The South Asia Channel

Obama to Nominate New Commander for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan; India Ranks 76th in Corruption Index; Influential Islamic Council Willing to Review Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Event Notices: “The Butcher’s Trail: The Manhunt for Balkan War Criminals,” Monday, February 1 (New America) “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists,” Wednesday, February 3 (New America NYC) Book Review: “Peter Bergen’s ‘United States of Jihad’ Surveys Homegrown Terrorism,” by Michiko Kakutani (NYT) Afghanistan Bonus Read: “How To Jumpstart the Afghan Economy,” by M. Ashraf Haidari (FP) U.S. ...

TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME
In this photograph taken on August 13, 2015, US army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. "They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. "Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar        (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 13, 2015, US army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. "They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. "Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Event Notices:

“The Butcher’s Trail: The Manhunt for Balkan War Criminals,” Monday, February 1 (New America)

“United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists,” Wednesday, February 3 (New America NYC)

Book Review: “Peter Bergen’s ‘United States of Jihad’ Surveys Homegrown Terrorism,” by Michiko Kakutani (NYT)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “How To Jumpstart the Afghan Economy,” by M. Ashraf Haidari (FP)

U.S. President Barack Obama to nominate new commander for U.S. forces in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama will choose Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. to succeed Gen. John F. Campbell as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, possibly as soon as March 1(NYTAP). Serving in his position since August 2014, Gen. Campbell was due to be replaced. His successor, Lt. Gen. Nicholson, is a career infantry officer with multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. He currently serves as commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey. Commenting on Gen. Campbell’s tenure, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook quoted Secretary of Defense Ash Carter as saying, “For nearly 18 months General Campbell has given his all to the mission as our top commander in Afghanistan, and his personal sacrifices on behalf of his troops and the Afghan people will be remembered by us all.”

Human Rights Watch critical of corruption in Afghanistan in new report

In their World Report 2016, released yesterday, Human Rights Watch says the country has made no improvements in its efforts to rid itself of corruption (ReutersTOLO News). “Afghanistan’s national unity government squandered important opportunities to tackle serious human rights problems,” said Patricia Gossman, a senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch. The report cites the murder of 27 year-old Farkhunda Malikzada as highlighting the continued mistreatment of women, and the continued rise of the Taliban through roadside bombings and the targeting of government officials in showing the government’s failure to ensure stability and peace.

Islamic State radio station expands in Afghanistan

This week, the Islamic State (IS) radio station – “Voice of the Caliphate” – broadcast in Afghanistan from the AfPak border, added Dari to its previous Pashto-only capabilities (VOA). The FM station transmits as far as Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, and also nearby districts in western Pakistan. “I have seen a few people who — I don’t know if they were joking or serious — who said if the radio keeps broadcasting, they would join IS,” Abdul Rahman, a civil society activist in Jalalabad, told VOA.

Albert Ford

India

Bonus Read: “India Invents the 10-Second Loan,” by Gabriele Parussini and Shefali Anand (WSJ)

Bonus Read: “The Right-Wing Attack on India’s Universities,” by Aatish Taseer (NYT)

India ranks 76th in corruption index

India ranked 76 out of 168 countries in corruption in 2015, according to a new report released by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International (WSJThe Hindu). India’s corruption score according to the index was unchanged in 2015 compared to 2014, remaining at 38 out of 100. A lower score indicates higher corruption. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made stamping out corruption a priority of his government, but his efforts have failed to change the watchdog’s perception of the country. Denmark, Finland, and Sweden topped the list as the least corrupt countries, while Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia made up the bottom. Brazil shared India’s rank, while China fared slightly worse, ranked 83 out of 168 countries with a score of 37.

Seven killed in Maoist attack

At least seven police officers were killed and six others were injured in an IED blast set off by Maoist rebels in the eastern state of Jharkhand on Wednesday (Indian ExpressHT). A police team was returning from a long-range patrolling mission in the Kala Pahar region, an area considered a Maoist hotbed when they were struck by the blast. The Maoist rebels, also known as Naxals or Naxalites, are a far-left radical group that has targeted government facilities and infrastructure for five decades, and they remain widespread in rural areas of eastern India. On Monday, a group of Maoists set fire to a mobile telecommunications tower still under construction in the Kala Pahar region.

1985 Air India bombing convict released

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the sole person convicted of the 1985 Air India bombing, was released from a Canadian prison on Thursday (Indian Express). The bombing killed all 329 passengers on board. Reyat was released on statutory grounds after serving two decades in prison. “A statutory release is not a discretionary release. It’s an automatic release mandated by law,” said Patrick Storey, the Pacific regional manager of the Parole Board of Canada. Reyat will have to abide by parole conditions until the end of his term in 2018.

–Udit Banerjea

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s Juggling Act,” by Huma Yusuf (FP)

Head of influential Islamic council willing to review Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

Today, Muhammad Khan Sherrani, the head of the Council on Islamic Ideology (CII) – an advisory body that gives advice to the government on whether the laws confine to Islam – said that he is willing to review whether Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are in accordance with Islam (ReutersDawnET).”The government of Pakistan should officially, at the government level, refer the law on committing blasphemy to the Council of Islamic Ideology. There is a lot of difference of opinion among the clergy on this issue,” Sherani said. Death is currently the penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan, though critics say the law is often unjustly applied in poor, rural areas.

Four Pakistani police officers killed in Balochistan

Four police officers were killed on the streets of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, on Thursday (RFE/RL). Two died on the spot, while the two others died after being taken to the hospital. The attack was claimed via email to RFE/RL by the Pakistani Taliban. The gunmen are still at large.

Pakistani cricket fan facing jail time for publicly flying Indian flag

Umar Draz, a Pakistani cricket fan, faces up to 10 years in prison for flying an Indian flag on top of his home in the city of Okara, 200 miles south of Islamabad, after an India-Australia cricket match on Tuesday (WSJReuters). According to Pakistani Penal Code, the act represents a crime against Pakistan’s sovereignty. “It’s illegal to hoist the flag of another country,” police officer Ismail Khan said. “Yesterday he was presented before a local court and sent to jail” before his trial occurs. The man appears to be a genuine fan of India’s cricket team, as his home was decorated with photos of a popular Indian player.

–Albert Ford

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Albert Ford is a research assistant with the International Security Program at New America.

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