The South Asia Channel
Pentagon: Afghan Security Deteriorating; India Willing to Participate in UN Mission Against ISIS; Pakistan Marks One Year Since Deadly School Attack
Afghanistan Pentagon: Afghan security deteriorating The overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in the second half of 2015, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday (Guardian, NPR, TOLO News). The report, mandated to be made on a semi-annual basis to Congress, noted an increase in insurgent attacks and in casualties. The report ...
Pentagon: Afghan security deteriorating
The overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in the second half of 2015, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday (Guardian, NPR, TOLO News). The report, mandated to be made on a semi-annual basis to Congress, noted an increase in insurgent attacks and in casualties. The report reads in part: “The Taliban have remained active in their traditional strongholds, namely in Helmand in the south and Logar and Wardak in the east, and also created a sense of instability for brief periods of time in other parts of the country, such as in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.” The report covers the time period in which President Obama halted plans to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
ISIS trying to set up regional base in Jalalabad
On Tuesday, Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, stated that ISIS is attempting to develop a regional base in Jalalabad (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Gen. Campbell noted indications that returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria have joined the group in Nangarhar, stating: “I’m sure there are folks who have come from Syria and Iraq – I couldn’t tell you how many but there are indications of some foreign fighters coming in there.”
— David Sterman
Bonus Read: “Indian Schools Are Failing Their Students,” by Geeta Kingdon (NYT)
India willing to participate in U.N. mission against ISIS
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Wednesday that India was prepared to participate in military operations against ISIS if the U.N. were to approve a resolution (Indian Express, The Hindu). “We have made it clear that if there is a U.N. resolution and if there is U.N. flag and a U.N. mission, then as per India’s policy to operate under U.N. flag, we will participate,” said Parrikar. India has been under pressure from the United States to join the Western coalition fighting against ISIS, and the Indian defense minister met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in Washington last week. India has been an active participant in U.N. peacekeeping operations, but it has not actively engaged in foreign military conflicts since intervening in Sri Lanka’s civil war in the late 1980s. According to the Indian Express, around 20 Indians are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Indian election commissioner calls for greater transparency in campaign finance
India’s Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi called for stronger campaign finance transparency laws on Tuesday at a South Asian conference on money in politics in Delhi (NDTV, Indian Express). Zaidi said that existing regulations for campaign donations were insufficient and that broader reforms, like public financing of campaigns, would not be able to take place until there is greater transparency around how parties and candidates use the funds. Zaidi cited “paid news” as an example of a commonplace corrupt practice, referring to parties or candidates sponsoring favorable coverage in media outlets.
Record sale for Indian art at Mumbai auction
An untitled oil painting by abstract artist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was sold for $4.4 million at a Christie’s auction in Mumbai on Tuesday, setting a new record for Indian art (WSJ, Guardian). Gaitonde’s painting broke the previous record of $4.01 million for a Francis Newton Souza piece sold in New York earlier this year. Tuesday’s overall sale in Mumbai totaled $14.7 million, which Christie’s reported was its highest-ever total in India. Gaitonde, who died in 2001, is considered one of India’s greatest abstract painters.
— Udit Banerjea
Bonus Read: “The Child Martyrs of Pakistan,” by Mira Sethi (NYT)
Pakistan marks one year since deadly school attack
On Wednesday, Pakistan marked the passage of one year since the Taliban attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar killing 122 school children and 22 staff members (ET, Dawn). Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif, and other key officials attended a ceremony marking the tragedy and commemorating the victims in Peshawar. Prime Minister Sharif declared the day a day of national resolve and stated: “We will take revenge for every drop of blood of our innocent children.”
Pakistan surprised by inclusion in Saudi anti-terror alliance
On Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry expressed surprise that Pakistan had been included in a list of 34 countries announced as part of an anti-terrorism alliance by Saudi Arabia (ET, Dawn). Chaudhry said he had learned of the inclusion by reading the news and that he had tasked the Pakistani ambassador to Saudi Arabia to obtain clarification. According to another senior Pakistani official, Saudi Arabia did not consult Pakistan before including it on the list. Pakistan has previously rejected calls to join military coalitions against ISIS. Last month Army Spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa stated: “We are not looking for any involvement outside our region.”
Pakistan has largest gas discovery in a decade
On Tuesday, Pakistan Petroleum Limited announced that it had struck what would be Pakistan’s largest gas discovery in ten years (ET). The gas find located in Matiari, Sindh will produce 56 million cubic feet per day of gas and comes at a time when Pakistan has struggled to replaced depleted gas wells.
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images