Khalid Haqqani emerges as Pakistani Taliban’s “functional head”
Acting chief? Pakistani newspaper The News International reported on Thursday that Khalid Haqqani is expected to be the "functional head" of the Pakistani Taliban as Mullah Fazlullah, the group’s new leader, remains in Afghanistan (Dawn). Fazlullah was elected by the group’s members last Thursday, a little less than a week after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed ...
Pakistani newspaper The News International reported on Thursday that Khalid Haqqani is expected to be the "functional head" of the Pakistani Taliban as Mullah Fazlullah, the group’s new leader, remains in Afghanistan (Dawn). Fazlullah was elected by the group’s members last Thursday, a little less than a week after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Haqqani used to lead his own militant faction known as the Haqqani Taliban, and is "touted to be a hardliner and a ruthless commander." According to the report, Fazlullah wants to return to Pakistan, but was advised against it due to the high number of drone strikes.
The news of Haqqani’s leadership came as Reuters noted that Mehsud’s death has exposed longstanding rivalries within the Taliban, "making the insurgency ever more unpredictable and probably more violent" (Reuters). Citing an unidentified Taliban commander, Reuters says that several leaders left the shura council meeting when Fazlullah’s name was announced, claiming: "The Taliban’s command is doomed." The report also notes that Fazlullah’s threat against Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, has unnerved many, including several other militant groups and the Pakistani military establishment. For its part, the Taliban has publicly denied that there are any rifts between the group’s different factions and tribes.
Several days after Dr. Nasiruddin Haqqani, a son of Haqqani network founder Jalaludin Haqqani and the organization’s chief financier, was gunned down outside a bakery in Islamabad, many are starting to question how he was able to live so openly in the Pakistani capital (RFE/RL). While some have drawn comparisons to Osama bin Laden, who hid in a safe house in Abbottabad, Haqqani seemed to be living a more luxurious life with several homes in the city. According to Mehmood Shah, a retired Army Brigadier General, Pakistan’s security forces assumed the Haqqani network was only operating in North Waziristan so the main question is, "What was he doing in Islamabad?" Adding to the mystery surrounding Haqqani’s life and death in Islamabad is the fact that several eyewitnesses are reporting that local police officials washed down the area when Haqqani was killed and that his body was taken away in their presence (BBC).
Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by the Defense Writers Group on Wednesday, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, said that while drones have been a key platform in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not well-suited to other places where the U.S. is looking to increase its presence (Post). Noting that the Air Force may eventually scale back the number of unmanned combat missions by more than 25 percent, Welsh suggested that the force would use more satellites, manned spy planes, and advanced stealth drones to conduct surveillance. According to the report, Welsh focused primarily on the reconnaissance missions that can be conducted with the aircraft. It does not appear that the use of armed drones was discussed.
Attacks on police
According to several Pakistani newspapers, the bullet-ridden bodies of two Afghan Police officers were found in a Chaman graveyard in Balochistan on Thursday, just across the border from Afghanistan (Dawn, ET). Pakistani police officers said that a chit located near the bodies explained that the men were killed for joining the Afghan Police forces in Kandahar province. There have been no claims of responsibility and further investigations are underway.
In Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, two policemen were injured on Thursday when militants drove their explosives-laden vehicle into a police checkpoint (Pajhwok). According to Fazal Rahman Nazarwal, the local district chief, both officers are in critical condition. The attack occurred one day after Maj. Gen. Ghulam Mohiuddin Sarwari, the provincial police chief, had announced that security had been bolstered in province. Elsewhere in the capital of Ghazni, police defused a bomb that had been planted near the Jahan Mulki Girls High School. No one has claimed responsibility for either incident.
A coalition soldier supporting the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force died in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, though neither the victim’s nationality nor the exact location of the incident were given (Pajhwok). As of Thursday, when the death was reported, 147 NATO soldiers have died so far in 2013, including 116 American and 22 British service members.
Modern art muses
A small group of young Afghan artists are producing pieces that are "shocking, intimate, and often bemusing to outsiders," according to Agence France Presse (AFP). The wire service notes that Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, and Ai Weiwei are among their influences, but the ongoing war in Afghanistan has also had an "inescapable effect on their work." Take Arif Bahaduri, for example, or a woman identified only as Orna. Bahaduri makes three-dimensional images from medical plasters to represent pain and unhealed wounds. Orna is making a cast of her back, purposefully excluding her arms and legs to make a statement about the number of people injured by bombs and mines. From 106 applicants, 10 finalists – including Bahaduri and Orna – will compete for the Afghan Contemporary Art Prize on Saturday, November 16.
— Bailey Cahall
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