Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Army Chief and NATO Secretary General Visit Kabul; ANSF Casualties ‘Unsustainable’

Topline

  • Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made separate visits to Kabul on Thursday for meetings with senior Afghan officials. The Pakistani foreign ministry has rejected a U.S. Defense Department report which indicates that Pakistan is continuing support to proxy forces in Afghanistan, filing a formal diplomatic protest. The Pakistani foreign ministry has also rejected Indian demands that it make a “conscious choice” between dialogue with India and with Kashmiri separatists. The second-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan warned Wednesday that Afghan national security forces are suffering “unsustainable” casualties; Reuters notes poor medical care for many ANSF personnel. A Pakistani police officer killed a man accused of blasphemy who had been jailed in Gujrat. The Afghan parliament has tasked a commission with proposed new electoral reforms, and has referred the heads of the IEC and ECC to the attorney general’s office for prosecution after they failed to appear to answer criticisms of their management of the electoral process. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah are still deadlocked over cabinet appointments. PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah indicated Thursday that discussions have resumed with the government over nominees for the Chief Election Commission, a day after attributing delays to limited government engagement. A spokesman for Prime Minister Sharif backtracked statements attributed to him yesterday that had pledged to vaccinate all Pakistani children for polio within six months, saying no deadline had been set for the initiative.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Kabul: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited Kabul on Thursday, meeting with Pres. Ghani as well as other senior Afghan officials. Details of his discussions are minimal as of this writing. Separately, Pakistani diplomats formally protested the contents of a recent Pentagon report to Congress on progress in Afghanistan, which cited Pakistani support for “proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military.” [ET]
  • Kashmir Tensions: Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected remarks yesterday by Indian defense minister Arun Jaitley, who had argued that Pakistan must make a “conscious choice” between relations with India and with Kashimiri separatist leaders; Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Alam said that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference group were “not separatists, but freedom fighters who are carrying out their movement from an occupied territory,” and that Pakistan would not accept conditions on dialogue with India.
  • FATA Operations: Military officials report that at least twenty militants were killed in fighting in Khyber’s Tirah Valley area on Wednesday; at least four security personnel and members of a local “peace committee” militia were killed in bombing attacks. Dawn notes that Lashkar-e-Islam commander Mangal Bagh’s radio station remains operative and broadcasting threats despite the ongoing operation in the area.
  • Police Officer Kills Man Over Blasphemy Accusation: A man in Gujrat who was accused of blasphemy and taken into protective police custody after being beaten by a crowd was subsequently killed by a police officer at the jail on Thursday. Police sources tell AFP that the man, Tufail Haider, appeared to be “mentally imbalanced” and was verbally abusive against police and the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Officer Faraz Naveed is accused of attacking Haider with an ax early Thursday morning; he has been arrested.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Continue: Government sources tell Dawn that the PTI’s demands for a full investigation into allegations of rigging in the 2013 elections and the resignation of the prime minister and Punjab chief minister are “not being considered seriously” as the protests have waned with the departure of Tahirul Qadri from the country. PAT sources leaders that the party will “fight again” once Qadri returns to the country. Imran Khan reiterated vows to carry on his sit-in to supporters on Wednesday. Khan met with Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq on Wednesday, professing continued partnership between the PTI and JI despite recent public criticisms; Haq urged both the protestors and government to resume dialogue. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Disputes: On Wednesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah laid blame on the government for failing to contact him with nominees for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner, whose position has now been vacant for more than a year. The Supreme Court most recently extended its deadline for filling the position to November 13. On Thursday, Shah indicated that discussions with the government over nominees had resumed, and said he would consult the PTI and other opposition parties. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A spokesman on Thursday pulled back statements attributed to Prime Minister Sharif at a meeting the day prior to review polio vaccination efforts, saying that Sharif had not set a six-month deadline for the elimination of polio, as had been reported. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif Set to Visit Beijing [ET]
  • Pakistan Urges “Serious Steps” for Afghan Refugee Return [APP]
  • PPP Senator Slams Government Privatization of OGDCL [Dawn]
  • No Response from Government at Lahore High Court Hearing Challenging Maryam Nawaz Appointment [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Orders K-Electric to Return Rs 5.4 Billion in Profits to Consumers [Dawn]
  • Despite Power Price Hikes, Inflation Falls to 17-Month Low [ET]
  • Prime Minister Vows to Boost Economy [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan Casualties ‘Unsustainable’: At a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday, the second-ranking American commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, told reporters that 4,634 Afghan security personnel had been killed so far this year, compared to 4,350 casualties in 2013, a rate that he said was “not sustainable in the long term”. Reuters notes that many of these deaths are due to the limited medical care available to Afghan security forces personnel. [WAPO]
  • Civilian Casualties: Paktia provincial police officials report that Taliban insurgents killed ten civilians in the Zurmat district on Wednesday; a Taliban spokesman claimed that the men were local policemen and intelligence operatives. In Jawzjan, a Taliban court executed two men for unspecified crimes on Thursday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NATO Secretary General Visits: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who succeeded former secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in October, made his first visit to Kabul in the new role on Thursday, where he will meet with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as senior NATO and ISAF military officials. At a joint press conference with Ghani, Stoltenberg reaffirmed the end of the NATO combat mission this year and a shift to a training and assistance mission afterwards; Pres. Ghani has formally accepted an invitation to a NATO ministerial meeting scheduled for December 2. [TOLO]
  • Election Complaints: The Wolesi Jirga has tasked its Legal and Judicial Commission with drafting amendments for electoral law reforms, including term limits for electoral administration bodies. The parliament also referred the head of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission to the attorney general’s office for prosecution after they failed to appear to answer complaints about their conduct.
  • Cabinet Appointments: A source close to Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah tells TOLO that he and Pres. Ghani have yet to reach an agreement on key cabinet ministerial appointments; a source in the presidency indicates that Ghani intends to keep to a pledge to finalize appointments within two weeks.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Bank Scandal is ‘Resolved,’ Central Bank Governor Argues [AP]
  • ‘Demolition Derby’ at Bagram as Afghan Exit Quickens [AFP]
  • Ghani Legal Advisor Expresses Concerns Over Illegal Detainee Releases [TOLO]
  • National Directorate of Security Announces Support for Scientific Research Center [TOLO]
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