The South Asia Channel

Obama administration mulls slowing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan; Mosque attacked in Karachi; Train derails in northern India

Afghanistan Bonus read: “Mr. Ghani Goes to Washington,” Michael Kugelman (South Asia) Obama administration mulls slowing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan The Obama administration is expected to decide soon whether or not to keep more troops in Afghanistan in 2016 than it had intended (NYT). U.S. Officials had hoped that peace negotiations with the Taliban would ...

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 15:   Members od U.S. audience of armed forces listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speaks December 15, 2014 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Obama will address the troops to thank them for their service and mark the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan. ahead of the upcoming holidays.  (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 15: Members od U.S. audience of armed forces listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speaks December 15, 2014 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Obama will address the troops to thank them for their service and mark the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan. ahead of the upcoming holidays. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus read: “Mr. Ghani Goes to Washington,” Michael Kugelman (South Asia)

Obama administration mulls slowing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Obama administration is expected to decide soon whether or not to keep more troops in Afghanistan in 2016 than it had intended (NYT). U.S. Officials had hoped that peace negotiations with the Taliban would allow the United States to stick to its plan to drop the number of troops in Afghanistan to 5,600 by the end of this year. But with the Taliban still divided over whether to engage in talks and al Qaeda still active in the region, American officials have concluded that many of the 10,000 troops currently in Afghanistan would be needed well into 2016.

Mob lynches woman for burning Koran

A mob in Kabul lynched a woman on Friday after she allegedly burned a copy of the Koran near a mosque, according to Afghan police officials (BBC, Telegraph). A video emerged afterwards that showed crowds of men hurling bricks and stones and repeatedly kicking the 27-year-old Farkhunda, who like many Afghans only went by one name. Her parents told the police that their daughter had suffered with mental illness for years and that she didn’t intend to burn the Koran. Bonus read: “Standing Beside Afghanistan’s Iron Lady,” Aarya Nijat (SouthAsia).

Powerful Afghan police chief killed

Matiullah Khan, the police chief of Oruzgan province and powerful commander of a private militia, was killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul on Wednesday (NYT). The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Afghan government was not providing any comment on Khan’s death, even though he was said to be in the city on official business. Khan began his career as an illiterate highway patrol commander, but then started a militia operation and made millions of dollars securing military coalition supply convoys.

Pakistan

Mosque attacked in Karachi

Two people are dead after a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded outside the Saleh Mosque for Bohra Community worshippers in Karachi on Friday (Dawn, ET). The explosion was so powerful that the windows of nearby shops and homes were shattered. However, Abdul Khaliq Shaikh, deputy inspector general of police, noted that heightened security in the area and at the mosque had prevented a higher casualty count. The attack is the first to target a Bohra mosque in Karachi in three years, when another attack killed seven people.

Convicted killer’s confession accuses MQM

Hours before he was scheduled to be hanged, convicted killer Saulat Mirza taped a confession in which he leveled serious allegations against his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) (ET). In a recorded video that was televised on Thursday, Mirza said he assassinated Shahid Hamid, the managing director of the Karachi Electric Supply Company, on the orders of MQM leader Altaf Hussain. He also accused the MQM of carrying out other criminal activities. An emotional Mirza said that he wanted to send a message to other MQM workers, stating: “Look at me and consider me an example of how we have been used and discarded [by the MQM].” Following the release of the video, the government stayed his execution for at least 72 hours to look into his claims.

India

Train derails in northern India

Approximately 30 people died and dozens were injured on Friday after a Janta Express passenger train derailed near the Bachhrawan village, located in northern state of Uttar Pradesh (BBC, Economic Times, NDTV). The engine and two carriages derailed after the train’s driver allegedly overshot the signal. India’s railway network carries over 23 million passengers daily and operates 12,000 passenger trains. During the annual railway budget last month, the Indian government announced plans to invest $137 billion in the aging railway network.

Militants attack police station in J&K

A group of militants opened fire at a police station in the Kathua district, located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), killing one policeman and two civilians on Friday (NDTV, Livemint, Indian Express). In a fierce battle that lasted over four hours, the terrorists used guns and grenades to attack the police station, which is located a few miles from the India-Pakistan border. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that: “​[T]​wo militants have been gunned down by our security forces” (BBC). Armed insurgency against Indian rule in J&K has been prevalent since 1989.

India successfully launches Astra missile

India successfully test-fired an air-to-air missile, Astra — which was indigenously designed and developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) — from a fighter aircraft off the coast of the eastern state of Odisha on Thursday (NDTV, Indian Express, Economic Times). At 149 inches long, the Astra is the smallest DRDO-developed missile, and can destroy aircrafts at a supersonic speed.

AAP increases water tariff in New Delhi

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling local government in New Delhi, announced a 10-percent increase in water tariffs for households in the capital city that consume more than 5,283 gallons per month, according to news reports on Thursday (Indian Express, NDTV). Opposition parties were quick to comment on the increase as the AAP had promised free water to the people of New Delhi during elections earlier this year. Congress Party leader Ajay Maken said: “​[The] ​Government’s decision to hike the water tariff is a betrayal of the people. The move will put additional burden on the common man… AAP is going back on all its promises, as the 10 per cent hike in the water tariff will affect lakhs of people in Delhi and would be beyond the paying capacity of the poor people” (Economic Times). Satish Upadhyay, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s New Delhi president, said that AAP’s decision was a “stab on people’s back.”

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

Mark Makela/Getty Images

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

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