New post: Trevor Keck, "What civilian casualties? Afghan forces' implausible denials," (FP).
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will return home on March 24 to run in the country's parliamentary elections after four years of self-imposed exile in Dubai, according to a spokesman for the former Army general (Reuters). Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 and resigned from his post in 2008 facing threats of impeachment from opposition parties.
Police in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta have arrested eleven children, ages 11 to 16, suspected of involvement in a bombing in January that killed 12 people (ET, Dawn). A police official said at a press conference on Wednesday that militants of the United Baloch Army, a banned Baloch separatist group, had exploited the children's poverty; they had admitted to receiving 3,000 rupees each for the roles they played. Also on Wednesday, two militants killed five paramilitary officers in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir, before they, too, were shot and killed by other security forces (AFP, Reuters).
A 25-year-old Pakistani soldier was stoned to death on Tuesday in the town of Parachinar in the tribal district of Kurram, which is near the border with Afghanistan, after he admitted to having an affair with an 18-year-old girl (AFP). A tribal council ordered the sentence, which was carried out in the graveyard where the couple was discovered meeting secretly on Sunday. The fate of the girl is unknown, but some locals said she had also been executed.
An Afghan counter-narcotics team on Monday seized more than 23 tons of heroin, morphine, and other chemicals in a helicopter raid on a facility in Nangarhar Province east of Kabul (AP). It was the largest drug bust in Afghanistan so far this year.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has deepened his criticism of U.S. policy in Afghanistan over the last few weeks: ordering U.S. Special Forces out of Wardak Province, rejecting once again U.S. parameters for the transfer of detainees to Afghan control, and even accusing the United States of working on the same side as the Taliban in order to justify a continued American military presence in Afghanistan (NYT). But some Afghanistan analysts warn that Karzai may not be fully aware of the political impact his actions will have in Washington, and the danger this poses to the massive amounts of aid Afghanistan will need after NATO's combat mission ends in December 2014.
The top U.S. intelligence official, James Clapper, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that, "the threat from core al-Qa'ida and the potential for a massive coordinated attack on the United States is diminished," and that a major cyberattack on the United States is the most dangerous threat facing the nation today, marking the first time since 9/11 that intelligence officials did not put international terrorism first in a presentation to Congress on threats to the United States (NYT). Clapper also presented a lukewarm view of progress in Afghanistan, reporting that, "the Taliban-led insurgency has diminished in some areas of Afghanistan, but remains resilient and capable of challenging U.S. and international goals" (AFP).
We do what we want
U.S. officials continue to voice their opposition to plans for an Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline, but in reality the pipeline is already completed on the Iranian side and work has now begun on the Pakistani side (ET). To add insult to injury, China recently offered a $500 million to Pakistan for work on the project, which the United States is not likely to be very happy about...
-- Jennifer Rowland