Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ground Operations Underway in Miram Shah; Karzai Signs Money Laundering Law

Topline

  • Pakistani army forces have begun ground movements into Miram Shah, following mass exodus from the area over the past week. PTI party leaders met on Wednesday to consider whether or not to quit the assemblies and joint Tahirul Qadri’s protest movement; Imran Khan is expected to announce the party’s strategy at a protest rally in Bahawalpur tomorrow. Pres. Karzai signed anti-money laundering legislation on Wednesday, in an effort to avoid blacklisting by the international Financial Action Task Force, which meets tomorrow to consider the issue. The U.S. has formally designated Jamaat-ud-Dawa as an alias of Lashkar-e-Taiba, subjecting it to terrorist sanctions. Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta is in Islamabad for bilateral talks. The White House will request $60 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding for the Pentagon and State Department in its amended 2015 fiscal year budget.


Pakistan — Security

  • Ground Forces Move Into Miram Shah: On Thursday, Pakistani army soldiers began movements to secure positions in and around the main Miram Shah bazaar in North Waziristan. Military officials had previously reported another 13 militant suspects killed in airstrikes on Wednesday; no independent confirmation of these claims is available. Al Jazeera notes that barely any of the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting — defense minister Khwaja Asif estimated that the total would eventually reach 700,000 IDPs — have settled in the government-run Bakkakhel relief camp in Bannu. Elsewhere in the FATA, three paramilitary Khasadars were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Jamrud in the Khyber Agency; a separate bombing in Bara wounded three people. [Dawn] [AFP]
  • U.S. Expands Sanctions Against Jamaat-ud-Dawa: On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department formally designated Jamaat-ud-Dawa and several other groups as aliases or front organizations of Lashkar-e-Taiba, subjecting them to sanctions; two aides to Hafiz Saeed have also been designated for Treasury Department sanctions. The organization was originally designated a terrorist group in 2001. [Reuters] [ET] [State Department Statement]
  • Sweep Arrests After Peshawar Airport Shooting: More than 250 people have been arrested by Peshawar police in the wake of the shooting attack on a Pakistan International Airlines flight landing at the airport on Tuesday. Emirates has suspended flights into Peshawar, and Etihad, which cancelled one flight on Wednesday, has said it was assessing the security situation. [AJE] [Dawn]


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: A meeting of PTI senior leaders on Wednesday was divided on whether or not the party should remain in parliament or join the street protests against the PML-N government promised by Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri. Imran Khan will lead a rally in Bahawalpur on Friday and is expected to announce the party’s strategy there. Qadri met with leaders from the PML-Q and Awami Muslim League on Wednesday to announce a “grand alliance” against the government. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Committee Approves Amended Protection of Pakistan Ordinance [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Inaugurates Dasu Hydroelectric Project in Kohistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • Two Army Pilots Killed in Training Helicopter Crash [AFP]
  • New Figures Indicate Jump in Government Borrowing from State Bank of Pakistan Jumps [ET]
  • Government Objects to Rs 14.2B Defense Ministry Proposal for Patrol Boat Purchases [ET]
  • Balochistan Assembly Approves Budget [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Counsel Presses for Broader Investigation of Past Coups [Dawn]


Afghanistan — Security

  • War Budget: Defense News reports that the White House will request $58.5 billion for the Pentagon and $1.5 billion for the State Department in its amended Overseas Contingecy Operations account for the 2015 fiscal year. The Defense Department had previously made a $79 “placeholder” request in its February budget request, pending decisions about troop drawdowns in Afghanistan. Separately, NATO foreign ministers and other partner countries met on Wednesday to discuss the training and support mission for Afghan security forces after 2014.
  • Helmand Fighting: A massed force of as many as a thousand Taliban fighters are involved in clashes with the Afghan security forces in Sangin and other parts of Helmand, interior ministry officials report; although U.S. Marines withdrew from the district last month, ISAF has provided close air support and surveillance information in the ongoing battle. [Reuters] [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Spanta Visits Pakistan: Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for talks with Pakistani officials focused on bilateral security cooperation. Speaking before the Senate on Wednesday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that the government wanted to ensure that “our respective territories are not used for attacks or subversion against each other and expanding economic cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan”. Both sides have continued to trade allegations of cross-border firing in recent days, however.
  • Run-Off Elections: Ashraf Ghani gave his first press conference since the second round run-off election was held on Wednesday, calling on Abdullah Abdullah to rejoin the electoral process and rejecting fraud allegations against his campaign. A spokesman for Abdullah said Wednesday that discussions with the Independent Election Commission are ongoing but have not yet reached an outcome. The IEC is delaying the announcement of preliminary results, pending further investigations of complaints. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]


Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Karzai Signs Anti-Money Laundering Law: On Wednesday, Pres. Karzai signed into law new legislation intended to curtail money laundering and other illegal financial transactions; the Senate has also approved anti-terrorism financing legislation approved by the lower house of parliament earlier this month. The inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force is in the middle of a plenary session this week, and will be considering the potential blacklisting of Afghanistan for its failure to take steps to stop money laundering during meetings on Friday. [Khaama Press]


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Bergdahl Yet to Be Interviewed on Decision to Leave Base in 2009 [Reuters]
  • NATO Soldier Killed in Southern Afghanistan [AP]


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