- The CIA has reportedly cut back drone operations in Pakistan as a concession to military and civilian government concerns, but US officials say they retain a private agreement to continue the operations. The PPP has announced a boycott of the Pakistani presidential elections. U.S. support for the Afghan war has dropped to its lowest-ever levels, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll. A dozen-man ALP unit in Zabul province was drugged and abducted by the Taliban, apparently with the help of two policemen. The committee to nominate commissioners to the IEC has reviewed over 250 applications but has yet to finalize its choices to refer to Pres. Karzai.
Pakistan — Security
- Predator Strikes Curtailed: The AP reports that the CIA has “drastically” cut back on Predator drone strikes in Pakistan, in part as a concession to protests from Pakistani military and civilian leaders. U.S. officials maintain that Pakistani officials have agreed to the program’s continuation, which Pakistani military and civilian government leaders deny. Only 16 strikes have taken place thus far this year, compared to 48 last year and a peak of 122 in 2010. The program no longer conducts “signature strikes” on groups of suspected militants identified solely through behavioral patterns.
- Security Policy: Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has called on PM Sharif to discard the idea of an all-parties conference on national security policy and instead convene a meeting of top security officials, the provincial chief ministers, “and other relevant civilian and military officials”.
- Missing Persons: The federal government has established a task force to investigate the cases of missing persons and the practice of extrajudicial detention; it will convene on July 29. Chief Justice Chaudhry said task force was an insufficient to court orders and demanded a comprehensive policy statement from the government on the issue.
- Sukkur Attack Claims: A spokesman identifying himself as a representative of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan “Jundullah Group” claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on ISI offices in Sukkur, saying the attack was carried out to avenge the death of TTP deputy commander Wali ur Rehman; the TTP’s main spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan (originally dismissed from his position earlier this month) has denied the involvement of the “Jundullah Group” and said members of the TTP from Mohmand and Punjab had carried out the attack. [NYT]
- PML-N Balochistan Leader Attacked: Mir Abdul Qadir Zarakzai, a leader in the PML-N’s Balochistan chapter and close associate to PML-N provincial party presidential Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, was killed in a driveby shooting in the Khuzdar district on Wednesday evening.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- PPP Boycotts Presidential Elections: A joint session of parliament has been summoned on July 29 ahead of presidential elections scheduled to take place the following day. On Friday, the PPP officially announced that it would boycott the vote in protest of the Supreme Court’s change of the polling date at the request of the PML-N. The ANP and the Balochistan National Party-Awami have indicated their intention to join the boycott; the PTI is said to be in consultation on the question of whether or not to join, and the PML-Q is reported to have conditioned its participation on whether or not the PTI also agrees to boycott. The PTI’s nominee for the presidency, retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmed, said that doing so would be “unproductive”; the Jamaat-e-Islami has announced support for the PTI’s candidate. The Election Commission of Pakistan has sought to deflect criticism for the election day change, pointing to the order of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif met with legislators from the FATA and with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman to seek their backing for the PML-N’s candidate, Mamnoon Hussain. Rehman is expected to formally announce his backing; the Express Tribune reports that the MQM has also decided to endorse Hussain. [Dawn] [ET]
- Kerry Visit: Prime Minister Sharif met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Friday to discuss the agenda for Sec. Kerry’s visit, which Dawn reports will take place July 28-29.
- Zardari Cases: A committee investigating reports that the PPP government had sent a second letter to the Swiss government last fall conveying the view that cases against Pres. Zardari could not be reopened has reportedly pinned blame on former law secretary Yasmin Abbasey. [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Bugti Family Returns to Dera Bugti [Dawn]
- Parental Refusals Cripple Polio Vaccination Program [ET]
- Two Killed in Kurram Roadside Bombing [Dawn]
- Bomb Defused Near Karachi Seminary [Dawn]
- Bodies of 20 Suspected Militants Recovered in Khyber [ET]
- National Accountability Bureau Opens Investigation Into Prime Minister Ashraf’s Road Projects [ET]
- Cabinet Agrees to Extend Provincial Quota System for Federal Jobs [ET]
- Bid to Halt Pakistan Air Carrier’s Fall Amid Mounting Losses [The National]
- Pakistan State Oil Still Caught in Circular Debts [APP]
- Lahore High Court to Review YouTube Ban On August 2 [ET] [ET]
Afghanistan — Security
- ALP Unit Abducted: A group of approximately a dozen Afghan Local Police stationed in the Kala Khel village in Zabul Province have reportedly been abducted after being drugged by two of their comrades; the Taliban confirmed they were holding the group captive. The NYT notes that the ALP group, established five months ago and comprised of outsiders from other parts of the province rather than locals, had not endeared itself to the village residents, who say they were extorted and beaten by the ALP.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Opinion Polling: A Washington Post-ABC poll found that American public support for the Afghan war has dropped 11 points since March, to an all-time low of 28%. 67% of those polled said that the war “has not been worth fighting”. For the first time in the past four years, fewer than half (43%) expressed the view that the war has contributed to long-term U.S. security. 53% indicated support for some residual American force in Afghanistan after 2014, while 43% said all U.S. forces should be removed.
- Election Preparations: The committee created to nominate representatives to the Independent Election Commission has reviewed the applications of at least 269 candidates, but has yet to finalize its choice for 27 nominees to the president, of which Karzai will choose nine.
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Pakistan Extends Refugee Stay: The Pakistan federal cabinet agreed on Thursday to extend the stay of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan through 2015.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Karzai to Visit Iran for President Rohani’s Inauguration on August 4 [Pajhwok]
- Commentary: Afghans Still Struggling for Sovereignty at Bagram – “Many more detainees are being freed than under the US system, including some whom the US had held without trial for years. However, former detainees say that even after being handed over to the Afghan authorities, the US military retains access to them for interrogation (the authorities deny this).” [Kate Clark, AAN]