Reaching out: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday to discuss Sunday's brazen attacks in Afghanistan, which U.S. military officials agree were likely launched by the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network (Reuters, AFP, DT, AP, Dawn). According to a statement from the State Department, the Secretary "underscored our shared responsibility for robust action...to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists."
The AP's Chris Brummitt published a must-read on Tuesday detailing the surprising success of the a poverty-alleviation program in Pakistan called the Benazir Income Support Programme, which gives small sums of money to some of the country's poorest women (AP). Many such programs, particularly in a country like Pakistan, fall prey to corruption and inefficiency, but this scheme is based on similar ones in Africa and South America, and has proven to be very effective.
The lawyer for Osama bin Laden's three widows and children finishing up a two-week sentence in Pakistan for entering the country illegally said Tuesday that the family could be deported to Saudi Arabia late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning (Tel, Bloomberg, Dawn, AFP, AP).
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on Monday fired four senior officials at the Bannu Central Jail, the site of a jailbreak over the weekend that freed 384 prisoners, including dozens of convicted insurgents (DT, Dawn, ET). A confidential intelligence report dated January 5, 2012 reveals that prison officials had been aware of a plot to attack the jail.
In the wake of Sunday's attack in Kabul, NATO troops gear up for Afghan insurgents' expected spring offensive, and plan to focus on securing the routes into Kabul by clearing the surrounding provinces of militants (AP). This spring will likely be NATO's last chance for an offensive push against militants, as combat operations are gradually handed over to Afghan security forces.
While Western military officials praised the Afghan security forces' response to Sunday's carefully coordinated attacks, they also acknowledged their own failure to prevent the attack, as well as their concern over the evolution of Afghanistan's insurgent groups (NYT). NATO defense and foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan, including plans for funding the Afghan army and police forces after the international coalition withdraws in 2014 (AP).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that any long-term partnership agreement with the United States must state how much money the U.S. will give to Afghan security forces after the withdrawal of American combat troops (AP). Karzai reminded Afghanistan's insurgents in a statement Tuesday that their attacks on Sunday would only "prolong a foreign presence" in the country, and did nothing to help Afghanistan (Reuters).
Missing the markLast year, Pakistan got its own version of "American Idol" with "Uth Records," a talent show designed to discover new musical talent, and turn contestants into household names (ET). Unfortunately, just as in the case of American Idol, the second season has been dramatically underwhelming.
-- Jennifer Rowland
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