Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Army Accused of Civilian Casualties in Waziristan; Poll Shows Waning Support for Afghan War

Topline

  • Waziristan residents accuse the Pakistani military of killing civilians in retaliatory operations following yesterday’s suicide attack on a checkpost near Mir Ali. A Post-NBC poll shows that 66% of Americans do not believe the Afghan war “has been worth fighting” and 41% support the removal of all forces from the country in the future. Obama administration officials are reportedly open to extending a year-end deadine on the conclusion of the bilateral security agreement, the LA Times reports, but are increasingly open to a pullout of all forces by the end of 2014 if no agreement is signed. The IMF has approved the release of a $553 million loan tranche for Pakistan, helping to boost its foreign exchange reserves. The Election Commission of Pakistan has refused an interior ministry proposal to take over responsibility for the verification of voter thumbprints in ballots cast earlier in May.

Pakistan — Security

  • Waziristan Clashes: Security officials say that ten more militants were killed during search operations on Thursday near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, adding that most are believed to be Uzbek nationals. Muhammad Nazir Khan, the national assembly parliamentarian from North Waziristan, tells the Express Tribune that he has asked security forces to institute a temporary ceasefire in the area, saying that there had been civilian casualties in the recent clashes between militant and military forces; other local sources tell the NYT and the WSJ that as many as 25 civilians were killed in a military attack on a restaurant late Wednesday, following a suicide bombing on a checkpoint that had killed five soldiers and wounded dozens more. Students from North Waziristan staged a rally in Peshawar on Friday calling for a halt to operations.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Commission Rejects Voter Verification Responsibility: The Election Commission has rejected a proposal by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that the ECP take administrative control over the National Database and Registration Authority for three months in order to conduct a verification of voter thumbprints as part of ongoing challenges against the May 2013 election results. ECP officials said that, having already held responsibility for carrying out the elections, another neutral body should be responsible for arbitrating disputes related to election administration. [ET]
  • PTI Rally: Punjab Law Minsiter Rana Sanaullah told reporters on Thursday that the government would not allow the PTI to carry out a planned protest rally on the Lahore Mall on Sunday, accusing Imran Khan of “pursuing anarchy in the country”. The Express Tribune reports that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has renewed efforts to maintain price controls in an effort to undercut the PTI’s anti-inflation message.
  • Appointments: On Thursday, the government formally appointed Aizaz Chaudhry as foreign secretary, after reversing an earlier decision to appoint ambassador to Germany Abdul Basit. In the latest high-profile suspension, the government removed Accountant General Tahir Mehmood from office, who tells Dawn that the move was made in retaliation for corruption investigations in the finance ministry and that he will challenge the move in the Islamabad High Court.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pakistan hosted the D-8 group of developing Islamic countries on Thursday, and held separate bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan will join a Shanghai Cooperation Organization ‘energy club’, potentially allowing it increased access to Russian financing for energy projects.
  • Musharraf Speaks: In his first major interviews since being placed under house arrest earlier this year, former Pres. Musharraf vowed to face “all cases” against him, adding that “whatever I did was for the betterment and welfare of Pakistan and its people.” [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Releases Loan: Following a review in November, the IMF has approved the release of the second $553m tranche of an overall $6.7 billion loan approved in September. The disbursal of the loan is subject to quarterly reviews; in its statement, the Fund noted continued concerns over tax and energy reforms and that it had waived conditions for the buildup of foreign exchange reserves. The next review is scheduled to take place in January, ahead of a third tranche of aid in March. Ahead of the IMF loan disbursal, the State Bank of Pakistan’s exchange reserves rose from a 12-year low of $2.9 billion to $3.4 billion last week, thanks to inflows from multilateral and bilateral lenders.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan Records Statement in FIA Investigation [ET]
  • Court Reiterates Order to Balochistan Frontier Corps to Recover Missing Persons [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Issues Contempt Notice Against Foreign Secretary Over Drone Order [Dawn]
  • One Killed, Dozens Wounded in Quetta Bombing [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opposition Criticizes Sharif for Absence from Senate [Dawn]
  • Closure of Canals for Cleaning Cuts Power Generation [ET] [ET]
  • PTA Selects Consultant for 3G Spectrum Auction [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Negotiations: Obama administration aides tell the LA Times that the U.S. is prepared to extend a year-end deadline for the completion of the bilateral security agreement until after next year’s elections, but add that that “is not the preferred view” and that support for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces is growing within the administration.
  • Supply Routes: Anonymous U.S. officials say that the continued blockage of land supply routes through Peshawar by PTI protestors may force them to use air routes to move cargo out of Afghanistan, at an increased cost of approximately $1 billion for the next year. PTI leaders have vowed to continue the protests, and despite reported pledges during meetings with Sec. Hagel to reopen the routes, U.S. officials say they have seen little evidence of Pakistan action to do so.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Polls Show Waning Support: A joint Washington Post-NBC poll found that 66% of Americans polled do not believe the Afghan war “has been worth fighting,” with a record 50% now believing “strongly” that the war is not worth the costs. 55% nonetheless express support for a limited U.S. force presence, while 41% seek the removal of all forces.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • With U.S. Pullout, Military Burden Shifts to Afghan Army [WAPO]
  • Pentagon Identifies Six Soldiers Killed in Zabul Helo Crash [Army Times]
  • Afghan Policewoman and Pregnant Teacher Killed in Uruzgan [RFE/RL]
  • National Environmental Protection Agency Criticizes Import of Semi-Refined Fuel [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Tribal and Border Affairs to Push Peace Negotiations [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Best Deal on Offer – “The BSA has already involved numerous compromises. Neither party will ever see it as ideal. But the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. It is the best deal on offer — and it should be signed as soon as possible.” [Michael Keating and Andrew Wilder, Foreign Policy]
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