The South Asia Channel

Massive Al-Qaeda Camp Destroyed in Afghanistan; PML-N Wins Local Polls; Secular Publisher Killed in Bangladesh; Indian RBI Chief Calls for Tolerance

Massive Al-Qaeda Camp Destroyed in Afghanistan; PML-N Wins Local Polls; Secular Publisher Killed in Bangladesh; Indian RBI Chief Calls for Tolerance


Bonus Read: “ISIS in Afghanistan: School of Jihad,” by Priyanka Boghani (PBS)

Massive al-Qaeda training camp destroyed in Afghanistan

Army Gen. John F. Campbell announced on Friday that earlier this month, airstrikes targeted what was “probably the largest” al-Qaeda training camp found over the course of the Afghan war (PostVoice of America). The training camp and another smaller camp were found in Kandahar province’s Shorabak district, along Afghanistan’s southern border with Pakistan, and they collectively sprawled over 30 square miles, according to U.S. military officials. The multi-day operation involved 200 U.S. Special Operations forces, Afghan forces, and 63 airstrikes. 160 al-Qaeda fighters were reportedly killed.

This revelation contradicts previous statements by U.S. officials stating that few al-Qaeda members remain in Afghanistan and are concentrated in a few valleys in the eastern part of the country. Acknowledging the initial surprise of finding the camps in the south, Gen. Campbell stated, “What I think you have to do is challenge your assumptions here.” He continued, “Things change, and what was good here in 2010 or 2011 may not necessarily be good today as far as the enemy.”

Afghanistan to accept deported citizens from Germany

Afghanistan will accept all of its citizens being deported from Germany after being refused refugee status, a Kabul official said on Monday (NYTABC News). Last week, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere complained of Afghans migrating from relatively safe areas of Afghanistan, chiding the “increasing numbers of members of the middle class — including many from Kabul.” According to Zafar Hashemi, the deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, Afghanistan is obliged to accept citizens who have been rejected refugee status in other countries. In a recent interview with the Associate Press, Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation (MRR) Hossain Alemi Balkhi stated that Kabul is “against the forced exile of any people from any country back to where they came from.” Nonetheless, a reintegration plan for voluntary refugees will be extended to deportees, according to MRR international adviser Rohullah Hashimi.

Afghan Taliban splinter group selects leader

On Monday, a commander within a dissident faction of the Afghan Taliban announced that the group has chosen Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund as their leader (NYT). “We … have chosen our own leader to lead the mujahideen against U.S.-led foreign forces and the government,” said the commander, who declined to be identified. Akhund, age 50, is a former Taliban governor of two provinces. A second militant commander identified Akhund as a Taliban veteran stating, “He is one among the old Taliban leaders. He spent 10 years with Mullah Omar and was one of his trusted men.” The splinter group has fewer resources and fighters than the main group, but commanders supporting Akhund are upset with the Taliban’s current leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour for concealing the death of the late Mullah Mohammad Omar for two years and continuing to issue statements in his name.

ISIS rocket hits mosque in Afghanistan, kills six

On Friday, a rocket apparently fired by ISIS fighters hit a mosque in Nangarhar province killing six and wounding four others, according to a local official (Reuters). The attack occurred during evening prayers, but it is unclear if the mosque was the target of the attack or security forces based nearby. Two suspects have been detained, one of whom is a foreigner, according to Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, a spokesman for the Nangarhar police chief.


Bonus Read: “Report on Safety of Media Workers,” by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Prime Minister’s party wins majority in polls

According to unofficial poll results released on Sunday, Pakistan’s ruling party won the majority of seats in elections to local bodies in districts (Reuters). Based on media tallies, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) led with 1001 out of 2,696 seats in the vote. The opposition, led by international cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), only won 231 seats while independent candidates won 854 seats. “It is a great moral victory for the PMLN,” said ruling party leader Uzma Bukhari.

Armed clashes at local polls leave 11 dead

Clashes on Saturday between supporters of two political parties left 11 dead and dozens injured in Sindh province (NYTReuters). The violence broke out in Khairpur district during the first phase of voting for local government elections. According to local policeman Pir Mohammad Shah, 25 people from both sides were injured when the rival political parties opened fire on one another, and the army was called in to control the situation. It is not immediately clear which parties were responsible. Saturday was the first of three phases in the Sindh and Punjab provinces. Remaining phases will be held later this month and next.

— Alyssa Sims


Secular publisher killed, others injured

A secular publisher, Faisal Abedin Deepan, was hacked to death on Saturday in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka (NYTGuardian). In a separate attack, two other writers and a publisher were stabbed and shot, the police said. All three victims of the latter attack were injured and hospitalized, with one in critical condition. There have been fears of rising Islamist violence in the country, as at least four atheist bloggers have been murdered in Bangladesh this year by domestic Islamic extremists. Concerns about growing foreign extremist elements have also arisen, with ISIS claiming responsibility for three other attacks, including a bombing in Dhaka on Oct. 4 that killed a teenager and injured 100 other people. Ansar al-Islam, Al-Qaeda’s division in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, although the claim has not been independently verified.


Central bank chief makes unusual call for tolerance

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan made a call for tolerance in a speech at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi on Saturday (WSJ, TOI). While giving the convocation address at his alma mater, the central bank chief emphasized the importance of India’s tolerance and tradition of open debate in determining the country’s economic success. “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place of ideas,” said Rajan. “Without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation.” Some have interpreted Rajan’s statements as a message to India’s leaders. Many critics of the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including prominent artists, writers, and intellectuals, have accused the government of not doing enough to reduce communal tension. There have been several high-profile incidents of intolerance towards religious minorities in recent months, including the mob lynching of a Muslim man falsely accused of consuming beef in September.

Finance minister: India needs further FDI reform

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday that the government was looking to ease regulations on foreign direct investment (FDI) and reduce the number of approvals needed for investment projects (TOI, Asian Age). Jaitley emphasized the need to reduce the time between investment decisions and actual investment, noting that redundant approvals were major roadblocks. The government has recently opened up previously protected sectors, such as the insurance and construction sectors, to FDI. India climbed 12 spots in this year’s recently-released ease of doing business ranking by the World Bank, but Jaitley complained that India’s ranking should have improved even more, as not all of the government’s reforms were taken into account.


Bonus Read: “India Pushes Nepal into China’s Arms,” by Sumit Ganguly and Brandon Miliate (FP).

Police remove border blockade

Police in Nepal removed protesters from a key checkpoint in the town of Birgunj on the country’s southern border on Monday, freeing trucks to cross over into India (BBC, NDTV). Protesters from the Madhesi ethnic group in southern Nepal had set up an unofficial blockade along the border with India, blocking shipments of essential goods from India for the past two months. Many Madhesis are unhappy with Nepal’s new constitution, which they argue disproportionately favors other ethnic groups. Nepal is entirely reliant on India for fuel supplies, and the blockade set off a fuel crisis in the country. Nepal recently signed a petroleum deal with China to allay the crisis and reduce this dependency. More than 200 trucks crossed through the checkpoint into India after the protesters were cleared, but thousands of trucks carrying essential goods, including fuel, still remain stranded on the Indian side.

— Udit Banerjea

Edited by Peter Bergen

Mark Wilson/Getty Images