Afghan Army Retakes Sangin; Drones Kill AQ, Pakistani Taliban Senior Officials; Pakistan Asks for UN Role in Kashmir
Afghanistan Afghan army retakes Sangin district The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) retook Sangin district in Helmand province, a key Taliban stronghold, over the weekend, according to a report by Afghanistan’s TOLO News on Sunday (TOLO News). A Ministry of Defense spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi, told TOLO News: "Sangin faced a lot of hardships, but ...
Afghan army retakes Sangin district
The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) retook Sangin district in Helmand province, a key Taliban stronghold, over the weekend, according to a report by Afghanistan’s TOLO News on Sunday (TOLO News). A Ministry of Defense spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi, told TOLO News: "Sangin faced a lot of hardships, but the fighting is over now." Azimi also pointed to the important role played by foreign air power in pushing insurgents out of the district. Azimi praised the recently signed Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan stating: "After the political transition and the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the spirit of cooperation among the ANSF and international forces in all aspects, especially in air support, has increased."
Kidnapped German aid worker freed
A German aid worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan more than two years ago was freed in Afghanistan, according to statements on Friday from the German government and the man’s employer, Welthungerhilfe (AP). Bernd Muehlenbeck, the aid worker, was kidnapped in the Pakistani city of Multan in January 2012, along with an Italian colleague.
Kabul car bomb injures 22
A car bomb exploded in Kabul’s Qarabagh district bazaar on Monday morning, injuring 22 civilians (Reuters, TOLO News). Abdul Sami Sharifi, the district governor, stated: "Five of the 22 victims are in critical condition and were transferred to Kabul City for treatments." No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Another car bomb in the Afghan capital killed one civilian and wounded three others earlier that morning (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The attack targeted a NATO convoy on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway, according to Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Ayub Salangi. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.
18 injured in attack on Balkh police headquarters
Two gunmen wearing police uniforms attacked the police headquarters in northern Balkh province on Sunday, injuring 18 people, including nine police officers (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to Col. Abdul Raziq Qadri, a security official, the attackers were killed during the incident. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
Drone strikes kill AQ, Pakistani Taliban senior officials
Two American drone strikes in Pakistan on Saturday killed eight militants, including senior officials in the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Pakistani Taliban groups (ET, Dawn). The first strike killed four militants and targeted a compound in the Chancharano Kandaw area of the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency. The strike also killed senior AQIS official Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi, also known as Haji Shaikh Waliullah. AQIS spokesman Osama Mehmood confirmed Waliullah’s death on twitter. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the creation of AQIS in September, merging several militant groups which swore loyalty to him and Al Qaeda. The second drone strike killed another four militants and targeted a vehicle in the Shawal tehsil area of North Waziristan. Muhammad Mustafa, a Pakistani Taliban leader, was reportedly among those killed. Saturday’s strikes are the 15th and 16th strikes this year, according to data collected by New America (NA). They continue a recent uptick in drone activity, which involved seven strikes –more than a third of all strikes in 2014 — over the course of a single week.
Prime Minister’s Polio Cell releases recommendations
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell released new recommendations for high risk areas, according to a report on Monday in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper (Dawn). According to the cell, there have been 206 polio cases in Pakistan so far this year, compared to 58 over the same time period in 2013. If correct, that number of polio cases would be the largest number of cases in 15 years surpassing the 199 cases of polio reported in 2001 (BBC). The report also noted that the number of infected towns and districts grew from 18 in 2013 to 26 this year. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas account for 86.4 percent of the cases. The cell’s recommendations urged greater civil-military cooperation and the provision of security to polio workers, who have come under attack in recent years.
Rangers foil Karachi prison break
Col. Tahir Mehmood, an official with the paramilitary Rangers group, announced on Monday that the Rangers had foiled a prison break from Karachi Central Jail (ET, Dawn). The escape was prevented after the Rangers discovered a 40-meter (131-foot) tunnel under a nearby house. According to Mehmood, the existence of the tunnel was revealed during interrogations after a raid in Karachi’s Ghosia Colony. Seven people involved in the escape attempt have reportedly been arrested. The escape plot is not the first time security in the Karachi Central Jail has proven to be a challenge. In 2013, a deadly attack on a Sindh High Court judge was planned from within the jail (Dawn).
46 solar sites selected in Punjab
Punjab province’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – the Prime Minister’s brother – announced on Sunday that he had selected 46 sites in the province for small solar projects (Dawn). Sharif said the projects would help resolve energy shortages, and accused protests and sit-ins of delaying their development.
— David Sterman
Kashmir: Pakistan asks for U.N. intervention
Pakistani officials wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Sunday, asking the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to intervene in the recent border dispute in Kashmir (ET, NDTV, Daily Times). Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, wrote the letter, which accused India of "deliberate and unprovoked violations of the ceasefire agreement and cross-border firing" over the past weeks. The letter, which was released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said further that: "Pakistan believes the United Nations has an important role to play in promoting this objective, through your [U.N.] good offices, which we have always welcomed." Pakistan also reported that India started firing along the Sialkot border on Saturday (DAWN). Meanwhile, according to Indian news reports, Pakistan targeted 15 outposts in Kashmir on Saturday, injuring three people (Livemint, Hindustan Times). There have been numerous ceasefire violations on the Indo-Pakistan border in Kashmir since October.
India’s position has been that the UNMOGIP has little role to play after the neighboring countries signed the Simla Pact in 1972, where both nations agreed to resolve all disputes including Kashmir bilaterally. However, Pakistan has frequently called for third-party involvement to settle any Kashmir disputes.
Congress drops spokesperson for praising Modi
The Congress party dropped parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor from its panel of party spokespersons on Monday, for praising IndianPrime Minister Narendra Modi (The Hindu, Indian Express). The Kerala Congress unit — from the southern state of Kerala — demanded disciplinary action after Tharoor accepted Modi’s invitation to join the Clean India campaign in early October. Tharoor represents the state’s Thiruvananthapuram constituency. Congress President Sonia Gandhi took the decision based on the recommendations of the party’s disciplinary action committee. Congress leaders said that Tharoor repeatedly praised Modi, and that they were embarrassed by Tharoor’s "adulation of PM Modi."
In response to his party’s decision, Tharoor said: "As a loyal worker of the Congress, I accept the decision of the party president," and further elaborated: "While I would have welcomed an opportunity to respond to (the complaint) and draw the attention of the AICC [All India Congress Committee] leadership to the full range of my statements and writings on contemporary political issues, I am now treating this matter as closed and have no further comment to make" (NDTV).
Modi launches adopt-a-village scheme
Modi launched the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) initiative on Saturday, a scheme initially announced during his speech on India’s Independence Day in August. SAGY is an ambitious scheme where every member of parliament will adopt a village and work for its development (The Hindu, NDTV). Modi, making a strong pitch for "demand-driven" development, said: "If before 2019, we develop three villages each, we reach nearly 2,500 villages. If states create a similar scheme for MLAs [members of legislative assemblies], then 6,000-7,000 more villages can be added" (Indian Express). The 65-page manual outlining the project stated that parliamentarians should identify and adopt one village with a population of 1,000-3,000 in the hills, and another with a population of 3,000-5,000 in the plains. The manual also stated that they should not choose a village belonging to themselves or their spouses.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen
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