The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Violence spiked in Afghanistan in 2011 - U.N. report

Rising violence

A United Nations report released Wednesday concludes that Afghanistan is more insecure in 2011 than it was in 2010, with a nearly 40 percent increase in "security incidents" this year, and a 15 percent increase in civilian casualties for the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year (Reuters, BBC, WSJ, McClatchy, AP, AFP, CNN). According to the U.N. data, 45 percent of deaths and injuries were a result of homemade bombs and suicide attacks by insurgents, and two-thirds of violent incidents occurred in the country's south and southeast. A NATO spokesman said following the report's release that the findings are "inconsistent with the data that [international forces] have collected" (Reuters, CNN, WSJ).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other political leaders on Wednesday met to discuss Afghanistan's security situation, where many -- including Karzai -- expressed doubt about the viability of peace talks with the Taliban, and charged Pakistan with encouraging instability in the country (Reuters). Meanwhile, the Post reports that the Taliban is  maintaining a hold on the rural areas surrounding Mazar-e-Sharif, a city known for being relatively peaceful, and one that NATO forces transferred to Afghan control this year (Post).

Internal discord     

Obama administration spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday refused to support allegations made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen that the Haqqani Network "acts as a veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI), while a Pentagon spokesman said that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mullen agree on this issue (AP, WSJ, Dawn, Post, NYT, AFP). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the United States is close to making a final decision on whether to place the Haqqani Network on its list of banned terrorist organizations (Dawn, Bloomberg). In an interview with the Express Tribune on Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman said that the question about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship that it is "not whether we will work together but how" (ET). And members of Congress continue to be divided over providing aid to Pakistan, with Sen. Lindsey Graham telling an interviewer of increased support among his peers for more military action in the country (Reuters, Reuters).      

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told political leaders and top military officials that Pakistan "cannot be pressured" by the United States to take action against militants in the country, at an "All-Party Conference" he convened today to discuss the current crisis (AP, Dawn, ET). McClatchy's Saeed Shah looks at the complex relationship between Pakistan and the Haqqani Network, while former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday that Pakistan might benefit from supporting a group that creates instability in neighboring Afghanistan (McClatchy, Tel). And the AP looks at how Adm. Mullen's accusation has united people in Pakistan against perceived U.S. aggression (AP).      

The U.S. Department of Justice told a court Monday that the release of the 52 photographs taken of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after his death would endanger national security and could prompt attacks on U.S. interests, in response to a watchdog group's lawsuit attempting to obtain the photos (AP, ABC WSJ). Pakistani police reportedly released bin Laden's former bodyguard, Amin al-Haq, earlier this month (Tel). And Declan Walsh reports that the aid agency Save the Children evacuated eight of its workers from Pakistan in July following security threats related to the revelation that the CIA used a vaccination program in Abbottabad as cover for efforts to hunt bin Laden (Guardian).

Five stories round out the news: The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday added two members of the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) -- Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi -- to its list of designated terrorists (AFP, Reuters, WSJ). Balochistan National Party leader Abdul Salam was gunned down in Khuzdar by two armed men on a motorcycle Wednesday (ET). Pakistani authorities closed the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan Thursday after a bomb technician was killed when a NATO tanker exploded (AP). Karachi police on Wednesday arrested two men suspected of sending children to North Waziristan to be trained as suicide bombers (ET). And doctors in Lahore complained on Wednesday that scheduled power outages in the city were hindering efforts to stop the spread of dengue fever, which has infected more than 12,000 people in Pakistan in less than a month (ET, AFP).

Subtle shift      

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said on Wednesday after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim that the two countries have agreed to more than double their bilateral trade in three years, and India will end its opposition to European Union trade concessions sought by Pakistan (BBC, Dawn, ET, AFP, DT, Reuters).

Reclaimed history    

Archeologists are reviving Afghanistan's National Museum in Kabul, with mended pieces from the original museum as well as recent finds (Reuters). New additions include a fifth-century wooden Buddha, and pictures of treasures stolen or destroyed during the country's civil war and Taliban rule.

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