Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: China Proposes ‘Peace and Reconciliation Forum’; Opium Cultivation Peaks Again

Topline

  • China has reportedly recommended the creation of a “peace and reconciliation forum” including representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban. Opium cultivation reached a new record level in Afghanistan, the latest annual UN survey reports. Prime Minister Sharif continues his travels, arriving in London today for an energy investment conference after meetings with German Chancellor Merkel yesterday. A Predator drone strike in North Waziristan killed as many as six militant suspects; Pakistani military forces continue airstrikes in Khyber Agency. Afghan Interior Minister Umer Daudzai confirmed that Afghan security forces have resumed the use of “night raids” targeting Taliban militants. International donors have pledged $700 million to support relief efforts for internally displaced persons and flood affectees in Pakistan; the government had sought $2 billion.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strike: A Predator drone strike in North Waziristan on Tuesday struck in the Datta Khel area, killing as many as six militant suspects. No details have been disclosed about the targets, although Dawn sources suggest a “key figure” may have been among the dead. The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the strike, demanding a “cessation of such strikes in future”. [Reuters]
  • FATA Operations: Pakistani military officials say they killed more than thirty militant suspects in airstrikes carried out in the Khyber Agency on Tuesday and Wednesday; military spokesmen suggest that the strikes were targeting terrorists linked to the suicide attack on the Wagah border crossing earlier this month.
  • Corps Commanders Meet: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with ISI Director Rizwan Akhtar on Tuesday at ISI headquarters, where he reportedly received a detailed briefing about the “internal and external security situation”. The meeting follows Akhtar’s visit to Kabul earlier this week and General Sharif’s departure this Saturday for meetings in the United States. General Sharif chaired a meeting of army Corps Commanders on Wednesday, reviewing the details of his own recent visit to Kabul and the state of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister’s Travels: Speaking at a joint news conference on Tuesday, German Chancellor Merkel suggested that Germany would aim to “intensify” its investments in Pakistan’s energy sector “as long as the conditions are right,” acknowledging security concerns. Prime Minister Sharif pledged to “overcome terrorism at all costs”. Sharif traveled on to London on Wednesday, where he will lead a Pakistan-UK Energy Dialogue and Investment Conference. In Islamabad, Imran Khan accused Sharif of traveling “for personal gains” and dismissed his efforts to garner investment.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Donor Pledges: A conference of bilateral and multilateral donors pledged roughly $700 million on Tuesday in support of internally displaced persons and those affected by flooding earlier this fall. The government had sought as much as $2 billion; most of the money pledge was reported to have been diverted from other previous funds.
  • OGDCL Sale: Reuters reports that Pakistani officials reversed plans to sell off a stake of the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd last week after receiving signals from IMF officials that the release of the fourth and fifth tranches of the Extended Fund Facility loan program would not be made contingent on its sale, “as long as the overall privatization process remained on track”. Privatization Commission chairman denies any IMF role in the process.
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was reported in the Sindh district of Badin on Tuesday, the 24th so far in the province. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 61 Missing Persons Cases Disposed of in October [ET] [Dawn]
  • Wagah Trade Remains Stalled After Attack [Dawn]
  • PMl-N Denies Plans to Challenge PTI Government in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
  • Lahore High Court Urges Government to Remove Maryam Nawaz from Youth Loan Program [Dawn]
  • Police Constables Killed Outside Rawalpindi Imambargah [ET]
  • Son of Former Punjab Governor Arrested in Lahore [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistani Activist Liaquat Ali Hazara Faces UK Deportation [BBC]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Night Raids Resume: Interior Minister Mohammad Umer Daudzai met with a group of military experts and civil society activists on Tuesday, during which he confirmed that Afghan security forces had resumed the practice of “night raids” backed by international military forces, targeting Taliban militants.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • China Pushes for Afghan Peace Talks: During the recent ‘Istanbul Process’ meetings in Beijing, Chinese officials have reportedly proposed the creation of a “peace and reconciliation forum” bringing together representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the Taliban. An anonymous Afghan government official tells Reuters that the move shows a “very positive attitude” from China to engage in resolving the conflict, and express optimism that it will be able to compel action by Pakistan; Pres. Ghani is reportedly seeking more time to confirm whether Pakistan and the Taliban would be willing to join in the forum. Ghani is expected to visit Pakistan later this week; Afghan senators urged him to press Pakistan on the issue of cross-border artillery fire along the eastern border.
  • Kabul Bank Arrests: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior announced that Afghan police had arrested five individuals in connection to unpaid Kabul Bank debts; they were identified as Atiqullah and Mohibullah, president and vice president of the Sediqyar company, respectively; Abdul Majid, a current employee of New Kabul Bank and president of Sayer Massoud Ltd; Haji Mahmood, a shopkeer, and another Mohibullah, said to be unemployed. No further details on the loans they are alleged to have taken from the bank have been disclosed.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Opium Cultivation Peaks: The annual UN Office of Drugs and Crime report on Afghan opium cultivation found that the opium harvest increased roughly 17% from 2013, and cultivation acreage expanded to around 224,000 hectares, a 7% increase. Afghan officials attributed the increase in part to a drop in crop eradication efforts and a need by politicians for campaign funds during the long election process. Cultivation remains concentrated in southern provinces but is reported to have expanded in areas such as Badakshan and Nangarhar. The drug trade as a whole is roughly equivalent to 20% of Afghanistan’s licit gross domestic product, and is believed to indirectly employ more than 410,000 people. [AFP] [Guardian] [UNODC Report (pdf)]
  • Fiscal Crisis: The Ministry of Finance reported Tuesday that USAID had offered $75 million to help pay civil servant salaries, and may provide an additional $25-50 million; the ministry had previously sought $537 million from donors to offset a budget shortfall.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • At Afghan Border, Graft is Part of the Bargain [NYT]
  • Marine Pullout from Helmand Base Leaves Behind Stripped-Down Facility for Afghan Forces [WAPO]
  • Two Pakistani Nationals Missing in Herat [Khaama Press]
  • Two Civilians Killed by Inert Mortar Shell at Shindand Scrap Market [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • French National Held in Faryab Prison Stabbed [Khaama Press]
  • IEC Chairman Hits Back at Parliament Criticism [TOLO]
  • Taliban Militants Close Schools in Nangarhar District [Khaama Press]
  • Young Afghans Go Online in Search of Friendship and Love [Reuters]
  • Commentary: Are Ethnic Politics Afghanistan’s Great Hope? – “The system of checks and balances provided by ethnic politics is a good thing — the Afghan insurgency is bad enough, without piling on additional layers of civil war.” [Sean Mann, South Asia Channel]
  • Interview: General John Campbell on Afghanistan’s Way Forward – “As we continue to transition and retrograde some of our resources out of here, if we’re making some of those purely based on time, and the conditions on the ground are not set for that, then I owe that to the chain of command to raise that.” [NPR]
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