The hammer and anvil effect
Three separate suspected U.S. drone strikes were reported in the northwest Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan yesterday, killing around two dozen alleged militants (AFP, AP, Dawn/AFP, Dawn, CNN). American officials said the strikes, which have reportedly focused on the Haqqani network for the last two years, are creating a "hammer and anvil" effect as U.S. Special Operations Forces pressure the group from the Afghan side of the border. Bonus click: an open-source catalog of details about every reported drone strike since 2004, including a map (NAF).
Flood watch: Twenty five more towns in Sindh have been submerged as the water level rises in the Manchur Lake (ET, Dawn). The Obama administration's special representative to the region, Amb. Richard Holbrooke, is in Thatta district and visited a relief camp earlier today (ET, Daily Times).
Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri released a 44 minute speech earlier today in Arabic with Urdu, English, and Pashtu subtitles on the video for the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, accusing the Pakistani government of not doing enough for flood relief (NYT). Zawahiri encouraged Muslims to embrace jihad.
As protesters defied a strict curfew in areas of Indian-administered Kashmir, Indian security forces opened fire on crowds in the previously quiet town of Mendhar, southwest of Srinagar, killing three and wounding 30 (AP, AFP, Dawn, Geo, WSJ, Post). The NYT reports that "even ambulances are having trouble getting past security checkpoints" under the curfews, and flights to and from Kashmiri airports have been suspended for several days (NYT, WSJ, The News). Indian political leaders are meeting in New Delhi today to discuss the government's response to the latest round of protests, including the potential modification of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives Indian security forces broad powers to use force in Kashmir (AP, NDTV, Hindustan Times, AJE).
Hundreds of Afghans in Kabul protested the canceled plan to burn a Quran in the U.S., and Afghan police fired warning shots to disperse the stone-throwing crowds, wounding ten (AP, Pajhwok, Tolo). Afghan officials say the Taliban are using the protesters' ire to stir up anti-government sentiment ahead of this weekend's parliamentary elections, in which warlords, candidates allegedly associated with armed groups, alleged drug traffickers, and others are running for election or reelection (McClatchy).
Around thirty insurgent fighters were killed by coalition forces in Wardak, Ghazni, and Zabul yesterday, and also in Ghazni Afghan officials have reportedly seized 3,000 "forged voting cards printed in Pakistan" (AP, Pajhwok, AFP). Printers in Peshawar say they have produced thousands of fake voter registration cards at the request of Afghan politicians, and one of the two foreign members of the Electoral Complaints Commission said he expects the election to be "disputatious" (AP, Reuters). Bonus wonk watch: Martine van Bijlert's new research paper on militancy and conflict in Zabul and Uruzgan, and Jean MacKenzie on Helmand (NAF, NAF).
Afghanistan's Central Bank has taken control of the troubled Kabul Bank after initially insisting it had not taken over, despite the replacement of Kabul Bank's leadership with Central Bank officials (Reuters, BBC). Though the run on the bank has slowed, officials and analysts are still worried about its future; the NYT explains several options (NYT). The Obama administration is reportedly debating whether to involve Afghan President Hamid Karzai more in the anti-corruption drive in his government, in the interest of deescalating tensions with the Afghan leader (NYT). Karzai is currently in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani leaders (AFP).
ABC interviewed Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, on a range of topics including the Quran burning, the drawdown of troops, and anti-corruption measures (ABC). Read the transcript here (ABC).
A bright sunshiny day
Pakistan is expected to produce a bigger crop of sunflowers this year because the sunflower seeds can now be planted on areas of Sindh where other crops were washed away by the flooding (The News). "It cannot help us recover all our losses, but it can provide some relief," a Pakistani official said.
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