The South Asia Channel

NATO, Karzai reach agreement on withdrawal of Special Forces from Wardak Province

An agreement reached

A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that Afghan and NATO officials had come to an agreement on the gradual withdrawal of U.S. Special Forces from Wardak Province, which is strategically located just west of Kabul (AP, Reuters). NATO also said in a statement that U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford agreed to first bring Special Forces out of the Nerkh district in northern Wardak, and later from the rest of the province. President Karzai demanded last week that the Special Forces leave Wardak after allegations of their involvement in human rights abuses there.

A commander of British troops in Helmand Province, Brig. Bob Bruce, has told BBC Newsnight that Britain's combat operations in Afghanistan are essentially over already, and most troops are confined to their bases as NATO seeks to hand over the lead on security operations to Afghan forces (BBC). The British forces are there primarily to support Afghan troops when needed, Bruce says. 

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Tuesday that Denmark will pull out half of its troops from Afghanistan in August, a year earlier than planned (RFERL). A Danish infantry unit will leave Helmand Province this summer without being replaced, as previously planned.

A date set

A spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Wednesday that a general election for the National Assembly will take place on May 11 (Dawn, ET). And after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and leader of the opposition Nawaz Sharif failed to agree on a caretaker prime minister to run the country until elections, the negotiations have moved to a parliamentary committee, which has until Friday to select a candidate.

The opening of Pakistan's first mass transit system in Lahore last month has been received with immense enthusiasm, despite cries from critics who denounced the project as an extravagance in a country where a significant proportion of the population still lives in abject poverty (Guardian). The new bus system, which runs above the crowded streets of Lahore, may also be a boon to the election chances of Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), controls Lahore.

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir said Tuesday that they had arrested four people suspected of involvement in an attack on Indian security forces in Srinagar last week, including a Pakistani member of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (Dawn).

Back to school

Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old women's rights activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants last October, has begun attending school in the United Kingdom, where she has been recovering for the past 6 months (Guardian). "I miss my classmates from Pakistan very much but I am looking forward to meeting my teachers and making new friends here in Birmingham," Malala said.

-- Jennifer Rowland

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