The South Asia Channel
At least 18 Afghans killed by roadside bomb while traveling to a wedding
Bonus read: "Afghanistan’s untold success story," Melissa L. Skorka (AfPak). Ruined wedding At least 18 people were killed in the Andar district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on Sunday when the minibus they were traveling in was struck a roadside bomb (AJE, AP, BBC, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA). The bus was full of people traveling to a ...
Bonus read: "Afghanistan’s untold success story," Melissa L. Skorka (AfPak).
At least 18 people were killed in the Andar district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on Sunday when the minibus they were traveling in was struck a roadside bomb (AJE, AP, BBC, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA). The bus was full of people traveling to a wedding and the majority of the casualties were women and children. Five other passengers were wounded and two remain in critical condition, according to Col. Assadullah Insafi, the deputy provincial police chief (NYT). The Taliban, who has control of the area, has denied responsibility for the attack but similar attacks in the Andar district have been linked to the militants.
Pajhwok Afghan News reported on Monday that Ghazni residents found a man with a remote control device in a garden soon after the bomb detonated. Suspecting that he was the attacker, angry locals killed him, though it is unclear if there was any other evidence linking him to the attack or if he was connected to the Taliban in any way. (Pajhwok).
An Afghan soldier was killed and three NATO soldiers were injured on Saturday during a disagreement at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul, just days after the facility opened its doors (RFE/RL, Telegraph). The disagreement between the soldiers started when the Afghan soldier, who was guarding a gate at the perimeter, confiscated a laptop from a driver and soldiers from Australia and New Zealand tried to take it back from him. Sources say the two coalition troops swore at the Afghan soldier, at which point he shot the Australian soldier in the chest. The bullet fragmented against his body armor and hit another Australian and a New Zealander before the Afghan soldier was killed. This is the fourth "insider attack" in Afghanistan in the past month; 15 coalition soldiers have been killed in such attacks this year alone (BBC).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai began a five-day trip to the United Kingdom on Monday, where he is expected to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (BBC, Pajhwok). One major issue he is expected to discuss with Sharif is the Taliban’s continued presence in Pakistan and the location of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (AFP, RFE/RL, VOA). As a former Taliban military commander, Kabul is hoping that Baradar will be able to restart the stalled reconciliation talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government. While Pakistan says it released Baradar in September, his whereabouts remain unknown.
Lack of oversight
As U.S. troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported on Sunday that the U.S. government will lose its ability to inspect many of its funded projects in Afghanistan in 2014 (Post, VOA). According to the Post, there will be at least 15 major reconstruction initiatives, projected to cost more than $1 billion, beyond the reach of U.S. government inspectors next year. The ability of civilian government officials and military personnel to visit and inspect sites depends on the proximity of troops and the ability of medics to transport any wounded to a hospital in the case of an attack. The decreasing numbers of troops will severely limit the overseers travel across the country.
The Post report came as the New York Times quoted senior NATO officials who said that they are planning for a more minimalist post-2014 mission, with fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not lost (NYT, Pajhwok). According to an unnamed senior NATO diplomat, "any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan ‘is tied directly to the $4.1 billion [in aid] and our ability to oversee it and account for it.’" While much of the media focus has been on the number of troops that remain in the country after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014, as these reports show, the continuance of aid is emerging as a critical and connected issue.
Reconsidering Afridi case
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured U.S. congressmen and activists during his visit to Washington last week that his government will reconsider the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, Fox News reported on Thursday (Dawn, ET). Afridi, accused of treason, was sentenced to 33 years in prison last May without having a chance to defend himself. According to Robert Lorsch, a California-based activist with the Free Afridi Campaign, he and Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "heavily pressured the Pakistani leadership about releasing the doctor" and that it was the first time they "realized the importance of Dr. Afridi, not as a political bargaining tool, but as a symbol of how freedom-loving American people regard Pakistan" (Fox News).
Prior to leaving for his tripartite meetings in Britain, Sharif met with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl party, in Rawalpindi on Monday to discuss reconciliation talks with the country’s militant groups, as well as the possibility of including the party in the federal cabinet (Dawn). According to anonymous sources, Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan and Information Minister Pervez Rashid were also present at the meeting, and briefed Rehman on the progress of the proposed peace talks. These sources also said that Sharif had talked to Rehman about his recent trip to Washington, but no further details were provided.
India claimed that one of its army officers was killed on Monday due to gunfire from the Pakistani side of the Kashmir Line of Control, the latest ceasefire accusation to emerge between the two nuclear-armed neighbors (AP, BBC, Dawn). According to Naresh Vig, an Indian army spokesman, the soldier was killed just after midnight in the Uri sector of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Vig added that India did not fire back, but instead lodged a protest with the Pakistani army over a hotline established to ease tensions in the region. Pakistan has yet to comment on the incident, but hundreds of Pakistani protestors took the streets on Monday to mark what they call "Black Day," a day when India occupied Kashmir 67 years ago, and chanted that: "Our fight will continue until Kashmir is free" (VOA).
Running in Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan participated in the 38th annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, in spite of being thousands of miles away from the race (Post). More than 300 troops ran the 26.2 miles, called Marine Corps Marathon Forward, at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province. Sgt. Bryan Peterson said one Marine ran in his combat utility uniform, except for the top, in order to pay respect to those who have fallen. Since the camp is nearly nine hours ahead of Washington, the runners finished well before any of the 32,000 participants who gathered in D.C. for the race (NBC).
— Emily Schneider and Bailey Cahall