Taliban Announces Withdrawal From Kunduz; Indian Writers Return Honors; Seven Dead in Bombing of Pakistani Lawmaker’s Office

Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Iraq and Afghanistan Have Officially Become Vietnam 2.0,” by Andrew Bacevich (The Nation) Bonus Read: “Afghan ISIS Branch Makes Inroads in Battle Against Taliban,” by Mujib Mashal (NYT) Taliban announces withdrawal from Kunduz On Tuesday, the Taliban announced that they had withdrawn from Kunduz City, which the group held for fifteen days ...

In this photograph taken on October 8, 2015, Afghan security forces stand guard at the main gate of the prison (on which it is written "General Directorate of Prison Centre of Kunduz Province) after retaking Kunduz from the Taliban, in Kunduz.  Thirty-three people are still missing five days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, Doctors Without Borders warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly.  AFP PHOTO / Nasir WAQIF        (Photo credit should read NASIR WAQIF/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photograph taken on October 8, 2015, Afghan security forces stand guard at the main gate of the prison (on which it is written "General Directorate of Prison Centre of Kunduz Province) after retaking Kunduz from the Taliban, in Kunduz. Thirty-three people are still missing five days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, Doctors Without Borders warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTO / Nasir WAQIF (Photo credit should read NASIR WAQIF/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photograph taken on October 8, 2015, Afghan security forces stand guard at the main gate of the prison (on which it is written "General Directorate of Prison Centre of Kunduz Province) after retaking Kunduz from the Taliban, in Kunduz. Thirty-three people are still missing five days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, Doctors Without Borders warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTO / Nasir WAQIF (Photo credit should read NASIR WAQIF/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Iraq and Afghanistan Have Officially Become Vietnam 2.0,” by Andrew Bacevich (The Nation)

Bonus Read: “Afghan ISIS Branch Makes Inroads in Battle Against Taliban,” by Mujib Mashal (NYT)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Iraq and Afghanistan Have Officially Become Vietnam 2.0,” by Andrew Bacevich (The Nation)

Bonus Read: “Afghan ISIS Branch Makes Inroads in Battle Against Taliban,” by Mujib Mashal (NYT)

Taliban announces withdrawal from Kunduz

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced that they had withdrawn from Kunduz City, which the group held for fifteen days (NYT). The Taliban’s seizure of the city was the first time the group had taken an Afghan city during the war. The Taliban stated: “The Islamic Emirate considered it in its best military interest to fortify its trenches surrounding the city rather than keeping the city, which would result in casualties to the mujahedeen and unnecessary waste of ammunition,” while warning that they had proven their ability to take the city and might return. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Afghan officials announced that Afghan security forces had retaken the Chahardara district governor’s office in northern Kunduz province (TOLO News). Chahardara fell to the Taliban months ago.

Obama rethinking Afghanistan withdrawal

As the Taliban demonstrates its reach and continued influence in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama is considering slowing or halting plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, according to a report on Wednesday in the New York Times (NYT). According to the report, the option being most considered is keeping 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism operations as suggested over the summer by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, stated: “We’ve acknowledged that there is a policy decision to be made.”

US strikes al Qaeda in Afghanistan

On Tuesday, the United States announced that it had conducted air strikes against al Qaeda training sites in southern Afghanistan supporting Afghan ground forces (CNN). Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a military spokesperson, stated: “We struck a major al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland.” According to the military, the United States conducted 63 air strikes as part of the operation and among the targets was a “well-established training camp” covering over 30 square miles.

— David Sterman

India

Indian writers return honors in protest of “rising intolerance”

Over 40 prominent Indian writers have returned literary awards or state honors as of Tuesday in protest of what they perceive to be increasing intolerance and a growing assault on rationalism and free speech in India (BBC, TOI). This wave of symbolic protest began after Malleshappa Kalburgi, a prominent liberal scholar and rationalist, was murdered on Aug. 30. Kalburgi’s writings and statements were deemed offensive by some Hindu right-wing groups. Since then, a host of other attacks by Hindu nationalists against people with contrarian views have held the headlines in India. Last month, a Muslim man was beaten to death by a mob in northern India for allegedly slaughtering cows and consuming beef, an act seen as taboo by some Hindus. Last week, state politicians from the ruling BJP party attacked a Muslim politician in Kashmir for serving beef at a private party, and the Shiv Sena forced the cancellation of a concert by a Pakistani singer. Many of these writers blame the government for being too passive in their response and for allowing these attacks to continue. Author Salman Rushdie stated that these are “alarming times for free expression in India.”

Indian pharmacies go on strike

As many as 850,000 pharmacies in India are slated to close on Wednesday in response to a strike called by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, a trade organization representing pharmacists (FT, NDTV). The strike has been called in protest of online medicine sales, which are threatening brick-and-mortar pharmacies. The trade organization also called for greater prosecution and regulation of “illegal” online medical sales that purportedly make it easier to obtain prescription drugs without prescriptions. Some pharmaceutical professionals note the irony of the protest, given that prescription drugs are notoriously easy to obtain over the counter at Indian pharmacies. Murali Neelakantan, former general counsel of pharmaceutical company Cipla, said, “It’s a laughable thing … You can buy any medication over the counter here. Most of them don’t even have a pharmacist in the shop … It’s very rich of them to be saying online pharmacies are dangerous.”

9 Indian sailors released from Iranian jail

Nine sailors who were being held in Iran on charges of smuggling were released on Wednesday and are expected to return to Delhi by Thursday (NDTV, Indian Express). Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif two months earlier in New Delhi and requested the release of the sailors. The Indians, who were members of a shipping crew, were arrested in Iran and accused of smuggling oil. Swaraj had also requested that Zarif waive a $2.9 million fine imposed on the sailors. It is unclear whether or not Iran has waived the fine.

— Udit Banerjea

Pakistan

Seven killed in bombing of Pakistani lawmaker’s office

On Wednesday morning, a bomb killed seven people at the election office of Amjad Khosa, a lawmaker with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz party (AP, ET, Dawn). Senior Police Officer Mubashar Mekan told reporters that Khosa was not at the office at the time of the bombing. Mekan said it was not clear which group conducted the bombing but expressed suspicion that it was conducted by the Pakistani Taliban, which has conducted similar bombings.

Former defense minister denies saying Pakistan knew about bin Laden

On Tuesday, former Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar appeared to tell India’s CNN-IBN station that Pakistan knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan (Post). Mukhtar, who was defense minister from 2008 through 2012, was asked: “Did this word spread above in the chain of command, did the President know about it, did the Prime Minister know about it? At what level was this information shared?” He replied: “The people who were part and parcel of the whole action like the President of Pakistan, the Armed Forces Chief, the Joint Chief of Staff and the agency people, they were all activated and they were all waiting for orders for them to come out with their teams and provide all the information which they should have done earlier.” CNN-IBN has marketed the comments as proof that Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s location writing that it had revealed “the truth that Pakistan has deliberately and carefully hid from the rest of the world.”

Mukhtar has denied that he said such a thing saying his quotes were taken out of context (ET, Dawn). Mukhtar called the claim that he said Pakistan knew bin Laden was in Abbottobad “utter nonsense.” He stated: “Had Pakistan knew about Osama residing here, it would have taken action against him.”

Aid for Pakistani refugees suffers amidst European refugee crisis

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that aid for refugees in Pakistan was suffering cuts as a result of increasing demand upon funds from refugees in Europe according to United Nations officials (Reuters). According to the officials, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Pakistan has received only $33.6 million of its $136.7 million annual budget in 2015. The strain on the budget comes as more than half a million refugees have sought to enter Europe, many fleeing the civil war in Syria.

— David Sterman

This week’s Global Thinkers podcast, posted today, dives into culture and identity, specifically In East Africa where both 2014 Global Thinker and visual artist Sam Hopkins and FP contributor Michela Wrong regularly spend time. Hopkins looks at social and political situations and responds through art. Wrong recently published her first novel, Borderlines. Listen and subscribe to this podcast and more on iTunes or Stitcher: http://atfp.co/1K7nhrI

Edited by Peter Bergen

NASIR WAQIF/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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