The South Asia Channel

Obama to curb CIA drone strikes

Event Notice: What's next for Pakistan's new government? TODAY, May 23, 2013; 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF).

Site Launch: See the New America Foundation's updated drone site here.

Policy changes

In his speech on counterterrorism at the National Defense University Thursday, President Obama will discuss his administration's plans to refocus the war on al Qaeda and its allies by restricting the use of drone strikes in countries with which the U.S. is not at war, and by shifting control of them from the CIA to the U.S. military (NYT). According to the Times, new classified policy guidelines "will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists."

The administration also admitted on Wednesday to killing four Americans in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen (ETNYT). In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the U.S. had killed Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's son Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan in Yemen, and Jude Kenan Mohammed in Pakistan. According to the letter, of the four, only Anwar al-Awlaki was specifically targeted. In outlining the methods that will be used to identify potential targets going forward, Holder said lethal force will only be used against targets who pose "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans" and cannot feasibly be captured, suggesting a move away from the "signature strikes" often cited as killing more civilians than militants. 

At least 13 people, including eight police officers, were killed and at least 17 were wounded on Thursday when a powerful remote-controlled bomb hidden in a rickshaw ripped through their truck in Quetta, the restive capital of Balochistan (DawnETNYTPajhwok, Reuters). There have been no immediate claims of responsibility. Elsewhere in Quetta, at least five civilians -- four of whom were women -- were killed when four gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at a house in Sibi (Dawn). Police sources suggested "the house could have been targeted by religiously-motivated militants for suspected involvement in ‘immoral' activities allegedly taking place at the premises." 

In Pakistan's tribal region, two security personnel were killed and 18 were injured in a clash between government forces and militants in central Kurram (Dawn).  Fifteen insurgents were reportedly killed in the fighting as well.  In Bajaur, militants attacked a security checkpoint, wounding two, and an electric power line was destroyed, halting electricity to the region. 

Springtime clashes

Seven people were killed and several dozen were injured in a second suicide bombing in Ghazni on Wednesday (APPajhwok).  The attack took place around 7:30 p.m. at a restaurant where three members of a public uprising in the Mazur district were meeting.  A local resident claimed the bomber wanted to kill Habibullah Khan, the commander of the anti-Taliban group.  As reported yesterday, five people were injured in a suicide bombing in Ghazni on Wednesday morning in an attack targeting police officers. 

Contrary to reports that fighting between insurgents and security forces in the Sangin district in Helmand province were winding down, clashes continued Wednesday, bringing the death toll to as many as 47 insurgents and five police officers (Pajhwok).  An additional 18 insurgents and nine security personnel have been injured since fighting began on Monday.  Both the Afghan security forces and the Taliban claimed victory in the offensive, further complicating conflicting reports of the numbers of fighters involved in the clashes (VOA).

A day after 75 schoolgirls fell ill after a suspected poisonous gas attack in Faryab province, at least 17 girls were brought to a hospital for possible poisoning in Bamyan province on Wednesday (Pajhwok).  According to the Bamyan public health director, the students started vomiting and fell unconscious after smelling gas in their classrooms.  There have been no claims of responsibility but an investigation is currently underway. 

In Kabul, more than 200 male Kabul University students protested the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women law, claiming the president decree for women's rights is un-Islamic (PajhwokPost).  The protestors demanded a repeal of the law -- which includes a ban on child and forced marriages, makes domestic violence a crime, and protects rape victims from prosecution -- and warned that protests would continue if parliament approved the law.  Some even said they would join the Taliban and incite an uprising against the government if the legislation were passed.

In welcome news, the British government released a proposal Wednesday that will allow six hundred Afghan interpreters who have worked with British troops for more than a year to relocate to Britain on a five-year visa (Pajhwok).  Those who do not meet the year-requirement will be given training and education packages with the Afghan security forces and wages equal to their current salaries.

Wish list

Returning from a two-day trip to India, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he left a "wish list" of military equipment with the Indian government (PajhwokReuters).  Not your average Bed, Bath, and Beyond registry, Indian media reported 105mm artillery, medium-lift aircraft, bridge-laying equipment, and trucks were some of the items requested.

John Moore/Getty Images