Wonk Watch: Steve Coll, "Looking for Mullah Omar" (New Yorker).
French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull French forces out of Afghanistan early on Friday after four French soldiers were killed in the eastern province of Kapisa by an Afghan soldier (WSJ, Guardian, AP, BBC, Tel, Reuters). He also said that he was sending Defense Minister Gérard Longuet and France's army chief to Afghanistan to begin an inquiry into the safety of French troops there, and that all training and combat support operations would be suspended until the review is finished. The Times' Matthew Rosenberg reports on a classified assessment that found an increased number of killings of international troops by members of the Afghan security forces (NYT). And six U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday when their helicopter crashed in the southern province of Helmand (BBC, Tel, Guardian, Reuters, AP).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff Abdul Karim Khurram expressed concern to the Times Friday that Afghanistan's government was not being kept fully informed about talks with the Taliban, echoing concern among Afghan and American officials at the pace of such negotiations (NYT, Post, AP). Reuters reveals growing anger among Taliban fighters about the perceived muted response of their leaders to a video that surfaced last week showing U.S. Marines apparently urinating on Taliban corpses (Reuters). And the Afghan government will investigate reports that six civilians, including four children, were killed in by NATO aircraft in Kunar (CNN).
Finally, at least 29 people have been killed since Monday as a result of devastating avalanches in the northern province of Badakhshan (AP).
In the flesh
Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz was granted a visa to travel to Pakistan Thursday after a personal visit to Pakistan's High Commission in London, allowing Ijaz to travel to Pakistan to tell his side of the story in the "Memogate" affair (Dawn, ET, DT). Ijaz will testify January 24 in front of a judicial commission investigating the incident, but said Friday that the parliamentary committee looking into the same topic cannot summon him to testify, since he is not a Pakistani citizen (ET). Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Friday that the government was ready to offer Ijaz protection in Pakistan, while Pakistan's Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq denied Friday before the country's Supreme Court that the government wanted to remove army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence head Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha (Dawn, ET, Dawn).
An anonymous U.S. official told press sources Thursday that a January 10 drone attack in Pakistan killed al-Qaeda's "external operations planner," a Pakistani who may have spent several years in Britain named Aslam Awan (Reuters, NYT, AP, CNN). Meanwhile, the review board of the Lahore High Court has ordered the release of the former leader of the anti-Shi'a militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Malik Ishaq (ET). And armed men on Thursday kidnapped two European aid workers, a German and an Italian, from the Punjabi city of Multan (NYT, Dawn, BBC, ET).
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Friday that the country's parliament would be the one to make an eventual decision about re-opening border crossings to NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan, a day after anonymous officials said the crossings would be re-opened (Dawn, Reuters, Reuters). And the AP reports that it costs the United States six times as much to send supplies into Afghanistan using routes that do not pass through Pakistan (AP).
And Norway's head of intelligence, Janne Kristiansen, has resigned after inadvertently disclosing during a parliamentary hearing that Norway has agents working in Pakistan (BBC).
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has named Pakistani bowler Saeed Ajmal the world's top-ranked "spinner," after he led Pakistan to a test match victory against England (AP). The match was part of a three-test series, which Pakistan now leads 1-0.
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