "the U.S. and the international security forces from NATO have got a lot to be proud of…this war is not over…It is still being fought, day-in and day-out.  And it is not yet won" (Pajhwok, RFE/RL).  Milley acknowledged that the Taliban will likely be around for some time, but he doesn’t think they have the capabilities or political support to regain control of the country.  Milley’s comments that "the conditions are set for winning this war" echoed those of Lt. Gen. John Lorimer, the top British commander in Afghanistan, who told the BBC that the Afghan security forces were proving to be an "effective force," despite an increasing number of casualties (BBC). 

As the Afghan security forces have taken the lead in security operations in the country, a leading cause of the increased casualty numbers, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the forces are also being depleted as thousands of soldiers go AWOL or choose not to renew their contracts (Guardian).  The report cites a recent U.S. government study that found the Afghan National Army had lost an average of more than 3% of its forces each month from October 2012 to March 2013.  While most defections come from lower-ranking soldiers, who often have little loyalty to the forces, there have been some high-profile changes as well.  Gen. Sayed Mohammad Roshandel, the head of the Afghan police’s special forces units, reportedly traveled to Denmark earlier this summer to apply for asylum.  And Latifa Nabizada, an army helicopter pilot who has been "hailed as Afghanistan’s Amelia Earhart," took a desk job this summer after intense Taliban threats to her family.  These defections, which total around a third of the Afghan security forces’ strength a year, could undermine attempts to develop a trained and experienced cadre of soldiers as NATO forces prepare to withdraw at the end of next year.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) released a statement on Thursday saying that its agents had shot and killed two heavily-armed gunmen who opened fire on worshippers at a Shi’ite mosque in Kabul (AP, BBC, Pajhwok, RFE/RL).  At least three worshippers were injured but no deaths have been reported.  While the gunmen were wearing Afghan police uniforms, the NDS said the gunmen were actually from Pakistan.  Islamabad has not yet commented on this latest accusation that its government and intelligence service are helping militants carry out attacks in Afghanistan.  

Day in the park

A few weeks after a Japanese-funded peace park and women’s community center was opened in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province, reports emerged that a similar U.S.-supported project is underway in Sheberghan, the relatively peaceful capital of Jowzjan province (RFE/RL).  The park, which will be divided into a youth-only section and a women’s-only section, will feature a swimming pool, a flower and vegetable garden, and a children’s playground. While local men say they may let their wives visit the park every now and then, many women are excited to have a new place to gather.  The project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is set to open at the end of the year.

— Bailey Cahall 

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