Afghan Taliban Reach Widest Since 2001; Case Against US Diplomat for Spying for Pakistan Fizzles; Bihar State Elections Begin
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “By evening, a hospital. By morning, a war zone,” by Tim Craig, Missy Ryan, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff (Post) Afghan Taliban reach widest since 2001 The Afghan Taliban has extended its reach through more of Afghanistan than at any time since their fall from power in 2001, according to a report in the ...
Bonus Read: “By evening, a hospital. By morning, a war zone,” by Tim Craig, Missy Ryan, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff (Post)
Afghan Taliban reach widest since 2001
The Afghan Taliban has extended its reach through more of Afghanistan than at any time since their fall from power in 2001, according to a report in the New York Times on Sunday citing data collected by the United Nations as well as interviews (NYT). In the past two weeks, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan evacuated four of its 13 offices in the country for security reasons – and before the evacuation the U.N. had rated the threat level in half of Afghanistan’s administrative districts as “high” or “extreme.” Highway One which circles Kabul has seen repeated attacks, and insurgents cut the highway in the Doshi and Baghlani Jadid districts of Baghlan Province – previously a government stronghold. Gen. John Campbell, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, stated: “They’re still holding. The Afghan government retains control of Kabul, of Highway One, its provincial capitals and nearly all of the district centers.” Bonus Read: “The Taliban are Winning,” by Asim Yousafzai (Foreign Policy).
No jail time recommended for Bergdahl
On Friday, the defense team for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl submitted a memorandum revealing that the government’s lawyer in the case is not seeking jail time for Sgt. Berghdal who was released by the Taliban in exchange for five prisoners held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay (NYT, Post, CNN). Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s lawyer, stated: “Lieutenant Colonel Visger [the government’s lawyer in the case] recommended that the charges be referred to a special court-martial and that Sergeant Bergdahl receive neither jail time nor a punitive discharge.” The government has not confirmed the recommendation. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion that carries a possible five year sentence as well as endangering the troops which carries a possible life sentence.
Five dead in coalition helicopter crash
On Sunday, five members of the international coalition in Afghanistan were killed when the helicopter they were flying in crashed (VOA, CNN, Reuters, Pajhwok, TOLO News). Britain confirmed that two of the dead were British servicemembers. The nationalities of the others killed in the crash remains unknown. Five other people were injured in the crash.
Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s route to China sees ferrymen’s livelihoods dry up ,” by Tim Craig (Guardian)
Case against US diplomat for spying for Pakistan falls apart
The case against Robin Raphel, a longtime member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, for spying for Pakistan, is falling apart and the Justice Department is unlikely to press espionage charges, according to a report in the New York Times on Saturday (NYT, ET). The investigation began last year after an intercept of a conversation between Raphel and a Pakistani official was interpreted as evidence of spying. In October, the government raided her home and State Department office. The fizzling of the case is the latest in a series of espionage cases in which the government has dropped the accusation. It remains to be seen whether Raphel will be charged on the lesser count of mishandling classified information.
PMLN wins NA-122 seat
On Sunday, Pakistan’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) party won the NA-122 district parliamentary seat in Punjab, according to unofficial results (Reuters, ET). PMLN candidate Ayaz Sadiq won about 4,000 more votes than opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate Aleem Khan. The seat had fallen vacant after an election tribunal voided Sadiq’s 2013 win due to voting irregularities.
Anti-Terrorism Court Sentences Altaf Hussain to 81 years
On Monday, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit-Baltistan sentenced Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) political party, to 81 years in prison for treason and incitement to violence following allegedly anti-state speeches he gave (ET, Dawn). Hussain currently lives in exile in London.
— David Sterman
Bihar state elections begin
Voters in the northern state of Bihar are going to the polls to vote in an important state election starting on Monday (The Hindu, BBC, Hindustan Times). Over 66 million voters are eligible to cast their votes for 243 seats between Monday and Nov. 5. The main contestants in the election are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which currently heads the national government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a “grand coalition” of opposition parties headed by two former Bihar chief ministers. The state election is seen as a bellwether of the national mood on Modi’s government, which came into power after a landslide victory in the 2014 national elections. A victory for the BJP would bolster support for Modi’s national agenda and could lead to more seats for the party in the upper house of the Indian parliament, where it currently does not have a majority. Conversely, a BJP loss in Bihar would galvanize the opposition, which has had some recent success in blocking major portions of Modi’s agenda. Current opinion polls predict a tight race. Modi encouraged high voter turnout, particularly among younger voters, in a statement published on his Twitter page: “Urging all those voting today in Bihar to vote in large numbers. I particularly urge my young friends to cast their vote.” The results of the election will be announced on Nov. 8, after the five phases of voting have concluded.
Apple to launch stores in India
Apple is partnering with the electronics chain Croma to launch Apple Stores in India (TOI, BGR). Apple has not been able to open its own stores in India up until this point because of regulations requiring local sourcing for single-brand foreign direct investment in retail. The company has had to rely on premium resellers instead. By partnering with Croma, which is owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, Apple is able to directly enter the Indian retail market under the existing regulations. Under the agreement, Apple will be allotted 400-500 square feet of floor space in Croma stores in five locations in Mumbai as a pilot program, with plans for further expansion. Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly asked Prime Minister Modi during his recent visit to Silicon Valley to ease the local sourcing regulations. Apple has sold 1.7 million iPhones in India over the last year, an increase from the 1.1 million sold in the previous year.
Parliament elects Communist prime minister
Nepal’s parliament elected Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, a member of the Communist party, as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday (WSJ, Guardian). Oli received 338 votes out of 597 to defeat Sushil Koirala, his predecessor. Oli’s election comes at a turbulent time for Nepal, as protesters from the Madhesi ethnic group have disrupted imports from India by blocking main border crossings on Nepal’s southern border. The unofficial blockade has set off a fuel crisis in the country, and 45 people have died in related riots. Many Madhesis are unhappy with Nepal’s new constitution, which they argue disproportionately favors other ethnic groups. Oli stated that ending the violence and restoring imports of fuel and other essential goods are his top priorities.
— Udit Banerjea
Edited by Peter Bergen
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
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