The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: NATO airstrike kills two dozen Pakistani soldiers

"Tragic and unintended"

NATO fighter aircraft and helicopters struck two Pakistani border posts in Mohmand agency under unclear circumstances Saturday, killing at least 24 Pakistani soldiers (NYT, LAT, AP, BBC, Post, Reuters, WSJ). NATO and Afghan officials say the strikes, called in by Afghan troops on a joint patrol with international forces near the border with Pakistan, were a response to fire from near the border posts, while Pakistani officials say the attack was "unprovoked" and that the positions of its border posts have been repeatedly given to NATO (Guardian, AP, AFP, Tel, BBC, AP). The raid, which a NATO spokesman called "tragic and unintended" provoked a furious response in Pakistan, which closed the country's Western border into Afghanistan to NATO supplies -- permanently, according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik in a statement Monday -- and ordered the United States to depart the airbase at Shamsi in Balochistan, which the United States is said to use for drone strikes into Pakistan's tribal areas (AJE, Tel, AP, Reuters, BBC, Post).    

The strike, the deadliest friendly fire incident in Pakistan since the war in Afghanistan began, has put further strain on the already tense U.S.-Pakistan relationship, prompting senior American leaders to reach out to their Pakistani counterparts as Pakistan buried its military dead (WSJ, BBC, NYT, Post, CNN, AFP, The News, AFP, ET). Pakistani leaders condemned the attack Monday and Pakistani army spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas termed NATO's apology "not good enough," as American and Afghan leaders readied themselves for a possible outbreak of violence in Afghanistan from insurgent groups (Dawn, ET, Guardian). Abbas also said that the attack could lead to reduced Pakistani efforts to help negotiate a solution to the violence in Afghanistan, after the government announced Sunday that it would reconsider participating in the international conference on Afghanistan scheduled to begin December 5 in Bonn, Germany (Reuters, Guardian, ET). Pakistan's border closure will also test NATO efforts to diversify its supply lines into Afghanistan, as supply drivers fear attacks on their trucks, now sitting idle in Pakistan (WSJ, Guardian, AP, AP, Dawn).

Thousands of Pakistanis staged anti-U.S. rallies in Islamabad and Karachi Sunday and Monday, as the main Pakistani association of fuel suppliers to Afghanistan said this weekend that it would not resume deliveries in the near future (Dawn, Dawn, Dawn). And a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in Mohmand told a journalist that Pakistan should abandon ties with the United States in the wake of the attack, adding that America, "can never be a friend of Pakistan" (ET).

"Memogate" redux

American officials praised outgoing Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani last week, even as courts in Pakistan and investigative officials debated whether or not Haqqani could face legal sanction for his alleged role in an attempt to seek American assistance to prevent a military coup in Pakistan in return for Pakistan's government unseating its top military and intelligence leaders (ET, Dawn, ET, ET). Pakistan's Supreme Court has accepted a petition from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) calling for an investigation into the incident, dubbed "Memogate," as Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in an interview with the BBC Friday that the incident has prompted questions about the authority of Pakistan's civilian government (ET, BBC). Bonus read: Peter Bergen and Andrew Lebovich, "What's behind the furor in Pakistan?" (CNN).    

Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced at a rally Sunday that he was joining Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) party (ET, Tel, ET). Qureshi accused Paksitan's leaders of "loot and plunder" and said that the country's nuclear weapons were not safe with President Asif Ali Zardari in office, a day after Khan called on Pakistan's leaders to abandon its alliance with the United States (ET, Dawn).

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna told reporters Saturday on the third anniversary of the deadly Mumbai attacks that India was still waiting for Pakistan to "act decisively" against the attack's perpetrators (AP, AFP). The banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) front group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) held three rallies in Lahore this week against trade normalization with India, and also called for a "jihad" against American and NATO forces following Saturday's strike against Pakistani troops (ET). Dawn and the Daily Times look at efforts to reduce trade barriers between India and Pakistan (Dawn, DT). And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting a difficult economic situation for Pakistan in the coming year (Dawn). 

Five stories round out the Pakistan news: Two Pakistani security forces were killed Sunday following an annual anti-Shi'a Muslim protest by the sectarian group Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP) (Dawn, ET). Pakistani authorities arrested a "key terrorist commander" in the Swat Valley this weekend (ET). Pakistani police are seeking the extradition of an American man of Pakistani origin in a suspected "honor killing" of the man's daughter and son-in-law in the Punjabi city of Gujrat (AFP, Tel). Police in Karachi said Friday that they had arrested a woman for allegedly killing and boiling her husband, so as to dispose of the body (CNN, AP). And former Pakistani cricket captain Salman Butt and star player Mohammad Amir lost their appeals in a British court Wednesday of their convictions for match fixing (Tel, CNN, AFP, AP). 

Moving on 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the next stage of security transfers to Afghan control on Sunday, naming 18 new areas, including districts in Helmand province still facing insurgent threats and the Sarobi district east of Kabul (NYT, AP, Reuters, CNN, BBC, Guardian, AFP, LAT). The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, is reportedly preparing a request for more American trainers to be deployed to Afghanistan, as the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said this weekend that the Marines' mission in Afghanistan will end in the next 12 to 18 months (LAT, AP). Afghanistan's former anti-drug head Gen. Khodaidad said this weekend that opium production would "explode" in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of international forces (Tel). And the AFP reports on the rise in people smuggling in Afghanistan as desperate Afghans concerned with their country's future attempt to get to Europe (AFP).

Senior Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) official Masoom Stanekzai said this weekend that the Afghan government was ready to resume negotiations with the Taliban, provided the insurgents formed a "political office" first (Guardian, The News). The Afghan delegation investigating the killing of former President and HPC chair Burhanuddin Rabbani arrived in Pakistan Wednesday, and shared intelligence from their investigation with their Pakistani counterparts (BBC, ET, DT). Greg Jaffe, meanwhile, has a must-read on attempts to cut down on the flow of Pakistani fertilizer that fuels cheap Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan (Post). And British forces in Afghanistan are pursuing a "reintegration" program that pays Taliban fighters who leave the insurgency approximately $150 per month, while allowing them to keep their weapons (Tel). 

Afghanistan's parliament on Saturday approved the appointment of a new governor for Afghanistan's Central Bank, Noorullah Delawari, who previously occupied the post between 2004 and 2007 (BBC, AP, Bloomberg, AFP). The position had been vacant since June, when the previous governor, Abdul Qadir Fitrat, fled to the United States after saying his life was threatened by his investigations into the troubled Kabul Bank.

Finally, international forces said Thursday that they were investigating an airstrike in the province of Kandahar that reportedly killed seven civilians, six of them children (NYT, AP, CNN, Tel, BBC, AFP). At least 10 Afghan security guards protecting a NATO supply convoy were killed Thursday in the western Farah province by Taliban fighters (BBC, AFP). And nearly 5,000 have people signed a petition delivered to Karzai Sunday calling for the release from prison of an Afghan rape victim, Gulnaz, who was imprisoned for adultery following her report of the attack and forced to marry her attacker (CNN).

Turkey day

For the first time since 2003, the U.S. military anticipated sending more Turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato meals last week to troops stationed in Afghanistan than to those stationed in Kuwait and Iraq (Bloomberg). The Defense Department anticipated needing to airlift nearly a quarter of the 160,000 Thanksgiving meals to troops out in the field, on account of Afghanistan's treacherous terrain.

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