The South Asia Channel
US Senate Report Says Coercive Techniques Didn’t Lead to Bin Laden; US Ambassadors to Afghanistan and India Confirmed
Pakistan Interrogation techniques didn’t lead to bin Laden, says U.S. Senate report The Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture that was released on Tuesday rejects the claim that information gathered from its disputed interrogation program played a critical role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden (NYT). The New York Times highlighted portions ...
Interrogation techniques didn’t lead to bin Laden, says U.S. Senate report
The Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture that was released on Tuesday rejects the claim that information gathered from its disputed interrogation program played a critical role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden (NYT). The New York Times highlighted portions of the report said: “The vast majority of the intelligence” about the Qaeda courier who led the agency to Bin Laden “was originally acquired from sources unrelated to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and the most accurate information acquired from a CIA detainee was provided prior to the CIA subjecting the detainee to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.” The report showed that the CIA was actually collecting information about the courier, known as Abu Ahmed al Kuwait, before it had obtained any intelligence about him from detainees in custody.
Americans in Pakistan, Afghanistan warned after release of CIA torture report
U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Thailand warned Americans of the potential for anti-American protests and violence after Tuesday’s release of the Senate Select committee on Intelligence report outlining harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA (Dawn). In identical notices, the embassies said: “The release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program could prompt anti-US protests and violence against U.S. interests, including private U.S. citizens.” The notice told Americans to be alert to their surroundings and to take appropriate precautions.
Family murdered in honor killing
A 60-year-old woman, her husband, and their three children were brutally murdered Tuesday night by the woman’s relatives (Reuters). A fourth child was injured in the attack, but was able her mother’s relatives for police and said that they had attacked the family using axes. The family members were reportedly seeking revenge for the woman marrying her husband 28 years ago.
U.S. ambassador to India confirmed
The U.S. Senate confirmed Richard Rahul Verma as the next American ambassador to India on Tuesday (The Hindu, Livemint, BBC). Verma was the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department from 2009 to 2011. He will be the first Indian-American to serve as an U.S. ambassador to India. Verma replaces Nancy Powell, who resigned in March after the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York that sparked a tense diplomatic row between India and the United States in Dec. 2013.
Uproar in parliament over religious conversion
There were protests in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday in response to reports about forced conversions of approximately 57 Muslim families to Hinduism in Agra, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (Hindustan Times, IBNLive, The Hindu). The Muslim families, which all belonged to a rag-picker colony, claimed on Tuesday that they were tricked into converting to Hinduism by Bajrang Dal — a Hindu nationalist organization — with promises of getting ration cards (documents that can be used to obtain subsidized fuel and food, and serve as identity cards).
Further, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — a Hindu nationalist organization from which the leading party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, draws its ideological roots — plans to convert at least 1,000 Muslim and 4,000 Christian families to Hinduism under what it calls the “Ghar Wapsi” (returning home) program on Dec. 25 in Aligarh, also located in Uttar Pradesh (NDTV). Rajeshwar Singh, a RSS regional worker, said: “Aligarh was chosen because it’s time we wrest the Hindu city from Muslims. It is a city of brave Rajputs [son of kings in Sanskrit] and their temples on whose remains Muslim institutions have been established” (Economic Times).
WGC: India should set up gold exchange
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (an association of business organizations in India) and World Gold Council (WGC, the market development organization for the gold industry) issued a joint report on Tuesday, recommending that India set up an exchange to streamline the trade of gold and facilitate transparent pricing, and allow banks to use gold as part of their liquidity reserves (Bloomberg, Business Standard). P.R. Somasundaram, the managing director of WGC, said: “The solution to meeting India’s enduring appetite for gold lies not in restricting the import of gold, but in making better use of the gold that is already in the country, making it a productive, fungible asset class like any other financial savings” (Reuters).
India is the world’s largest gold consumer after China, and it is estimated that Indian households hold about 22,000 tons of gold. In 2013, due to a high trade deficit, India imposed a 10 percent import duty on gold and a “80-20 rule,” which required the country to export 20 percent of the volume of gold that had been imported before additional gold imports were made.
The Rack: “A Native Daughter Returns to Afghanistan on Daring Mission: Educating Girls,” Susan Daugherty (NatGeo).
U.S. Senate confirms new ambassador to Afghanistan
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Peter McKinley as the new ambassador to Afghanistan (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). McKinley is replacing James B. Cunningham who has served as ambassador since 2012. He is a career member of the foreign service and was serving as the deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.
‘Afghan Bruce Lee’ becomes an internet star
Abbas Alizada, a 20-year-old living in Kabul, found his way to internet fame in Afghanistan this week after posting pictures and videos of himself striking poses reminiscent of the kung fu legend Bruce Lee (ET). “I want to be a champion in my country and a Hollywood star,” Alizada, whose friends have dubbed Bruce Hazara, said. He cited the destruction of his country as motivation for his bi-weekly training sessions and for his recent win at a recent martial arts tournament in Kabul.
— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen