Obama Apologizes for Hospital Strike; Pakistani SC Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing; Kashmir Counterterrorism Official Killed

Afghanistan Bonus Read: “The Essential Lessons of Terrorists at the Table” by David Sterman (South Asia) Obama apologizes over hospital bombing On Wednesday, President Barack Obama issued a rare personal apology for the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan (NYT, CNN, RFE/RL, Pajhwok, TOLO News). Obama made the apology in a ...

General Director of Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Christopher Stokes arrives for a press conference at the MSF office in the Afghan captial Kabul on October 8, 2015. US President Barack Obama on October 7 apologised to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for a deadly US air strike on an Afghan hospital, as the medical charity demanded an international investigation. Three separate probes -- by the US military, NATO and Afghan officials -- are under way into the catastrophic strike in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3 which left 22 people dead. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar        (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
General Director of Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Christopher Stokes arrives for a press conference at the MSF office in the Afghan captial Kabul on October 8, 2015. US President Barack Obama on October 7 apologised to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for a deadly US air strike on an Afghan hospital, as the medical charity demanded an international investigation. Three separate probes -- by the US military, NATO and Afghan officials -- are under way into the catastrophic strike in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3 which left 22 people dead. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
General Director of Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Christopher Stokes arrives for a press conference at the MSF office in the Afghan captial Kabul on October 8, 2015. US President Barack Obama on October 7 apologised to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for a deadly US air strike on an Afghan hospital, as the medical charity demanded an international investigation. Three separate probes -- by the US military, NATO and Afghan officials -- are under way into the catastrophic strike in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3 which left 22 people dead. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “The Essential Lessons of Terrorists at the Table” by David Sterman (South Asia)

Obama apologizes over hospital bombing

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “The Essential Lessons of Terrorists at the Table” by David Sterman (South Asia)

Obama apologizes over hospital bombing

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama issued a rare personal apology for the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan (NYT, CNN, RFE/RL, Pajhwok, TOLO News). Obama made the apology in a telephone call with Dr. Joanne Liu, the head of Doctors Without Borders. Liu commented that the apology had been “received” continuing to emphasize the need for an international investigation to “establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened.” Presidential apologies for American actions abroad are rare. Previous examples include a 2012 letter of apology from Obama to Afghan President Hamid Karzai after American military personnel burned copies of the Quran and a 2004 apology by President George W. Bush regarding the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Dostum reaches out to Russia

Beginning last week, Afghanistan’s First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum visited Russia to seek assistance in the Afghan government’s efforts against the Taliban (RFE/RL). A spokesman for Dostum commented: “The Russian side is committed to support and help Afghanistan in terms of helping its air and military forces,” adding, “We’re lacking air support, weapons, ammunition. We need a lot of backing and support to fight against terrorism.” Dostum’s spokesman noted, however, that given the history of Russian intervention in Afghanistan, support would not include a direct role. He remarked that the Russians promised to “see what they can help with.”

Afghan cleared for release from Guantanamo

On Wednesday, the United States announced that it had cleared Mohammed Kamin, an Afghan held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for release after eleven years of imprisonment (Reuters, RFE/RL, Pajhwok). The Periodic Review Board recommended that Kamin, now about 37, be released calling him “one of the more compliant detainees at Guantanamo.” Kamin’s release now depends on whether another country will take him as the United States refuses to relocate Guantanamo prisoners to its soil.

Pakistan

Supreme Court upholds blasphemy killing death sentence

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld a death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri, a former police bodyguard, who shot and killed Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, for his support of Asia Bibi a woman sentenced to death for purported blasphemy (WSJ, VOA, Guardian). With the court’s decision only a presidential pardon stands between Qadri and his execution. The decision marks an important stage of the case as Qadri received support from a number of Pakistani police officials as well as many conservative Pakistanis. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of army staff at the time, once reportedly told Western ambassadors that he could not publicly condemn Qadri because of the number of soldiers who supported him.

Rangers raid MQM Rabita Committee member

On Thursday, Rangers, a paramilitary force tasked with providing security in Karachi, arrested Kamal Mallick, a member of the MQM’s Rabita Committee, in a predawn raid at his home (ET, Dawn). The MQM released a statement reading in part: “According to details, a heavy contingent of Rangers raided the house of Kamal Mallick on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday around 2:30am. They scaled the walls of his home and arrested him.” The MQM’s Rabita Committee formulates the party’s positions under the leadership of the party’s head Altaf Hussain.

Traffic police to don body cameras in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

On Wednesday, a handout announced that traffic police in all districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would wear body cameras to record their work and for use as evidence (ET). The handout read: “These cameras will force traffic police to act politely and responsibly when dealing with the public since they are often blamed for taking bribes and being harsh.”

— David Sterman

India

Kashmir counter-terrorism official killed in ambush

An Indian counter-terrorism sub-inspector in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday, according to Indian news sources (NDTVEconomic Times). The 37-year old officer, Sub-Inspector Altaf Ahmad, was killed while pursuing Abu Qasim, a top commander of the terrorist group Lakshar-e-Taiba. While tracking his target, Altaf was shot and killed by militants lying in ambush. According to experts, Altaf was a key operative for counter-terrorism security forces in the region, and his death is seen as a significant blow. Over the past ten years, Altaf had played a pivotal role in the arrest of hundreds of militants and in numerous significant anti-terrorist operations.

Big shift towards English instruction in Delhi schools

The Times of India reports that over the past five years, schools in the capital territory of Delhi have made a significant shift away from instruction in Hindi towards instruction in English (TOI). Between 2009 and 2014, enrollment in Hindi instruction fell by 1.4 million, while enrollment in English instruction increased by 4.5 million. These trends align with the pattern seen in other states in India, as English becomes increasingly prominent nationwide.

— Udit Banerjea

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

David Sterman is a program associate at New America and Assistant Editor of the South Asia Channel. He tweets at @DSterms Twitter: @Dsterms

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