Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shifts Announced for US-ISAF Training Mission; PTI Activist Killed in Faisalabad Clash

Topline

  • PTI and government officials do not appear to have resumed direct negotiations over the weekend, and low-level skirmishes between activists and government supporters began in Faisalabad ahead of tomorrow’s planned rally to “shut down” the city. Protests turned violent on Monday, with at least one PTI activist killed. A Lahore election tribunal accepted Imran Khan’s demand for a reexamination of the results from the NA-122 constituency, which he lost to Nationa Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Secretary Hagel visited Kabul, where he confirmed that the U.S. would keep an additional thousand soldiers in the country through 2015 in order to offset reduced NATO troop contributions for the ANSF training and support mission; the WSJ reports Pres. Ghani “hinted at” a request for a slower drawdown process. On Monday, ISAF formally concluded combat operations. Pakistani military officials announced Saturday that they had killed Adnan el Shukrijummah, an Al Qaeda external operations leader, in an operation in South Waziristan. There are conflicting accounts as to whether or not Omar Farooq, another senior Al Qaeda official, was killed in a Predator drone strike in North Waziristan on Sunday. Another unconfirmed report suggests that airstrikes in North Waziristan killed commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur and as many as thirty supporters. The U.S. military transferred Latif Mehsud, a former deputy of Hakimullah Mehsud captured in 2013 in the midst of an apparent effort to open talks with the Afghan government, from the Bagram detention center to Pakistani custody on Saturday; officials indicate as few as three third-country nationals are now held at Bagram. The Afghan ministry of finance reports that most government agencies spent less than 10% of their development budgets in 2014, and only ten spent more than 50%.

Pakistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda Leaders Killed: On Saturday, Pakistani military officials announced that Adnan el Shukrijummah, an Al Qaeda external operations leader, was killed in an early morning operation seeking his capture in the Shinwarsak area of South Waziristan. At least two other Al Qaeda militants, and a Pakistani soldier, were killed in the operation. Shukrijumah was wanted by the FBI, and had been charged in 2010 in connection to plot aimed at targeting the New York City subway system. [NYT] [WSJ] [AJE] [BBC] [Dawn]
  • Other Strikes Reported: On Sunday, a Predator drone strike reportedly targeted a house in the Dattakhel region of North Waziristan, which Reuters reports killed Omar Farooq, also known as Ustad Ahmad Farooq, a native of Karachi and senior Al Qaeda leader focused on operations, finances, and media in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The NYT notes conflicting accounts as to whether or not Farooq had been killed, with some Pakistani army sources denying that any drone strike took place. Meanwhile, a Dawn report suggests that as many as thirty militants and seven commanders affiliated with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, including Gul Bahadur himself, were killed in Pakistani airstrikes in the Dattakhel area later on Sunday; no other sources currently confirm the report. Across the border in Kunar, ten Pakistani Taliban fighters, including an unidentified commander, were killed in a U.S. drone strike on Saturday, according to provincial officials.
  • Other FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Peshawar corps headquarters on Saturday, where he received briefings on ongoing military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber. The Express Tribune reports that the army is preparing to begin a ‘phased repatriation’ of families displaced from North Waziristan by the past six months of fighting, but no exact time frame has been announced. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government-PTI Talks: Speaking on Friday, Finance Minister Dar suggested that talks with the PTI could resume Sunday evening with Prime Minister Sharif’s return to the country from abroad. Dar added that military intelligence officials would not be included in a judicial commission, as sought by the PTI, but could be consulted by the commission itself. Imran Khan reiterated Friday that “the only way to end the PTI’s sit-in is a free and fair probe into the election rigging.” However, Khan told reporters on Sunday that “if the proposed judicial commission says no rigging took place — which I don’t believe — even then we won’t go back to the National Assembly and will prepare for the next elections”. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said Sunday that the PTI must call off its planned protest strikes before talks could take place, noting that the government had already written to the Supreme Court requesting a judicial commission. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Activist Killed Ahead of Faisalabad Strike: The Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif will decide on a response to the Faisalabad protest scheduled for December 8 on Monday, but suggests that one contingency plan involves PML-N assembly members leading counterprotests to block the PTI’s entrance into the city. Low level protests were reported between PML-N and PTI supporters near the site of the planned rally on Sunday. Violence escalated on Monday ahead of Imran Khan’s arrival in Faisalabad, with at least one PTI activist killed in clashes between protestors and police. The PTI announced a day of mourning for Tuesday, and accused a bodyguard of former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah’s son-in-law of responsibility for the shooting; government officials denied the report and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid laid blame on the PTI for “inciting violence”. As of this writing, PTI activists have reportedly taken out ad hoc protests in a number of cities, including Lahore, Multan, and Rahim Yar Khan; Khan is reportedly on his way to the city. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: On Saturday, Judge Sardar Muhammad Raza was sworn into office as the new Chief Election Commissioner; the position had been vacant for more than a year and filled in acting capacity by supreme court justices. At a press conference on Sunday, Imran Khan said the PTI had no objection to Raza but reiterated that provincial election commissioners should be replaced. On Saturday, Khan testified before a Lahore election tribunal in connection to challenges to the results from the NA-122 constituency, which he lost to National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Khan demanded a total recount of all ballot bags in the constituency, which was ordered by the tribunal on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-ud Dawa Rallies: The Jamaat-ud-Dawa staged a two-day rally and conference in Lahore, which concluded Friday; leader Hafeez Saeed told participants that “if India can send its troops to Afghanistan, it cannot say that Mujahideen cannot enter Kashmir to win freedom for the oppressed Muslim brothers”, and urged the Islamic State to fight Israel “instead of wasting their energies in Iraq and Syria against their Muslim brothers.” On Monday, Saeed’s Twitter account, part of JuD’s active online presence despite a nominal ban and U.S. terror sanctions, was suspended without explanation from the service.
  • Foreign Relations Roundup: Chinese Minister for Public Security Guo Shengekun met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, President Hussain, Prime Minister Sharif, and other senior officials during a three-day visit to Pakistan; both sides reiterated pledges of partnership. In Washington, the US-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group will begin meetings on Monday, led on the Pakistani side by defense secretary Alam Khattak. President Hussain hosted the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, on Friday, during which he said that Pakistan remain “determined to complete the gas project” linking the two countries. [APP] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: Six new polio cases were confirmed on Saturday, bringing the national total to 276 so far this year. Separately, the Ministry of Interior directed all law enforcement agencies around the country to guarantee security for polio vaccination teams. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cameron Seeks Fair Treatment for British National Held on Blasphemy Charges [BBC] [Dawn]
  • PML-N Leaders Attempt to Mediate Balochistan Coalition Disputes [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • PPP Reportedly Moving to Reign in Bilalwal Bhutto [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Agrees to Consult Bar Associations on Nominees [Dawn] [ET]
  • Kunar and Bajaur Elders Hold Cross-Border Jirga [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Aims to Boost Defense Exports with New JF-17 [AFP]
  • Minister Zahid Hamid Challenges Inclusion in Treason Case Against Musharraf [Dawn]
  • Health Ministry Investigating Report of HIV Contaminated Blood Transfusions for Thalassemia Patients [NYT] [ET] [ET]
  • Balochistan Seeks Larger Share of LNG Import [Dawn]
  • Lahore and Peshawar Electricity Distribution Company Heads Suspended [ET]
  • Islamabad Metro Bus Service Planned for January [Dawn]
  • Chief Minister Orders Expedited Relief Efforts for Tharparkar [ET] [ET]
  • Cabinet Approves $16.46 Million for PIA Aircraft Lease [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Hagel Visits Afghanistan, Confirms Larger U.S. Training Component: Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Afghanistan in a previously unannounced trip on Saturday, where he met with U.S. commanders and with Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other senior Afghan leaders. Speaking at a joint press conference, Hagel confirmed previous press accounts and said that Pres. Obama had authorized U.S. commanders to be more flexible in their force planning for 2015, keeping up to 10,800 troops in country — about a thousand more than previously planned — to offset a shortfall in NATO troop commitments for the international training and assistance mission. Despite the shift, the overall U.S. timeframe for withdrawal remains unchanged; speaking to reporters on Saturday, ISAF Commander Gen. John Campbell suggested that by the end of 2015, regional training commands will close down and “we’re going to go to Kabul-centric” with roughly 5,500 U.S. troops remaining. The WSJ reports that in their meetings on Saturday, Pres. Ghani had “hinted that he would like to see a slower withdrawal”, but stopped short of a formal request. At a ceremony on Monday, the ISAF joint command formally ended combat operations, announcing the transition to a training and support role. [NYT] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Custody Transfer of Pakistani Taliban Figure: U.S. military officials confirmed on Sunday that they had, the day prior, transferred custody of Latif Mehsud, a former deputy commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan during the tenure of Hakumullah Mehsud. Latif Mehsud was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in October 2013 while in the midst of an apparent effort to hold talks with the Afghan government; Pres. Karzai at the time condemned his arrest as “a breach of sovereignty”. U.S. military officials say that the transfer “followed consultations between the U.S. and Pakistan and after receiving appropriate assurances. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan wasn’t involved in this transfer.” Two other Pakistani nationals were also transferred, which anonymous officials tell the WSJ leaves “as few as three” third country national detainees left at the Bagram detention center still under American control; the remaining detainees are expected to be transferred before the end of the year. [BBC] [AP] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Attacks: A police convoy was attacked in Jowzjan’s Aqcha district on Friday, killing three officers and wounding four. At least four people were killed and a dozen injured in a hand grenade attack on a wedding party in Balkh’s Chamtal district on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Five policemen were killed in an attack on an outpost in the Marjah district of Helmand on Sunday. Four civilians and two policemen were killed in a suicide bombing attack on the police headquarters in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Monday. Three people were killed in an attack on an education director in Herat’s Shindand district on Monday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Bank Investigations: A spokesman for the attorney general’s office reported on Sunday that Gulbahar Habibi, Muhammad Haseen Fahim, Mahmood Karzai and Abdul Ghafar Dawi have entered into negotiations with auditors to reconcile outstanding loans from Kabul Bank. The assets of eight individuals and ten companies have been frozen in connection to court orders, the attorney general’s office says; TOLO’s report does not clarify whether that list includes the four men now said to be in talks. Attorney General Muhammad Ishaq Aloko currently remains in office as acting attorney general, after confusion regarding the implementation of Pres. Ghani’s order last week removing all acting ministers and replacing them with deputies continuing in an acting capacity; accounts conflict as to whether or not Aloko was intended to be included in that list. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • German Assistance Pledge: On Friday, the German parliament pledged to provide Afghanistan with 430 million euros ($529 million) in annual development assistance through 2016 and to keep 850 German soldiers in Afghanistan throughout 2015. Speaking at a joint news conference with Pres. Ghani, Chancellor Merkel said that “Germany has a responsibility, especially for security in northern Afghanistan…. However, we have always taken an approach that sees economic development, the development of the school system, the dual education approach and many other areas as being just as important as the training of the security forces, the police force, but also of an independent Afghan army.” Separately, the European Union and Union Nations have proposed the creation of a road and rail network linking Afghanistan to Europe; the EU has also waived all customs fees for Afghan commercial exports to Europe. [Khaama Press]
  • Budget Execution: Only ten government offices spent more than 50% of their development budget (which primarily includes non-salary and operations and maintenance expenditures) over the past year, and most spent less than 10%, the Ministry of Finance reports; TOLO details the list.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • In Kabul’s ‘Valley of Death’, Hints of Afghanistan’s Security Woes [WAPO]
  • Afghan Students Find Inspiration in Islamic State’s Success [Reuters]
  • Gallup Survey Suggests Afghanistan Ranks Highest in Measure of ‘Suffering’ [Gallup]
  • Commentary: The Making of a Narco-State – “If you understand the Afghan government as a narco state, then the fact that opium production has actually increased –while the U.S. spent billions on counternarcotics efforts and troop numbers surged – starts to make sense.” [Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone]
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