The South Asia Channel

U.S. could consider leaving no troops in Afghanistan post-2014

Event notice: Please join the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program for a discussion about the future of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo on FRIDAY, January 11, 2013 from 10:00 to 11:30AM (NAF).

No man left behind?

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama administration would consider leaving no troops in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014, saying the U.S. objective is to ensure there Afghanistan is not a safe haven for al-Qaeda and that the Afghan government can maintain stability through its own security forces (AP, CNN, NYT, Reuters). The administration reportedly plans to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan by more than half over the next 16 months, including withdrawing some forces before the summer fighting season, indicating a faster withdrawal timetable than some military officials had advocated (LAT).

Residents of the southern Afghan province of Helmand, a traditional Taliban stronghold, said in interviews that they have very little confidence that the semblance of security established by NATO operations in the area would hold after foreign troops leave (NYT). Tribal elders, teachers, and provincial officials expressed dissatisfaction with the Afghan government, and certainty that the Taliban would return to power in Helmand with little resistance from the Afghan Army.

Afghan police said on Wednesday that gunmen had killed two local government officials - the commander of a prison, and the commander of a pro-government militia -- in separate attacks in the northern province of Kunduz on Tuesday (AP).

Border skirmishes

Indian and Pakistani soldiers exchanged gunfire across the Line of Control separating Indian- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for the second time in three days on Tuesday, which Indian officials say resulted in the deaths of two Indian soldiers (NYT, Reuters, AP). India summoned the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi to lodge a formal complaint on Wednesday, saying Pakistani soldiers crossed the LoC and attacked Indian soldiers on patrol, after which the bodies of the two killed were "subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation" (Reuters).

Pakistani truckers shipping supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan have been on strike for the past six days in protest of a new customs regime that is designed to cut down on theft, but that drivers say will hurt their business (Reuters). The new rules would require drivers to go through authorized companies in order to carry NATO supplies, rather than making individual deals.

Exchange for Change

In sharp contrast with the recent firefights between Indian and Pakistani soldiers across the LoC, children from 17 schools in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Delhi, Chandigarh and Mumbai have been getting to know each other through letters in a program called Exchange for Change (ET). Free from the restrictions of history and politics, the schoolchildren are more interested in telling each other what foods they like to eat, the names of their best friends, and giving promises of "open-hearted" welcomes when their pen pals come to visit.

-- Jennifer Rowland

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