Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Kerry Holds Talks in Islamabad; District Governor and Police Chief Killed in Nawzad

Topline

  • Sec. Kerry met with Pakistani civilian and military leaders in Islamabad on Monday and Tuesday, praising Pakistani military efforts in the FATA area but noting the need for continued action against a broad range of militant groups that pose a threat to both Pakistan and its neighbors. A police officer in Helmand’s Nawzad district killed the district governor and district police chief in a shooting incident on Monday. There is additional biographical reporting on the new Afghan cabinet nominees, who are expected to face confirmation hearings beginning next week. Imran Khan has warned again of fresh protests if the government does not meet his demands for an independent judicial commission investigation into election rigging charges. Pres. Ghani has departed for a two-day state visit to the UAE.

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Attack Aftermath: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif attended the reopening of the Army Public School in Peshawar on Monday, which took place under heavy security. General Sharif did not make a public speech but “individually met the parents and assured them they would eliminate the terrorists from the country”, according to Reuters. Military sources tell the Express Tribune that General Sharif’s “policy is of no tolerance and only those outfits will be allowed to survive that totally abandon militancy and do not resist the state’s push in cleaning the country from the menace of terrorism”. During a meeting on Tuesday, the government has extended the scope of new military courts to include the Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir regions. Meanwhile, seven death row prisoners were executed on Tuesday across four prisons; the Lahore High Court acquitted one prisoner on appeal. [GEO] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kerry Meets Pakistani Leaders: Sec. Kerry met with Prime Minister Sharif on Monday and Chief of Army Staff Sharif on Tuesday during his visit to Islamabad. Speaking at a press conference with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday, Kerry said that Pakistani military operations “have disrupted militant activities in the tribal areas and resulted in important seizures of weapons… Pakistani soldiers and their commanders deserve enormous credit”. Kerry also warned that “terror groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, to its neighbours and to the United States… all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these groups do not gain a foothold”. State Department officials say they received multiple assurances from their Pakistani counterparts that “they won’t differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban… We’ll have to see what develops.” U.S. and Pakistani officials reportedly reached agreement on cooperation to combat terrorist financing and IED precursor materials, although details of staff-level talks are limited; at the press conference, Kerry also announced that the U.S. would provide $250 million in assistance for displaced Waziristan residents. At the press conference, Aziz also expressed hope that the U.S. would “prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity”, which Kerry indicated the U.S. would do “whatever it can to try to help”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [WAPO]
  • PTI Protests: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Imran Khan said that the PTI would “take to the streets” if an impartial judicial commission was not established to investigate charges of election rigging; the party currently plans a rally on Jan 18, during which Khan said he would announce “my future course of action”. The audit report of the NA-122 constituency, which Khan lost to National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, reportedly found roughly 23,000 unsigned or unstamped ballots and 3,600 invalid ones; Khan has trumpeted the report as a vindication of his charges of rigging and has demanded Sadiq’s resignation. The JUI-F, meanwhile, has announced plans to disbar Khan from national assembly membership, as he has failed to attend 41 consecutive assembly sessions. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chinese President May Visit Next Month [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Cleric Leads Rally in Support of Charlie Hebdo Attackers [AFP]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Report on Missing Persons [Dawn]
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves Top $15 Billion [ET]
  • Remittances Rise 15.26% in First Half of FY2015, to $8.96 Billion [ET]
  • National Economic Council Approves New Gwadar Airport [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Insider Attack: A police officer in Helmand’s Nawzad district opened fire during a meeting on Monday, killing the district police chief and the district governor; the attacker was himself killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO]
  • Kabul Bombing: At least two people have been killed and two others injured in a remote-controlled bombing in Kabul on Tuesday; the target appears to have been National Directorate of Security officers, who are reportedly among the injured. Other accounts indicate that all of the casualties are civilian, however. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • ISIS Recruitment: The AP and BBC confirmed a WSJ report yesterday that Mullah Abdul Rauf, a former senior Taliban commander and Guantanamo detainee, has switched allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and is now attempting to recruit supporters in southern Helmand. As many as twenty people are reported to have been killed in clashes between Rauf’s faction and the Taliban.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Formation: Additional reporting on yesterday’s announcement of cabinet minister nominations provides additional biographical information on some of the nominees. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani attributed the delay to the need to balance the concerns of both camps within the national unity government. US and NATO officials welcomed the nominations. Members of parliament tell TOLO that they will not confirm nominees with histories of corruption or those holding dual national citizenships; a vote is expected within the coming week. [WAPO]
  • Ghani Visits UAE: Pres. Ghani departed for a two-day state visit to the UAE on Monday, during which he is scheduled meet with the emirs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Emirati business community, and the Afghan expatriate community.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament Passes Resolution Supporting ANSF [TOLO]
  • Bagram Ex-Detainees Still Bear Scars [BBC]
  • Indian Ambassador Estimates Bilateral Trade at $600 Million [TOLO]
  • Interview: Karzai Discusses Outreach to Taliban, Relations with US [WSJ]
  • Commentary: New Faces vs Old Structures: Afghanistan’s National Unity Cabinet – “Generally, though, this is a young and fairly inexperienced cabinet – not many have a history in government or of running big organisations. Whether that will be a weakness or a breath of fresh air remains to be seen.” [Afghan Analysts Network]
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