The South Asia Channel

Taliban fighters attack U.S. consulate in Herat, killing three Afghan guards

Wonk Watch: "The next Congo: Regional Competition for Influence in Afghanistan in the Wake of NATO Withdrawal," Antonio Giustozzi (Afghanistan Regional Forum). Day of unrest At least three members of the Afghan security forces were killed and dozens of people were wounded in Herat province on Friday when Taliban militants launched an attack near the ...

Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images
Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

Wonk Watch: "The next Congo: Regional Competition for Influence in Afghanistan in the Wake of NATO Withdrawal," Antonio Giustozzi (Afghanistan Regional Forum).

Day of unrest

At least three members of the Afghan security forces were killed and dozens of people were wounded in Herat province on Friday when Taliban militants launched an attack near the U.S. consulate (BBC, NYT, Pajhwok, Reuters, RFE/RL, VOA).  Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, the provincial police chief, said the attack began early Friday morning when suicide bombers detonated car bombs outside of the compound and militants opened fire on the security forces guarding the consulate (AP).  According to Safi, at least seven of the attackers were killed.  Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said all U.S. personnel at the mission were safe and that American forces had secured the site.  Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed that the group was behind the attack. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Almazbek Atambayev, met in Bishkek on Thursday to discuss increasing trade ties between the two countries (Pajhwok).  The meeting came a day before the 13th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional group that granted Afghanistan observer status earlier this year.  One of the specific projects they discussed would be a railroad linking China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.  Karzai is also expected to meet with his Russian, Chinese, and Iranian counterparts to discuss regional cooperation on terrorism and other security issues (RFE/RL). Bonus read: "SCO Looks to Find Its Way on Afghanistan," Abubakar Siddique (RFE/RL). 

Nearly 500 women gathered in Jawzjan province on Thursday to voice their interest in participating in next April’s presidential and provincial elections, and share concerns that cultural restrictions are keeping them from taking part in the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC’s) voter registration campaign (Pajhwok).  At the meeting in Shiberghan City, the provincial capital, participants said that though the IEC was doing what it could to ensure greater female participation in the vote, women in rural and remote areas are being prevented from visiting registration centers.  The meeting in Jawzjan occurred one day after Mohammad Yousaf Nuristani, the head of the IEC, told Afghan lawmakers that the registration campaign would be extended by a month-and-a-half so they could open more centers and address some of these concerns (Pajhwok). 

Big strike 

In an audio message posted online one day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on his followers to strike the United States domestically, using any opportunity they could to "bleed" America financially (AP, Reuters).  Zawahiri, who is widely believed to be living in Pakistan, added that the United States is not a "mythical power" and could be defeated "on its own soil" by small attacks or a "big strike."  The Associated Press reported that while the message’s authenticity could not be independently verified, it was posted on a militant website commonly used by al-Qaeda. 

In flames 

At least nine NATO oil tankers were torched in Balochistan on Friday when unidentified motorcyclists opened fire on the 15-truck convoy (Dawn, ET).  According to Yousaf Reiki, a local police official, the attack occurred at a rest stop in the region’s Kalat district and at least one driver was killed.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Pakistani Taliban has carried out similar attacks in the past to disrupt the flow of supplies to coalition troops in Afghanistan.  The attack comes as the Pentagon prepares to ramp up its withdrawal of more than 24,000 vehicles and 20,000 shipping containers of gear in advance of next year’s December 2014 departure of coalition combat troops (Reuters). 

As members of the Pakistani Taliban continue to discuss how to respond to the government’s invitation to begin peace talks, reports emerged on Thursday that Hakimullah Mehsud, the group’s leader, is chairing the meetings (AFP).  Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told reporters: "We are discussing the overall situations and the government’s offer.  We will soon inform the media about our decisions."  Unidentified Taliban commanders said they are taking the government’s offer seriously and renewed calls to stop all military operations against Taliban fighters, halt U.S. drone strikes in the country, release all Taliban prisoners, and compensate the families of those who have been killed – a possible indication of the group’s terms for negotiating. 

In the New York Times on Friday, London correspondent Declan Walsh profiles Altaf Hussain, the self-exiled leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and notes that his grip on power is beginning to slip (NYT).  Walsh notes that Hussain’s "London home and offices have been raided, and that the police have opened new investigations into accusations of money laundering and inciting violence in Pakistan."  Hussain is also a person of interest in the murder investigation of Imran Farooq, a former MQM member who was stabbed near his home in London in 2010.  However, with the security situation in Karachi as tenuous as it is, Walsh cites Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistani scholar, who said the Pakistani government would likely appeal any British action because "the fear of Karachi going up in flames is so great that no government can take that risk, as long as Altaf Hussain is alive."

After a decade of relative quiet, the disputed Kashmir region is also emerging as a potential powder keg as Indian and Pakistani troops have been shelling each other regularly for the last several weeks (Post).  The rising tensions are forcing hundreds of villagers to flee the area, and many are concerned things will only get worse as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan.  Local residents, police officers, and military personnel note that militant activity in the area has also increased — graffiti has appeared that reads "Welcome Taliban" — suggesting that as the conflict in Afghanistan begins to wind down, militant groups are turning their attention to Kashmir. 

Boardwalk empire

After nearly a decade of serving up comfort food to coalition GIs in the form of KFC, T.G.I Fridays, Tim Horton’s, and more, the boardwalk at Kandahar Airfield is closing down (McClatchy).  Beginning next month, the shops and businesses that surround a small soccer field and running track at the largest NATO base in Afghanistan will start shutting their doors.  Base officials said that most of the buildings will be torn down, but the walkway and sports facilities will remain a little longer.  U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John Dolan, the base commander said the closings were a natural evolution as the coalition draws down forces across the country but added that "the boardwalk is a part of [Kandahar Airfield’s] identity and exists as a cornerstone in the collective memory of the men and who have served here since it was built." 

— Bailey Cahall 

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