The South Asia Channel

Obama reportedly considering request to slow withdrawal from Af; Kejriwal meets PM Modi for chai; Peshawar school attack ordered by Pakistani Taliban

Afghanistan Obama reportedly considering request to slow withdrawal from Afghanistan According to an anonymous senior administration official on Wednesday, President Barack Obama is considering a request made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to slow the pace of U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (Reuters). The source told Reuters: “President Ghani has requested some flexibility in the ...

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-EU
US soldiers arrive at the scene following a suicide car bomb attack on a European Union police vehicle along the Kabul-Jalalabad road in Kabul on January 5, 2015. A suicide car bomb hit a European Union police vehicle in Kabul on January 5, killing at least one passer-by but not injuring any of the passengers, officials said, days after the NATO combat mission ended in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / Wakil KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Obama reportedly considering request to slow withdrawal from Afghanistan

According to an anonymous senior administration official on Wednesday, President Barack Obama is considering a request made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to slow the pace of U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (Reuters). The source told Reuters: “President Ghani has requested some flexibility in the troop drawdown timeline and base closure sequencing over the next two years, and we are actively considering that request.” The United States ceased its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, however, 13,000 foreign troops, mostly Americans, remain in Afghanistan.

The official said that General John Campbell, the commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, has already drafted recommendations on how to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces, and maintain counterterrorism capabilities. Obama has altered the drawdown plan twice already – it currently calls for cutting U.S. troops to 5,000 by the end of 2015 and leave only an embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016.

U.N. report: Afghan Taliban financed by drugs, gems

A U.N. Security Council report released Tuesday concludes that the Afghan Taliban are increasingly funded by criminal activities such as heroin laboratories, kidnappings for ransom, and illegally mining marble, rubies, and emeralds (Reuters). According to the report, the Afghan Taliban are operating with new “scale and depth,” integrating into the criminal networks by directly running the mines and taxing the production and export of drugs. The report called for imposing sanctions in order to disrupt the Taliban’s activities and discourage Afghans from joining.

Iranian border police fire on Afghans

Afghans attempting to enter Iran illegally were shot at by Iranian border police on Thursday (Pajhwok). The group of 21 men from Farah and Nimroz provinces were headed to Iran for employment. Nisar Ahmad, police chief for Joyen district, told Pajhwok Afghan News that two Afghans were killed and seven others wounded — two of the wounded were returned to Afghanistan while the remaining five are being held by Iranian border police.

Nearly 700 militant attacks in January

TOLO News released its monthly security report that concluded that in January, there were 696 militant attacks nationwide (TOLO News). The report found that in January, 1,324 armed opposition fighters, 171 Afghan forces, and 108 civilians were killed, and that 800 people, mostly civilians were injured. January was the month that Afghan security forces took control of security for the country. The report was: “based on the statements of the National Directorate of Security, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, TOLO News reports and the desk monitoring other media outlets,” according to TOLO News researcher Abbas Hussaini.

–Courtney Schuster

India

Kejriwal meets PM Modi for chai

Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi chief minister-designate and leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, and invited him for the chief minister swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi on Feb. 14 (Times of India, Indian Express, BBC). Accompanied by senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal urged Modi to consider statehood for capital city New Delhi. After the meeting, Sisodia told reporters: “Arvind also talked about full statehood to Delhi with the Prime Minister to which he assured that he will look into the issue” (Livemint). Kejriwal also raised the statehood issue with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday for the development of New Delhi. Anti-corruption campaigner, Kejriwal and his party defeated Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an election for the New Delhi assembly on Tuesday, after winning 67 of the 70 seats.

Finance Minister says no slowdown in economic reforms

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday that despite BJP’s election defeat in New Delhi, the government will go ahead with economic reforms (Reuters, IBNLive). Jaitley was addressing a joint press conference with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew at the end of 5th Indo-U.S. Economic and Financial Partnership meeting in New Delhi. Jaitley said that the government has been undertaking reforms to bring in investment, generate jobs, alleviate poverty, and improve the quality of life of people. In response to whether the government would resort to populism after its crushing defeat in the New Delhi state assembly elections, Jaitley said: “The fact that four (state assembly) elections have been won [by the BJP] and one has not been won is absolutely no ground for believing that there will be any slowdown on the path which we have undertaken” (Indian Express). Jaitley is scheduled to present his first full budget on Feb. 28 for 2015-16.

Temple dedicated to PM Modi scrapped

Modi said he was appalled on Thursday after it was reported that a few of his fans constructed a temple with a garlanded bust of him (BBC, WSJ, Livemint). Modi fans in Kotharia village, located in the western state of Gujarat, were planning to open the temple on Sunday, after buying a Modi idol worth approximately $2,724. However, supporters scrapped the plan to open the temple after Modi expressed his shock. Modi tweeted: “Have seen the news about a Temple being built in my name. I was appalled. This is shocking & against India’s great traditions,” and “If you have time & resources, please devote the same towards fulfilling our dream of a Clean India.” The tradition of building temples and deifying politicians and celebrities is very common in India. In the past, temples have been built for revered people, including Indira Gandhi, former Indian prime minister, Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, and cricket star Sachin Tendulkar. Also, another Modi temple was built last year in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

— Neeli Shah

Pakistan

Peshawar school attack ordered by Pakistani Taliban

Director General of Inter Services Public Relations Major Asim Bajwa held a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday where he discussed the Dec. 16 Peshawar school shooting which he said was ordered by Pakistani Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah (ET, Dawn). According to Bajwa, the Peshawar Army Public School was attacked by 27 militants, mostly Pakistani — 9 were killed, 12 were arrested, and the rest are at large. For the attack “the planning was done by Mullah Fazlullah and Aurangzaib alias Omar Amin” in Afghanistan. Bajwa added that the military operation in North Waziristan, Zarb-i-Azb, had cleared a large portion of the area, and that Operation Khyber-1 is successfully progressing.

Chinese president to visit Pakistan soon

During a press conference held during his visit to Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed that President Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan within the next few months, his first visit and the first by a Chinese president in nine years (ET). Yi was in Pakistan on a two-day tour to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz. Yi said he discussed progress on the Pakistan-China corridor, counterterrorism cooperation, and China and Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan after U.S. troops withdraw. On Afghanistan, Yi said: “ending Afghanistan’s turmoil was a common aspiration for both countries.”

–Courtney Schuster

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Courtney Schuster is a research associate with the International Security Program at New America and an assistant editor with the South Asia Channel.

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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