- Rare sectarian suicide attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif kill at least 58 people; both Karzai and the Taliban issue statements of condemnation. Despite comments from Prime Minister Gilani suggesting a desire to rebuild relations with the U.S., Pakistan pulls liaison officers from trilateral border coordination posts in the wake of NATO cross-border attack. Senators Graham and McCain call for a “full review” of U.S. aid to Pakistan. The Bonn Conference on Afghanistan concludes with pledges of commitment and reform. Afghan government and aid agencies worry about looming reductions in development spending.
Pakistan – Security
- Pakistan Pulls Out of Border Liaison Posts: Pakistani military officials pulled their liaisons from at least two of the three trilateral border coordination centers established along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for “consultation”; U.S. officials fear the move is a further punitive step in the wake of the November 26 cross-border attack on two Pakistani outposts, and caution that further communications breakdowns will increase the risk of similar incidents. Pakistani officials indicated the move was temporary but offered no further details. In an interview on Pakistani state television, Amb. Munter appealed for a restoration of the bilateral relationship and for Pakistan to join in the NATO investigation of the incident, which Pakistan to date has refused to do; Prime Minister Gilani yesterday told the AP that he wanted to wanted to rebuild ties with the U.S., which the State Department’s spokesman welcomed and echoed. Separately, a Newsweek piece reports on ongoing Pakistani intelligence cooperation against Al Qaeda suspects, despite the past year’s worth of spiking tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan. [Reuters] [GEO]
- Terror Suspect Recidivism: A Punjab Home Department report found that an unspecified number of 65 suspects previously imprisoned for membership in banned militant outfits who were released in 2011 have returned to their previous groups, the Express Tribune reports; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq, who has been re-arrested, is most prominent among them.
Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- McCain and Graham Call for ‘Full Review’ of Pakistan Ties: In a joint statement released Monday, Republican Senators McCain and Graham (the ranking members on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations, respectively) said that the United States had been “incredibly patient with Pakistan” despite “certain undeniable and deeply disturbing facts”, and called for a “full review” of relations with the country.
Pakistan – Remainders
- Ashura Processions Underway Across the Country [ET]
- Only One Out of 83 Destroyed Schools Rebuilt in Mohmand [Dawn]
- Clashes in Kurram Kill 14 [Dawn] [GEO]
- Pakistan to Repatriate Bin Laden Family ‘Soon’ [ET]
- Division Within PML-N Over Zardari Speech Boycott [Dawn]
- Few PTI Heavyweight Candidates Aside from Khan and Qureshi [Dawn]
- Ambassador Rehman’s Seat Unfilled as PPP Searches for Candidate [ET]
- Money for Oil and Gas Exploration Dries Up Amid Circular Debt Pressures [ET]
- Commentary: Pakistan No Friend and a Fading Ally – “Despite Pakistan’s troublesome qualities, it is too soon to think of a serious containment policy and the United States has no choice but to engage Pakistan.” [Stephen Cohen, Brookings]
- Commentary: Stumbling Over Pakistan – “If the United States is to mend its relations with Pakistan, it must recognize the need to heed the wishes of the people of Pakistan and to connect with them more than the political leaders who appear to have lost the confidence of their citizens.” [Shuja Nawaz, AfPak Channel]
- Commentary: China’s Pakistan Conundrum – “The central question will be the extent to which political, and especially investment, risks begin to complicate the straightforward geopolitical calculus that has long yielded a remarkable intimacy between Beijing and Islamabad.” [Evan Feigenbaum, Foreign Affairs]
Afghanistan – Security
- Bombings in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif Kill At Least 58: A suicide bomber infiltrated a crowd of worshippers near one of Kabul’s largest Shiite mosques during the Ashura procession on Tuesday before setting off a blast that killed at least 54 people and wounded over 160; separately, a bomb in Mazar-e-Sharif killed at least four people and wounding seventeen amid similar processions near a mosque there. Another bomb was planted in Kandahar but is not reported to have caused casualties, and it is unclear to what the degree the attacks are connected. Explicitly sectarian attacks in Afghanistan have been rare, and Pres. Karzai condemned the attacks; Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Shiite Hazara opposition leader, said the attackers wanted to “trigger a sectarian war in Afghanistan” and appealed for civil order. The Taliban issued a statement shortly after the blast condemning the attacks and saying it was the work of unspecified “enemies”. There has been no confirmed claim of responsibility. [Reuters] [BBC] [Guardian] [AP]
- Logistics Costs Rising: Pakistan’s closure of NATO supply lines through its territory have increased the cost and difficulty of supplying fuel to coalition military outposts around the country, the WSJ reports; increasingly, the U.S. Air Force is conducting aerial fuel drops, the use of which has risen over 50-fold since 2005 despite a $400-a-gallon price tage.
Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- Bonn Conference Concludes: The joint statement released after the conclusion of the international conference at Bonn included commitments from international donors to remain “strongly engaged” in the support of a “united Afghanistan”; Sec. Clinton said the U.S. was in it for the “long haul,” and German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said the conference had sent a message to the Afghan people that “we will not leave you on your own.” The text also noted the need to “fight against corruption” and highlighted the importance of “strengthening and improving Afghanistan’s electoral process”. In a news conference after the session, Karzai moderated recent critical remarks that had accused Pakistan of refusing to back peace efforts, saying that Pakistan’s role in negotiations with the Taliban “is very important” and noting that Pakistan also suffers from insurgent sanctuaries. Foreign Minister Westerwelle spoke with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, after the conference concluded without Pakistani participation. The Taliban issued a statement Tuesday rejecting the conference and its outcome. [AP] [BBC] [Conference Concluding Statement]
Afghanistan – Economics and Development
- Afghan Aid: As previously noted, Afghan government officials at the Bonn conference reiterated their country’s continued dependency on international donors for years to come; despite the aforementioned pledges of commitment, Sec. Clinton also noted that donor nations face “serious fiscal challenges” of their own and said “Afghans have more work to do” to ensure that money is well-spent. IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia Masood Ahmed echoed that caution in a Reuters interview. Cuts in USAID’s Afghanistan budget began this year, when it received $2 billion compared to $4 billion in FY2010, and are likely to continue for next. Aid officials say unspent money allocated in previous years has thus far prevented the total cancellation of any continuing programs; aid workers nonetheless express concern to the NYT that “what we have gained should not be lost.” Several groups note that the flood of money linked to counterinsurgency efforts had limited development effects, and say they were never comfortable with the “weaponization of aid”. [Reuters]
- Mining Bids: The Afghan Ministry of Mines issued tenders on Tuesday for four new copper and gold mines in Badakshan and Ghazni; a timeline for the bidding process has yet to be set. [Reuters]
Afghanistan – Remainders
- France Readies for Strategic Partnership Discussions [Pajhwok]
- Russia Cancels $11B in Afghan Sovereign Debts [TOLO]
- India Plans $10B in Afghan Mining Investments [PTI]
- Interview: Pres. Karzai on ‘Shared Responsibility’ in Afghanistan [Der Speigel]
- Report: Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace: Laying the Foundations for an Inclusive Peace Process [Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (pdf)]
- Report: Post-War Program Implementation and Procurement: Some Lessons from the Experience of Afghanistan [Overseas Development Institute]
- Report: The Next Fight: Time for a Change of Mission in Afghanistan – “Afghan forces must move more rapidly to take the lead in Afghanistan while the United States and its coalition allies still have significant numbers of troops and enablers in the country.” [David Barno, Andrew Exum, and Matthew Irvine, CNAS]
- Commentary: Reading Between the Lines of Bonn 2 – “One had to start to read pretty well between the lines in order to find something exciting from the morning, but slight differences of approach towards the direction of the international strategy did become apparent.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
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