More than 20 Afghans killed and 150 wounded in weekend of violent incidents

The Rack: "The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan: The Other Side of COIN," Karl W. Eikenberry (Foreign Affairs).  Civilian casualties At least 16 Afghans were killed in the Watapur district of Kunar province on Saturday by a coalition airstrike targeting militants in the mountainous region, but conflicting reports have emerged about the nature of ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

The Rack: "The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan: The Other Side of COIN," Karl W. Eikenberry (Foreign Affairs). 

Civilian casualties

The Rack: "The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan: The Other Side of COIN," Karl W. Eikenberry (Foreign Affairs). 

Civilian casualties

At least 16 Afghans were killed in the Watapur district of Kunar province on Saturday by a coalition airstrike targeting militants in the mountainous region, but conflicting reports have emerged about the nature of the strike, as well as the casualties (NYT, RFE/RL, VOA).  Abdul Habib Sayed Khaili, the provincial police chief, told reporters that the strike hit a pickup truck carrying six militants and nine civilians, and said that some local residents claimed it was a drone strike (AP).  But statements from Shujaul Mulk Jalala, Kunar’s provincial governor, and Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, put the civilian death toll at 12 (Pajhwok).  A statement released by Afghan President Hamid Karzai but the death toll at 16 and only that women and children were among the victims (Reuters).  NATO spokeswomen 1st Lt. AnnMarie Annicelli confirmed that coalition forces had carried out a "precision strike" that killed 10 "enemy combatants," but did not comment on whether the strike came from a drone or other air platform.  Annicelli added that they had received no reports of civilian deaths in the strike but were still investigating the matter. 

Hundreds of Afghans gathered outside the Iranian Consulate in Herat province on Saturday to protest against visa delays, and at least one person was killed and three were wounded when the police guarding the diplomatic mission opened fire on the crowd (RFE/RL).  A police spokesman said the protestors had tried to storm the consulate and then threw stones at the police when they tried to stop them.  Abdul Rahim, one of those protesting outside the facility, told reporters from Pajhwok Afghan News that it was their fourth consecutive day of visiting the consulate in an attempt to obtain the travel documents they had reportedly paid 20,000 Afghanis for (Pajhwok).

In Wardak province, at least four agents with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security were killed and more than 150 civilians were injured when a car bomb exploded outside the intelligence agency’s headquarters in Maidan Shahr, and between three and six insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles tried to breach the building (BBC, NYT, RFE/RL).  Provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said that the insurgents were killed before they could access the facility.  The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack (Pajhwok).  

Prisoner exchanges

Afghanistan and Pakistan released at least 18 Taliban prisoners over the weekend, but received no guarantees that they wouldn’t rejoin the ongoing insurgencies in each country (NYT).  On Saturday, Afghan officials confirmed that they had exchanged 11 Taliban prisoners — five fighters and six family members — for the release of Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a female parliamentarian who had been kidnapped by militants last month (AJE, AP, BBC, RFE/RL).  Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed that Kakar had been released (Pajhwok).  Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Saturday saying that they had released seven Taliban prisoners to facilitate the peace process, but they did not release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former top Taliban commander (AFP, BBC, Pajhwok, Post, Reuters, VOA).  Afghan officials have long sought Baradar’s release as they see him as crucial to restarting stalled reconciliation efforts. 

Pakistani officials told the local Express Tribune on Sunday that Islamabad, Kabul, and Washington have been in talks for months about moving Baradar to either Saudi Arabia or Turkey (ET).  Karzai has recently called for the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar – an office many believe Baradar persuaded the group to setup – to be moved to either of these countries. 

Peaceful handover

Asif Ali Zardari stepped down from his position as Pakistan’s president on Sunday, becoming the first democratically elected president in the country’s history to complete his full five-year term (AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT).  As many reports noted, Zardari departed from the office with a guard of honor from Pakistan’s armed forces, a "stark contrast to the exits of previous leaders, who were ousted, forced into exile, arrested, or even hanged" (RFE/RL).  Mamnoon Hussain, a textile businessman associated with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will be sworn in as Zardari’s successor on Monday (BBC, Dawn, RFE/RL). 

In its September/October "Vice" issue, Foreign Policy magazine features a report on Karachi’s role in the global trade of methamphetamine and deems it "the most dangerous megacity in the world" (ET, FP).  The piece, written by Taimur Khan, a correspondent for Abu Dhabi’s National newspaper, comes after weeks of fighting within the city and recent security operations by the Sindh Rangers, a provincial paramilitary organization, to restore law and order.  Khan notes that "Gangs tied to political parties have long operated in the poorer parts of the city, running extortion rings and land-grab schemes" and that "Pitched firefights that go on for days between gangs, or between gangs and the police, are not uncommon." 

Pakistani clerics gathered across the country on Saturday to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the passing of the Second Amendment, which declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, and called for further persecution of the Islamic group (ET).  The speakers of the conferences said that Ahmadis were enemies of Pakistan, demanded that they be barred from government or military positions, and even encouraged a social and economic boycott of Ahmadi shops. Ahmadis are considered non-Muslims by the more mainstream Muslim sects for believing that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya faith, was a prophet.  

One million mark 

Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, announced on Saturday that nearly one million people have obtained voter registration cards for next year’s presidential and provincial elections (Pajhwok).  The total represents a fourth of the eligible voters who will be given the identification cards in advance of April’s vote, and includes more than 700,000 male voters and 260,000 female voters.  Noor added that, with the exception of seven districts where there are security concerns, the registration campaign was going well. 

Update: The Justice Project Pakistan, whose Bagram Prisoner Campaign was featured in our brief on Friday, will be holding a related event at Washington, D.C.’s Fridge Gallery (516 8th Street SE) on Thursday, September 12, from 6:00-9:00 pm.  The event will feature photographs from the campaign’s collection, a wine reception, and a brief discussion of the JPP’s new report, Closing Bagram – The Other Guantanamo: Repatriating Pakistani citizens from U.S. detention in Afghanistan. 

— Bailey Cahall 

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