The South Asia Channel
ISIS Reportedly Kills Afghan Taliban Commander; Modi to Visit China; Pakistan Tests Cruise Missile
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?,” Robert Grenier (The Atlantic) ISIS reportedly kills Taliban commander On Monday, Khalilullah Kamal, the administrative chief for Charkh district of Logar province told Pajhwok Afghan News that masked gunmen claiming to be ISIS militants killed a Taliban commander during a clash in the main district ...
Bonus Read: “What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?,” Robert Grenier (The Atlantic)
ISIS reportedly kills Taliban commander
On Monday, Khalilullah Kamal, the administrative chief for Charkh district of Logar province told Pajhwok Afghan News that masked gunmen claiming to be ISIS militants killed a Taliban commander during a clash in the main district bazaar (Pajhwok). The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident. The clash comes amid contined reports of ISIS related activity in Afghanistan. On Monday, Mohammad Omar Safi, the governor of northeastern Kunduz, said that there were about 70 ISIS militants in the province and called for a strategy to deal with the militants (Pajhwok). Also on Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned of ISIS’ extending influence into Afghanistan (AFP). Bishop stated: “We are certainly conscious of the need to contain, disrupt, and degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, Daesh, wherever it exists” continuing, “That’s why our focus is so much on Iraq … and the fact that there are tentacles reaching towards Afghanistan just doubles our resolve to defeat ISIL.” While noting the risks of ISIS’ expansion into Afghanistan, Bishop cautioned: “But there isn’t a great deal of evidence that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has a presence in Afghanistan.” Bonus Read: “Is U.S. coalition winning war vs. ISIS?,” Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider (CNN).
Eight cabinet ministers sworn in
On Sunday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani administered the oath of office to eight cabinet nominees and the intelligence chief nominee completing their nomination processes (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The eight new ministers are the first members of the cabinet to clear a long nomination process that encountered several delays. On Monday, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said that the remaining nominees would be submitted for approval by Afghanistan’s legislature in the coming weeks (Pajhwok).
Spokesman: Electronic ID distribution to begin soon
On Sunday, Jan Mohammad Habibi, spokesman for the Electronic Identity Card Distribution Authority, announced that distribution of electronic ID cards in Afghanistan would begin soon (Pajhwok). Habibi did not provide a specific date, but said that the authority has the capacity to distribute 2,000 cards a day. The electronic cards are aimed at preventing election fraud and the push to distribute them follows a demand from the Independent Election Commission.
— David Sterman
PM Modi to visit China
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced during her three-day visit to Beijing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit China in May, according to news reports on Sunday (NDTV). Swaraj met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Wang Yi, her Chinese counterpart, during her three-day visit. Xi said: “The positive side of China-India relations has been growing, the momentum of our cooperation has been strengthening… I have full confidence in the future of China-India relations and I believe that real progress will be achieved in growing this bilateral relationship on this new year” (Post).
Swaraj told reporters in Beijing: “Mr. Modi is going to come in May. I will give them dates today. This is a preparatory visit” (BBC). Swaraj said that Modi and Xi were ready discuss “out of the box” ideas to resolve the contentious Indo-China border issues. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border. Swaraj also spoke of India’s interest in increased market access in the software services, agricultural, and pharmaceutical sectors in China to decrease the trade deficit. While bilateral trade between India and China stands at about $70 billion, India’s trade deficit with China stands at about $40 billion. Swaraj said further: “We need investment. We hope to attract $ 20 billion from China on two industrial parks and railway systems. They have already started investing” (Indian Express).
India successfully tests nuclear-capable missile
India successfully test-fired its longest-range nuclear-capable Agni-V missile from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha — located in eastern India — on Saturday (Economic Times, Times of India, NDTV). The missile can carry can carry a warhead as far as China in the east and all over Europe in the west. The successful launch of the missile coincided with the retirement of Avinash Chander, the director general of the Defence Research and Development Organization. Chander said: “This is a momentous occasion. It is India’s first-ever ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] launch from a canister and is a giant leap in country’s deterrence capability” (Economic Times). Modi tweeted: “Successful test-firing of Agni-V from a canister makes the missile a prized asset for our forces. I salute the scientists for their efforts.”
Indian prisoners escape using bed sheets
Over 90 young prison inmates, all under the age of 18, escaped a detention center from the city of Meerut, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, according to news reports on Monday (BBC, Hindustan Times). While the police were guarding the front entrance, the prisoners removed an iron grille from a window in the back of the detention center and tied bedsheets together to scale down the walls. Although the police recaptured 35 of the escaped inmates, the remaining prisoners still on the run have been convicted of crimes including murder, rape, banditry, and theft. According to official estimates, more than 31,000 young offenders are held at detention centers in India.
— Neeli Shah
Pakistan tests new cruise missile
On Monday, Pakistan conducted a successful test of its new Raad cruise missile (ET, Dawn, RFE/RL). The missile has a range of 350 km and was designed to achieve strategic standoff capability on land and sea. It was developed indigenously in Pakistan. The missile’s test followed India’s announcement on Saturday that it had successfully launched a ballistic missile from a mobile launcher.
Amid drought, plans for solar water treatment
Amid a devastating drought, the Sindh provincial government plans to invest 5.4 billion Pakistani rupees ($53 million) in solar water treatment plants (Reuters). The drought has led to 80% of water resources in Pakistan’s southern Tharparker district becoming unusable. All of the solar facilities are expected to be up and running by June. The first plant began operation in January and is reportedly the largest solar water purification plant in Asia providing water for 300,000 people.
Afridi family blasts U.S. inaction
Supporters and family of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who ran the vaccination program used unsuccessfully by the CIA in its hunt for Bin Laden, blasted American inaction on intervening on Afridi’s behalf (Fox, Dawn). Qamar Nadeem Afridi, Shakil’s cousin and lawyer stated: “I am sorry to say that (the) U.S. government is doing nothing for him.” Shakil Afridi remains in a Pakistani jail convicted of terrorism links while a review of his conviction has stalled. His wife and three children are in hiding citing fears of Taliban violence. Qamar Nadeem stated: “they are in a very … miserable condition. You can’t even imagine. He is not working; she is in hiding.” Zar Ali Khan Afridi, human rights advocate and no relation of Shakil Afridi, commented: “He has been left to wolves and terrorists all around him in Peshawar central prison.” For its part the U.S. State Department says that it continues to “raise this issue at the highest levels” in discussions with the Pakistani government.
School massacre survivors leave on China trip
Survivors of the Taliban massacre at the Army Public School which killed 150 people mostly children, left on a trip to China on Monday (ET). A security official told AFP: “The basic aim of the visit is to divert the attention of the survivors.” The trip is the first of several and other survivors will be sent to other countries including Saudi Arabia according to security officials. Meanwhile Pakistani police are instructing teachers and university lecturers, many of them women, in shooting following the school massacre (NYT, CNN). Abdul Latif, a firearms instructor stated: “These ladies are better shots than some of our men” adding “They learned to handle a gun in just two days. Their confidence level is remarkable.” While some teachers have taken to the instruction others have also expressed concern. Akhtar Nagina, a physics lecturer at the Frontier College for Women stated: “As I gripped the gun and opened fire I started to sweat, thinking I should have a pen in my hand and not a gun.” However, she continued: “But then I remembered what the terrorists had done. And I figured I should at least have a gun in my purse, for my own protection.”
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
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