Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Military Airstrikes Continue in North Waziristan; NATO Meets Thursday on Afghanistan

Topline

  • Military airstrikes continue in North Waziristan, killing as many as thirty; the World Health Organization has warned of polio risks accompanying local displacements. A cabinet session on Tuesday vowed to “establish state writ at all cost”, and approved the draft internal security policy, which tasks the National Counter-Terrorism Authority with greater coordination powers among security services. A suicide bomber targeted the Iranian consul general’s residence in Peshawar, killing three security personnel; a former Kashmiri militant commander, Mast Gul, has claimed responsibility. NATO ministers will meet Thursday to review post-2014 military force options in Afghanistan. Afghan presidential candidate Hedayat Amin Arsala says he will campaign “in coalition” with Gul Agha Sherzai. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denies reports that it is sending arms to Syria at the request of Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Operations Continue: The Pakistani military carried out further airstrikes in the border area between North and South Waziristan on early Tuesday, targeting what it said were militant training centers; at least thirty people have reportedly been killed, although there is no independent confirmation of those figures. Although there are also no reliable figures for local displacement, increasing numbers of residents are believed to have fled the area in anticipation of a military operation; on Monday, the World Health Organization issued a warning that this may increase the spread of the polio virus, as North Waziristan has been the center of most reported cases. The Sindh provincial government has ordered the closure of provincial borders for fear of a IDP exodus, echoing similar movements in Punjab. Prime Minister Sharif presided over a cabinet session on Tuesday, concluding that the TTP had “rendered the [peace process] meaningless” by continuing attacks and vowing that the “state’s writ would be established at all costs”. The cabinet session also approved Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s draft internal security policy, which tasks the National Counter-Terrorism Authority with increased powers of coordination between the country’s various intelligence and security agencies. Opposition parliamentarians have pledged support for the government, while demanding more public explanations of its intentions. PTI chairman Imran Khan told reporters on Monday that he would support “action against those reluctant to engage in dialogue” — specifically, the TTP’s Mohmand chapter, which took responsibility for the deaths of 23 Frontier Corps soldiers earlier this month — and called for the evacuation of civilians before any military operations took place. [NYT] [AFP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Suicide Bomber Targets Iranian Consulate: Three security personnel were killed and eleven wounded when a suicide car bomber detonated near the residence of Iran’s consul general in Peshawar on Monday; no one inside the residence was injured. Mast Gul, a former Kashmiri militant commander now aligned with the TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack, vowing to “continue to target Iranian installations and the Shia community everywhere”. A hand grenade was recovered and defused near the consulate on Tuesday. [NYT] [Dawn] [AJE]
  • Missing Persons: The Supreme Court has ordered that seven of 35 missing persons whose whereabouts in military custody have been under investigation since December 2012 should be presented before the court at a March 3 hearing. The Express Tribune reports that the missing person cell in the Attorney General of Pakistan’s office has been shut down, allegedly under pressure from the defense ministry.
  • Attack on Polio Campaign: A polio vaccination campaign worker and three paramilitary Levies security guards were kidnapped in Balochistan’s Awaran district on Monday; the deputy commissioner of the district, Rasheed Baloch, also came under attack but escaped. The Balochistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • No Arms for Syria, Foreign Office Says: Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied media reports on Sunday suggesting that Pakistan was preparing to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank arms to Syrian rebels at the request of Saudi Arabia, saying they were “baseless and have no sense”. PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khursheed Shah objected to any such sale, saying that “we should learn from the consequences of our previous policy of interference and make efforts for peace without inviting any problem”.
  • PTI Protest Camps Illegal, Peshawar Court Rules: On Tuesday, the Peshawar High Court issued a ruling that PTI protest camps begun last fall and aimed at blocking NATO supplies to Afghanistan are illegal, and that the government must safeguard truckers’ right of freedom of movement. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Gas Pipeline: Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told parliament on Monday that work on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline cannot proceed, given continued international sanctions.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz Indicates Deadlock Over India Trade Liberalization Continues [ET]
  • Punjabi Taliban Deputy Chief Arrested in Karachi [ET] [Dawn]
  • Over 100 Arrested in Rawalpindi Sweep Arrests [ET]
  • Prison Break Threat in Peshawar Triggers Red Alert [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Plans School Expansion [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Investigating Report of Water Contract Fraud [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan Musn’t Surrender – “In preparation for a spring offensive, America should now offer Pakistan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, as well as humanitarian assistance for those citizens whom fighting would inevitably displace.” [Haider Mullick, NYT]
  • Commentary: The Trial of Pervez Musharraf – “Members of Prime Minister Sharif’s government say that he doesn’t want to prolong Musharraf’s ordeal. He merely wants a conviction for the record: something that helps him to even the score, and that will stand as a warning to any future generals tempted to promote themselves into power.” [Omar Warraich, New Yorker]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Ministers Meet: NATO defense minister will meet in Brussels starting Thursday to discuss a post-2014 military presence in Afghanistan, given Pres. Karzai’s objection to the completion of a bilateral security agreement and uncertainty about who will lead the country after presidential elections take pace in April. NATO officials reiterated that they would not sign a separate status of forces agreement with Afghanistan without the completion of the U.S. bilateral security agreement. [Khaama Press]
  • Kunar Attack Aftermath: Defense ministry officials reiterated accusations on Monday that the weekend attack on a Kunar military outpost, which killed 21 soldiers, was planned in Pakistan; foreign ministry officials said that Pakistani involvement was under investigation and that it was “too early to blame Pakistan for the attack yet”. [BBC]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Campaign Mergers: Presidential candidate Hedayat Amin Arsala criticized reports of personal involvement by Pres. Karzai in a weekend jirga seeking to join the campaigns of Zalmay Rassoul and Qayyum Karzai, and said that his campaign was now running “in coalition” with Gul Agha Sherzai. No announcement of a Rassoul-Karzai campaign merger has yet been made. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • New Survey Finds Public Support for Government Institutions [AFP]
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan Vow to Double Bilateral Trade [TOLO] [APP]
  • Report: Between Rhetoric and Reality: The Ongoing Struggle to Access Healthcare in Afghanistan – “While healthcare is often held up as an achievement of international state-building efforts in Afghanistan, the situation is far from being a simple success story.” [Medecins Sans Frontieres]

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