At least 25 people were killed on Monday when a massive bomb tore through a political rally for Munir Khan Orakzai in the tribal agency of Kurram near the border with Afghanistan, in the latest, and deadliest, attack of this election cycle (NYT, Reuters, AP, ET). Unlike other attacks, which have primarily targeted secular, liberal party candidates, this targeted Orakzai, a candidate for the religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed that Orakzai was targeted because he has supported the Awami National Party and the Pakistan People's Party and in the past (Dawn).
A suicide bomber targeting a campaign rally for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) on Tuesday killed at least 11 and wounded 35 in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (ET/AFP, Dawn). Yet another bomb blast, this one during an election rally on Tuesday for a candidate of the Pakistan People's Party, killed six people in Lower Dir (ET, Dawn).
According to data compiled by Pakistan's Centre for Research and Security Studies, in the first four months of this year, some 2,674 people have lost their lives in 1,108 incidents of political violence across the country. An additional 2,386 have been injured (ET). In the last three weeks alone, there have been around 50 bomb blasts which have killed more than 80 people, including two candidates, and more than 350 people have been injured (Guardian).
Following the second border clash between Afghan and Pakistani forces in less than a week, Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry warned Pakistan that it will "bear the responsibility for any consequences" coming from further clashes (Reuters). Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in Kandahar chanting "Death to Pakistan" to protest the incidents, and Afghanistan also filed a formal complaint with Pakistan (AP, Pajhwok, AP).
As the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, the coalition's goal is narrowing to focus on readying Afghan forces to withstand the Taliban regardless of the country's economic and political troubles. In a recent interview, ISAF commander General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. was optimistic, saying: "I think the Taliban are going to come out of the gate [this fighting season] and they are going to run into a brick wall-and that brick wall is...going to be the Afghan security forces" (NYT).
Seven Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday: six in two separate bomb blasts in the western province of Farah; and one in a clash with the Taliban in the eastern province of Paktika (Pajhwok).
Rules of the warlords
The United States entered Afghanistan in 2001 hoping to model the country after Western democracy. Instead, the U.S. has increasingly done business according to the "rules of warlords" (Bloomberg). Corruption is tolerated, "ghost money" is transferred in suitcases and plastic bags, and the American public is bankrolling a large share of the Afghan budget. They always did say absolute power corrupts absolutely but in Afghanistan, it appears to be the dollar.
-- Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall
ALI AFZAL/AFP/Getty Images