- Following two days of talks, NATO officials in Brussels say that Germany, Italy, and the U.S. have agreed to continue leading training operations in Afghanistan after 2014, but that this will focus on higher-echelon commands, and not lower-level units. No troop number announcements were made. More reporting on Nawaz Sharif’s election as prime minister; Pakistani military officials are expected to hold a security briefing for him soon. Robert Bales pleads guilty to murder charges in last year’s Kandahar shooting spree; he will be sentenced in August. The UK will restart transfers of detainees to Afghan custody by the end of the month, Defense Ministry officials say.
Pakistan — Security
- Military to Brief Sharif: Gen. Kayani and other senior military officials plan to hold a security briefing for new prime minister Nawaz Sharif “within the next few days,” Express Tribune reports. The discussions will include formal input from the military on proposals to initiate peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, something Sharif has previously endorsed but which he did not discuss in his inaugural address to parliament yesterday.
- Sixteen Wounded in Quetta Operation: A group of police and paramilitary troops clashed with a group of militants during search operations in Quetta’s Kharotabab neighborhood on Thursday, wounding at least sixteen. At least one militant suspect reportedly killed themselves in a suicide bombing during the engagement. Intelligence service sources tell Dawn that at least two of the suspects were members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
- MQM Protests Attacks on Supporters: The MQM called for a day of mourning in Karachi and other parts of Sindh on Thursday after three party supporters were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Malir neighborhood on Wednesday. The MQM blamed the Lyari-based People’s Amn Committee for the attacks, which it said was part of an “ethnic cleansing” effort against Mohajirs. [ET]
- Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Introduces Anti-Drone Resolution: The new PTI-led government in Khyber Paktunkhwa has introduced an assembly resolution calling on the federal government to take “immediate steps” to halt drone operations in Pakistan.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Sharif Elected PM: There is additional reporting today on Nawaz Sharif’s election as prime minister yesterday; he was officially sworn in by Pres. Zardari on Wednesday evening. The U.S. State Department and Pres. Karzai, among other leaders, formally welcomed Sharif’s election. The NYT focuses on Sharif’s statement during his inaugural speech to parliament that “the chapter of daily drone attacks should stop”, although most of his address was focused on domestic economic issues. Sharif called for a “common agenda about how to extricate the country from its difficulties” but offered only limited details at the outset on what steps his government would take to resolve the energy and fiscal crises facing the country. No formal announcements of cabinet members were made yesterday, as had been expected; PML-N sources suggest to Dawn that ten to twelve ministers will be sworn in within the next few days. [WSJ] [WAPO] [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
- Provincial Governments: Shahbaz Sharif was elected Chief Minister of Punjab on Thursday after receiving 300 votes in the provincial assembly; it is his third time serving in the position. The PTI has reportedly cited donor objections to Jamaat-e-Islami leading the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial education department in its efforts to renegotiate ministerial appointments; donors tell Dawn they have no objections to the choice. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- More Than 200,000 Families Displaced from Kurram [Dawn]
- Asian Development Bank Pulls Out of Central Asia-South Asia Energy Import Project [ET]Nearly PML-N Leaders Gather to Plan Response to Energy Crisis [Dawn] [Dawn]
- 50 Police Checkposts Abolished in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
- Eight Rangers Wounded in Karachi Attack [ET]
- PTI Women’s Wing Leader Fauzia Kasuri Quits Party [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Munir Malik Tapped for Attorney General [Dawn]
- Zardari May Address Parliament for Sixth Time [Dawn]
- ANP Probes Causes of Election Defeat [Dawn]
- Commentary: Can Pakistan Make Peace Next Door? – “A year before America’s much-anticipated withdrawal from Afghanistan, talks with the Taliban don’t seem to be going anywhere, which is bad news for those who hope for a political solution. Mr. Sharif’s return to the scene may be their best hope.” [Ahmed Rashid, NYT]
- Commentary: Four Wildcards that Could Make or Break Pakistan’s New Government – “There’s reason to believe Pakistan’s new government can kickstart the economy, peacefully coexist with the military, improve relations with New Delhi, and cooperate with Washington. Yet it’s important to acknowledge the spoilers that could sabotage each of these prospective success stories.” [Michael Kugelman, AfPak Channel]
Afghanistan — Security
- NATO Allies Discuss Post-2014 Plans: Following two days of NATO defense ministerial talks in Brussels, Sec. Hagel told reporters on Thursday that the United States has agreed to being “the largest single contributor” in Afghanistan after 2014, and to assuming a leading role in the south and east of the country. Germany and Italy have agreed to continue their leads in the north and west, and Turkey is “favorably considering” a continued role in Kabul. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance’s aim “will be to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces, not substitute for them,” and training for lower-level police and army units would be halted. No details on troop commitments were discussed, but Rasmussen said that the new mission “will not be ISAF by another name… it will be significantly smaller.” While both Rasmussen and Hagel stressed continued support, they also suggested that “commitment is a two-way street” and that NATO expects the Afghan government “to live up to its obligations, including full respect for basic democratic principles and human rights” and a “free and fair election”. [AP]
- Bales Pleads Guilty in Kandahar Massacre: Sergeant Robert Bales entered a guilty plea in court martial hearings on Wednesday in which he was charged with the murder of 16 Afghan civilians killed in a shooting spree in Panjwai, Kandahar, last spring. In pleading guilty, Bales will avoid the death penalty; asked by the presiding judge to explain his actions, he said that he had “asked that question a million times, and there’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did.” His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for August 19. [WAPO] [AJE] [AP]
- UK to Restart Detainee Transfers: The UK Ministry of Defense has withdrawn a ban on the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan government custody and will resume such transfers later this month, officials tell the BBC. Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond said that he was “confident the safeguards in place will ensure detainees will not be at risk of mistreatment”. The reversal comes after lawyers for as many as 90 detainees had brought protests over their detention without trial for as long as 14 months.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- High Peace Council ‘Ready for Direct Talks’: Speaking to a conference on peace talks efforts on Wednesday, High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani said that “efforts are going on to enter into direct peace talks with the Taliban” despite “activities carried out by specific groups from abroad are aimed at disrupting peace and security in the country.”
- Parliamentary Commission Clears MPs Accused of Corruption: A special parliamentary commission tasked with investigating corruption allegations against six members of parliament brought by Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal has concluded that the charges are “baseless”. Parliamentary officials further argued that no other branches of government have the right to remove MPs from office except after trial; the Attorney General’s office recently issued a travel ban on five of the parliamentarians in question and warned that it would disqualify them from office if they failed to cooperate with its parallel investigation of the charges.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- $173 Million in Kabul Bank Loans Recovered So Far [Pajhwok]
- Security Concerns Prevent Opening of Voter Registration Centers in Five Districts [TOLO]
- Commentary: A Dangerous Case for Intervention: A Response to the CNAS Report on Afghanistan – “Of greater concern are the report’s thinly veiled calls for interference in the democratic process of a sovereign nation. While this kind of intervention has been American foreign policy for a century and more, the results have, on the whole, been less than promising.” [Gary Owen, AAN]