Bonus Read: "U.S. paratroopers in Afghanistan hope to deal a few final blows against the Taliban," Ernesto Londoño (Post)
Karzai's powerful cousin killed
Hashmat Karzai, a powerful cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was killed by a suicide bomber during a dinner party at his home in Kandahar province on Tuesday (Pajhwok, TOLO News, RFE/RL). In addition to being the president's cousin, Hashmat Karzai was a provincial council member and headed presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani's campaign in the province. According to Dawa Khan Menapal, a spokesman for the provincial governor: "The bomber placed the explosive inside his turban and entered his [Karzai's] home for Eid greetings." No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Hashmat is the second member of Karzai's family to be killed in recent years. Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's half-brother, was shot to death in his home in 2011.
SIGAR: U.S. provided weapons unaccounted for
A report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on Monday noted that 747,000 weapons provided to the Afghan National Army by the U.S. Department of Defense cannot be accounted for (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). The missing weapons, including rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers, are valued at $626 million. According to the report, "there is real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces], and Afghan civilians."
Pakistan continues to shell Kunar province
Pakistan continued firing rockets into Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province late Sunday night and early Monday morning according to local officials (Pajhwok). Kunar police chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Habib Syedkhel stated: "The Pakistani forces terrified our innocent people even on the eve of Eidul Fitr." On Sunday, Syedkhel had announced that Pakistani shelling had injured a 13-year-old boy (TOLO News). Shells fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan have been a source of tension between the two countries.
Army shake up imminent
At least five senior Pakistani generals are expected to retire in October according to a report in the Express Tribune on Monday (ET). The retirements are expected to include the corps commanders for Peshawar, Mangla, Karachi, and Gujranwala, as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence chief. All four corps commanders were appointed by now retired army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and their retirement will enable Gen. Raheel Sharif, the new army chief, to shape Pakistan's senior military leadership.
E.U. bans Pakistani airline's cargo service
British authorities banned cargo service by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) -- Pakistan's national airline -- on Monday forcing a European Union-wide ban (ET, Dawn). The ban was imposed due to security concerns amid the fallout from attacks on the Karachi and Peshawar airports. PIA officials, however, noted that the United Kingdom has not banned the service of other airlines flying from Pakistani airports, and that the British Transportation Department validated PIA's service in June. PIA officials say they will address the issue in meetings with British authorities on Thursday.
A poetry revival among those displaced by the North Waziristan operation
About 50 Pakistani poets that have been displaced by the military's ongoing operation in North Waziristan are reviving poetic practices banned under the Taliban, according to a report on Friday in the Washington Post (Post). Muhammad, a 36-year-old shopkeeper, told the Post: "The Taliban's order was final and no one dared to oppose that." Now, however, among the 700,000 people displaced by the operation, they are able to return to their craft.
Kerry praises Modi's governance formula
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that India and the United States were determined to deliver on "strategic and historic opportunities" (Hindustan Times, Business Standard, The Hindu). Speaking at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, D.C., he said it was a "potentially transformative moment" for relations between two countries. Kerry said further: "The US and India can and should be indispensable partners for the 21st century. The dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of our relationship is needed to solve some of world's greatest challenges."
Kerry praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" (Together with all, Development for all). Kerry, who arrives in India this week for talks with the newly elected Modi-led government, will also co-chair the fifth annual India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue on July 31 with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Ahead of Kerry's visit, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: "Secretary Kerry's visit underscores the importance of the US-India partnership, and will lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi's September visit to the United States." Psaki said further: "In addition to holding the Strategic Dialogue, Kerry will meet Modi, the first cabinet level meeting with a US official since the inauguration of the new Indian government."
Australia approves Indian firm's $15.5 billion coal project
The Australian government approved on Monday Indian firm Adani Group's $15.5 billion Carmichael coal and rail project in Queensland, Australia (BBC, Livemint, Times of India, Business Standard). Designed to produce 60 million tons of thermal coal a year for export, mostly to India, the Carmichael project has been strongly opposed by environmental activist groups. The approval is subject to Adani Group's Australian subsidiary Adani Mining Pty. Ltd fulfilling a string of "strict conditions" meant to protect the environment. Adani had acquired the project in 2010 to generate coal output by 2016 and build a 186-mile rail link.
Greg Hunt, Australia's minister for the environment, said: "After undertaking a thorough assessment and consideration under national environment law, I have approved the Carmichael coal mine and rail infrastructure project, subject to 36 strict conditions." Australian High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling said: "This outstanding project will drive economic growth and create more than 6,000 jobs in Australia. It will also boost India's development by providing electricity to an estimated 100 million Indians."
According to reports, the long-pending coal mining project, approved weeks before Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits India, may become the largest coal mine in Australia. The $9.2 billion Adani Group is a business conglomerate headquartered in India. It operates mines in India, Indonesia, and Australia and is one of the largest coal importers in India. Founder and Chairman of Adani Group Gautam Adani is considered to be close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PM Modi urges scientists to increase farm productivity
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the scientific community in New Delhi on Tuesday to ensure that technology reaches farmers and helps raise their incomes (Economic Times, The Hindu, Livemint). Addressing the 86th Foundation Day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Modi emphasized the need to raise productivity at a time of increasing land demand and growing population. Modi said: "There is no other way out. Scientists must come out with innovations that can produce crop in lesser number of days without erosion of quality. Compromise on quality will kill the market.'' Modi expressed concern over the high import of cooking oil and pulses and said: "We have to prove two points. One is our farmers are capable to feed the whole country and world, and second agriculture is capable of filling the pockets of our farmers."
Modi said further: "Why is China ahead in research in medicinal plants whereas in India medicinal plants are dwindling? The farm and pharmaceutical sector must come together to address this area, where sky is the limit." On Monday, Crisil, a rating agency, said that India's agriculture growth is likely to remain muted at one percent in the fiscal year 2014-15 (NDTV). The monsoon rains this year in India are 24 percent below the long period average, and deficient rainfalls have significantly affected agriculture in India.
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen