The South Asia Channel

Top U.S. commander recommends more troops in Afghanistan post-2014

The Rack: What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? A "roundtable" of expert commentary on over a decade of war (FP).

More firepower

The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, Gen. James Mattis, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he had recommended that 13,600 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan after NATO's combat mission ends in December 2014 (NYT, AP, CNN). Gen. Mattis also said that the contribution of NATO member countries could equal half that of the United States, bringing the total number of international troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to about 20,000. The Obama administration has not yet made a decision on troop levels, but a draft proposal drawn up at a recent NATO summit recommended up to 9,500 U.S. troops and up to 6,000 forces from NATO allies.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday called on Afghan security forces to reduce incidences of torture and abuse of civilians, in a rare criticism of his own troops (AP). Karzai has frequently denounced international forces in the country for civilian casualties or abuse, but this address to parliament appears to be a shift toward focusing on the conduct of the Afghan National Security Forces. 

The Times Matthew Rosenberg published a must-read on Tuesday detailing the internal rivalries that led Kabul Bank founder Sherkhan Farnood to tell American investigators all about the massive Ponzi scheme he and his cohorts were running at the bank (NYT). And finally, Taliban militants ambushed a supply convoy of Afghan soldiers in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan on Monday, killing one and taking 23 others hostage (NYT). Negotiations with local tribal elders ensued, but only six soldiers were released alive, while 16 others were executed.

Not ours either

The Pakistani military on Tuesday rejected claims from U.S. officials that two reported drone strikes in early February were not actually fired from CIA-operated drones, and that at least one of the attacks must have been an airstrike carried out by the Pakistanis (NYT). Pakistan's military released a statement on Tuesday calling the U.S. officials' claims "a distortion of the facts" that "seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan's stance on drone strikes."

FBI agents on Tuesday arrested Reaz Qadir Khan, a 48-year-old city worker in Portland, Oregon, for his alleged support of a suicide bomber who was involved in a 2009 attack on Pakistan's intelligence headquarters in Lahore that killed 30 people and injured 300 others (AP, Reuters). U.S. authorities say Khan provided advice and financial help to Ali Jaleel, one of three suicide bombers who participated and died in the attack. Khan pleaded not guilty in federal court later on Tuesday, and awaits a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

A career change

A Soviet soldier reported missing in Afghanistan 33 years ago has been found alive in the western Afghan province of Herat (Reuters, BBC). Formerly Bakhretdin Khakimov, he now goes by the name Sheikh Abdullah, is semi-nomadic, and is a traditional healer for the local tribal people.

-- Jennifer Rowland

CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images