- US and NATO officials are seeking roughly 4,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan after this year to supplement American forces. Karachi remains tense as MQM leader Altaf Hussain remains in London police custody. The TTP has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s suicide bombing in Rawalpindi. The White House briefed senators on Wednesday evening on its decision to seek the release of Bowe Bergdahl; military officials have pledged a full investigation of his case. The family of a Canadian-American couple missing in Afghanistan since 2012 has released video showing them in captivity, appealing to the U.S. government for their release; a Taliban spokesman has said the group is not involved in their detention. The Afghan lower house of parliament passed terror financing legislation on Wednesday, but still needs to pass an anti-money laundering law or risks international blacklisting. The Islamabad High Court has ordered police to register a case against the former CIA station chief in connection to a December 2009 drone strike.
Pakistan — Security
- TTP Claims Responsibility for Rawalpindi Bombing: Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan central leadership, claimed responsibility for yesterday’s suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, which killed two senior military officers and one civilian bystander. Shahid said the attack was undertaken as revenge for the killing of seven TTP members in Karachi, and against recent army operations in the FATA.
- TTP Commander Killed: Ashiqullah Mehsud, identified as a key Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander responsible for training suicide bombers for the group, was killed by unidentified gunmen in North Waziristan on Wednesday. He was reportedly affiliated with the Shehryar Mehsud group, which has clashed with the rival Khan Saeed Sajna group over leadership in South Waziristan.
- Islamabad High Court Orders Case Against Former CIA Chief: Responding to a petition by Mir Ali resident Karim Khan, who has been pursuing the case since 2010, the Islamabad High Court has ordered police to register an investigation case against a former CIA station chief over civilian deaths in December 2009 drone strike. [ET]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Karachi Paralyzed: The MQM has continued protests against Altaf Hussain’s arrest by British police earlier this week, with shops reportedly being forcibly closed on Thursday after tentative efforts to reopen two days into the shutdown. The party had earlier called on business to reopen. In a state Wednesday, Hussain called on his followers to remain peaceful. The Nation reports that Nadeem Nusrat, the deputy convener of the party’s London coordination committee, may step into a supervisory role for the party if Hussain’s detention continues indefinitely. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Reuters]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Senate Passes Terror Financing Legislation [Dawn] [ET]
- Finance Minister Defends Ambitious Budget Targets [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
- Chief of Army Staff Sharif Assures China of Cooperation Against Terror Groups [The Nation]
- Abbottabad By-Poll Suspended As Party Members Clash [Dawn]
- FATA Secretariat Worker Killed in Peshawar [Dawn]
- Supreme Court Sets Guidelines on Judicial Seniority [Dawn]
- Lahore Police File Detailed Report with Lahore High Court on ‘Honor Killing’ Incident [Dawn]
- Japan Offers Energy Sector Loan [ET]
Afghanistan — Security
- Force Planning: U.S. officials meeting with NATO counterparts in Brussels this week have requested that its allies contribute roughly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year, to supplement the 9,800 ordered by Pres. Obama to remain, provided a bilateral security agreement is reached. Around 1,800 of the U.S. forces would carry out counter-terrorism missions, officials indicated. ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford described the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by 2016 as a “transition,” and said that he had no worries about securing NATO commitments; the U.S. and NATO have previously pledged $4.1 billion in annual assistance to the Afghan security forces through 2017. [WSJ] [NYT]
- Bergdahl Backlash: U.S. army chief of staff Raymond Odierno issued a statement Wednesday pledging a “thorough, transparent and complete review of the circumstances surrounding his capture.” Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Sec. Hagel said that he was unaware of “circumstances or details of U.S. soldiers dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sgt. Bergdahl,” as some former unit members have recently alleged, and that it was “unfair to presume anything” without a full investigation. The NYT provides additional background on the administration’s decision to move ahead with negotiations for Bergdahl’s release, brokered by Qatar, after a 2013 proof of life video showed his health deteriorating. Reuters notes earlier dissents from the prisoner swap idea by Defense Secretaries Gates and Panetta. The WSJ describes some of the earlier search efforts to locate Bergdahl after he went missing form his unit in 2009, which were hampered by false tips. The White House briefed senators on their decision-making on Wednesday evening, although several remained publicly critical afterwards. A welcome-home celebration in Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho has been cancelled, with officials citing concerns over handling crowds both supporting and opposing his release. [WSJ] [WSJ] [Guardian] [AP] [WAPO] [Guardian]
- Video of Missing Couple: The AP reports that family members of Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, a Canadian-American couple who went missing in Afghanistan 20 months ago, received the first video evidence of their captivity last year, in which both appeal for their release and also indicate that they now bear a child. The family say they released the videos to show disappointment that the couple’s release had not also been secured alongside Bowe Bergdahl. A Taliban spokesman tells the BBC that the movement has no connection to their kidnapping. [NYT] [AJE]
- Kabul Bombing: One person was killed and seven injured when a bomb planted on an Afghan border police vehicle detonated in the Pul-e-Charki area of Kabul on Thursday. There has been no claim of responsibility.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Run-Off Elections: The Independent Election Commission announced the final list of polling centers for the June 14 run-off vote on Wednesday, which will involve opening 24 centers closed during the first round. A number of former backers of Qayyum Karzai’s candidacy endorsed Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday; Karzai himself had supported Abdullah Abdullah. Separately, the Electoral Complaints Commission began investigations into complaints related to provincial council elections held in April. [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Parliament Passes Terror Financing Law: The lower house of parliament passed a draft law intended to counter terrorist financing on Wednesday, which will authorize the government to sanction individuals and organizations; after debate, the parliament agreed that the presidentially-appointed National Security Council would have responsibility for overseeing the law’s implementation. Afghanistan must still pass money laundering legislation before the end of the month in order to avoid blacklisting by the international Financial Action Task Force.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Release of Afghan Detainees Alarms Survivors of 1999 Campaign [WSJ]
- Iran Tries to Block Afghan Opium Boom [AP]
- Four Policemen Killed in Ghazni [AFP]