The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: U.S. apologizes, Pakistan doesn't reopen border

Tensions still high

U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson offered an apology to Pakistan yesterday for the NATO helicopter strikes just over the border which left several Frontier Corps troops dead last week, and a U.S. statement said the American pilots mistook the soldiers for insurgents they were pursuing (AJE, AP, LAT, AFP, Reuters, Post, NYT, Dawn). Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the helicopter incursion was an accident and not part of any new NATO strategy (ET).

There were two separate attacks on NATO convoys in Pakistan yesterday, both claimed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Geo, ET, AFP, Daily Times, AP, Times). The attacks, in Nowshera and Quetta, damaged as many as 57 oil tankers and left one driver dead. Pakistan has not decided when to reopen the checkpoint at Torkham in the country's northwest (AP, AJE).

The Journal's big story today reports that some members of Pakistan's intelligence agency the ISI are encouraging Taliban commanders in Afghanistan to fight the U.S. and NATO, threatening to arrest those who do not (WSJ). A Taliban field commander in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar reportedly said, "The ISI wants us to kill everyone -- policemen, soldiers, engineers, teachers, civilians -- just to intimidate people."

The war above

Two more drone strikes in adjacent towns in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan reportedly left around 11 dead yesterday, and one earlier this morning struck the same area, bringing this year's total number of reported strikes to 82, compared with last year's 53 (AFP, AP, Dawn, Reuters, Geo, CNN, BBC, AP, ET, The News). After last month's record 22 reported drone strikes, this month has seen six so far (NAF).

A drone strike last month is said to have killed Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, who is on the FBI's most wanted list for involvement in the U.S.S. Cole bombing in 1998 (Guardian, Tel). Reports also suggest that Abdul Jabbar, the head of a would-be Taliban group in Britain who is believed to have been killed by a drone strike in early September, had some unspecified links with failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who was sentenced to life in prison earlier this week (Reuters). And the AP profiles German militants in Waziristan, as director of national intelligence James Clapper warns of an increased risk of extremist groups recruiting westerners (AP, FT).

Flashpoint

A scuffle broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir's assembly earlier today following comments yesterday from chief minister Omar Abdullah asserting that measures from the Indian government to ease some of the harsh security restrictions would not "solve the overall dispute," which Abdullah called "an issue between two neighbors" (AP, Indian Express). Members of the Hindu nationalist BJP and two other local parties objected, and this morning rushed Abdullah's podium and clashed with security marshals; three lawmakers from the BJP were treated for bruises and cuts.

Talks about talks about talks

Pakistani and Arab sources tell The Guardian that the Afghan government held tentative direct talks with senior members of the Haqqani insurgent group, and the U.S. has made indirect contact via a "Western intermediary" with the Haqqanis (Guardian). Al Jazeera reports that members of the Haqqani network will be present at a meeting in the Maldives later this month, where the Taliban and Afghan government officials have reportedly had conferences in the past (AJE). The Serena Hotel in Kabul is said to be hosting meetings right now sponsored by the United Arab Emirates between Afghan officials, former Taliban leaders, and retired Pakistani security officials on the topic of peace talks (WSJ). The meetings do not include insurgents or members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's official 'peace council, which had its inaugural meeting today (AP).

A former head of the ISI, Hamid Gul, told the AP that the Taliban have set three preconditions for talks: a timetable for NATO withdrawal, release of all Taliban prisoners, and removing the "terrorist label" from the Taliban (AP). The Afghan government's Western-backed preconditions, which the Journal writes could possibly be dropped, include the demand that the Taliban recognize the Afghan constitution and lay down arms (WSJ). A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said there have been "no contacts on the high levels," but admitted low-level indirect talks have been taking place (LAT).

In Takhar, coalition forces have reportedly killed some 20 Taliban fighters including a commander with links to al-Qaeda (AP, Pajhwok). In a corner of one district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, the Post reports that Delta company soldiers are seeing progress, a change in "atmospherics" in what two months ago was "Taliban land" (Post).

An Army investigating officer has recommended that Spc. Jeremy Morlock, one of the U.S. soldiers accused of participating in the murders of three Afghan civilians in Kandahar earlier this year, go to trial (McClatchy). A final decision about his potential trial is expected in a few weeks.

Victory in combat

A Pakistani wrestler has earned Pakistan's first medal in the Commonwealth Games, currently underway in India (The News). Azhar Hussain snagged the silver in a  Greco-Roman wrestling contest with Indian wrestler Rajindar Kumar.

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BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images