- Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar visited the Sindh Rangers headquarters on Friday, where he praised the force as the “backbone” of counterterrorism operations in the city. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top military and civilian officials on Friday to review internal security and relations with Afghanistan. The WSJ reports that Afghan security forces are facing high levels of desertion, and suffered at least 7,200 fatalities as of November this year. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made an unannounced visit to Nangarhar on Friday, where he will meet with U.S. commanders and the acting Afghan defense minister. Veteran mujahadeen leader Abdul Rasool Sayyaf announced the formation of a new “Afghanistan Protection and Stability Council” on Friday, and called on the government form a constitutional Loya Jirga. As much as 24% of injectable polio vaccines provided to the Punjab vaccination program have been wasted, investigations by the vaccine provider found. Seema Joyenda, one of Afghanistan’s two female provincial governors, was removed and reassigned as deputy Kabul provincial governor on Thursday; she refused to accept the new position. Afghanistan received approval to joint the World Trade Organization on Thursday.
Pakistan — Security
- Security Review: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting on Friday of senior military and civilian officials to review Afghanistan relations and Pakistan’s internal security; details are limited as of this writing. Speaking in the national assembly on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan defended his ministry’s implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism against opposition party criticism. On Friday, the Interior Ministry informed the senate that 61 organizations were banned in Pakistan, and that Jamaat-ud-Dawa was “under observation”. [Dawn]
- FATA Attacks and Operations: Pakistani Air Force jets carried out airstrikes in the Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley area on Thursday, killing at least six militant suspects. Lashkar-e-Islam commander Mangal Bagh is reported to have established an illegal radio broadcast from Nangarhar province’s Nazyan district, across the border from Khyber, from which he has threatened local tribal leaders and denounced the Pakistani military.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Rangers’ Powers: Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar visited the Sindh Rangers’ headquarters on Friday, where he praised the paramilitary force as the “backbone” of operations against terrorism in the city. His remarks follow the Sindh assembly’s passage earlier this week of a resolution restricting some of the Rangers’ powers of arrest and investigation. A small demonstration was held outside the assembly on Thursday by traders opposing limitations on the Rangers’ authority. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah said that the federal government “should not interfere in provincial matters”, criticizing the lack of a comparable response in other provinces. Sindh Governor Ishrat ul Ibad insisted that the Rangers operation would continue and that their powers had not been curtailed during meetings with local clerical leaders on Thursday. In an interview on Thursday, Waseem Akhtar, the MQM mayoral candidate for Karachi, said that he would ” side with democratic institutions if the situation turned to one where democracy was endangered”. On Friday, the Sindh High Court rejected a Rangers appeal against the dismissal of police charges against senior PPP leader Asim Hussain. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Talks with India: Speaking on Thursday, national security advisor Lt. Gen. Naseer Janjua said that his meeting earlier this month with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval was a “good beginning” and that “we understand that we have to move forward”. The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are due to meet next month. [Dawn]
- Elections and Other Political Activitiy: By-elections were held on Thursday for over 100 seats from the first and second phase of local elections in Sindh, where preliminary results suggest the PPP continued to win most rural seats and the MQM a few additional urban races in Hyderabad. Elections were postponed in Sanghar and Badin; the killing of a local schoolteacher sparked riots in the latter district on Thursday, although initial reporting is not clear on whether the violence was connected to the polls. [APP] [Dawn]
- Musharraf Treason Case: On Thursday, the Federal Investigation Agency delivered a progress report on its reinvestigation of the Musharraf treason case, seeking an additional 30 days to conduct interviews and secure access to records from the 2007 emergency rule decision. Hearings have been postponed until January 13. [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Polio Crisis: A recent investigation found that as much as 24% of the injectable polio vaccine provided to the Punjab Expanded Program on Immunization by the global vaccination alliance Gavi has been wasted due to mishandling or misuse, and that it was not being limited to high-risk cases as intended.
- Energy Crisis: During regulatory hearings on Thursday, the Islamabad Electric Supply Company reported that it and other power distribution companies had paid Rs 52 billion in advance payments to independent power producers after coming under government pressure to reduce the total circular debt within the system, in order to meet IMF benchmarks.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Special Representative Olson Testifies Before House Foreign Affairs Committee [Dawn] [TOLO]
- Six Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Suspects Arrested in Lahore [Dawn]
- Cell Services Temporarily Suspended Again in Islamabad [Dawn] [ET]
- Senators Charge Unequal Water Distribution Amongst Provinces [Dawn]
- JUI-I Leads Protest Against Quetta Gas Shortage [Dawn]
- Nearly 7000 Acres of Forest Department Land Reclaimed from Punjab Deputy Speaker [ET]
- Senate Finance Committee Probing Heavy Electrical Complex Privatization [ET]
- Over 1.6 Million Children Out of School in Balochistan [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Desertions and Force Retention: The WSJ reports that Afghan security forces, under increasing pressure from Taliban offensives, have been deserting in increasing numbers, drawing U.S. and other international forces back into the conflict in order to back up faltering units in Helmand and elsewhere. As of mid-November, at least 7,200 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed in fighting so far this year. Defense ministry officials refused to provide current force size numbers, and the report does not provide specific desertion level estimates. The NYT notes recent the desertion by two Afghan Air Force trainees in Georgia; they are still being sought.
- Defense Secretary Visits: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday, his second since he took office in February; he landed in Nangarhar, where he will meet with senior U.S. commanders and the acting Afghan defense minister. [AP] [NYT]
- Taliban-Daesh Clashes: The BBC profiles a Taliban “special task force” of roughly 1,000 fighters that is being equipped and trained to combat Islamic State-affiliated rivals in Nangarhar, Zabul, and other provinces where they are present.
- Other Attacks and Operations: Kunduz security and provincial officials tell TOLO that the Taliban “are no longer safe” in the province after the resumption of night raids and airstrikes targeting insurgents. On Friday, Helmand security officials report retaking control of the Kanshin district.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Sayyaf Inaugurates Opposition Group: Veteran mujahadeen leader Abdul Rasool Sayyaf announced the formation of a new “Afghanistan Protection and Stability Council” on Friday; the group’s exact degree of overlap with a previously-created “Council of Jihadi Leaders and Political Parties” in early October is unclear from current reporting, although membership is reported to include former vice president Yunis Qanooni, Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, and former interior minister Mohammad Umer Daudzai. Sayyaf said that the group was “not an anti-government body” but was seeking “fundamental reforms to the way government operates”, and called on the government to organize a constitutional Loya Jirga. Sayyaf also denounced the Taliban and the Islamic State, and said the government should rely on former mujahadeen commanders to counter the insurgency.
- Ghor Governor Replaced: Ghor provincial governor Seema Joyenda, one of Afghanistan’s two female governors, was removed from that position and reappointed to the position of deputy provincial governor of Kabul on Thursday. Joyenda, whose appointment was opposed by local political leaders, told Pajhwok that she would not accept the new position, and attributed her removal to her anti-corruption efforts, which had included actions against the deputy governor, head of the provincial revenue department, and police procurement chief, among others.
Afghanistan — Economics and Development
- Afghanistan Joins WTO: Afghanistan secured formal approval on Thursday to join the World Trade Organization, provided it ratifies an agreement to do so by June 30. The U.S. State Department welcomed the move as a “major step forward for the Afghan government’s efforts to unlock the potential of the Afghan economy.” [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Ghani Takes Heat for Seeking Pakistan’s Help [WAPO]
- Election Commission Selection Committee Holds First Session [TOLO]
- Central Asia Fears Afghan ‘Contagion’ [WSJ]
- Bergdahl to Be Arraigned Tuesday [AP] [WAPO]
- India to Complete Work on New Afghan Parliament Building by Year’s End [Khaama Press]
- Report: The Plunderers of Hope? Political Economy of Five Major Mines in Afghanistan – “Afghanistan’s mineral resources are seen as a sector with the potential to generate large revenues for the state over the next few decades and thus help finance state functions and development of the country. However, the growing clout of politically connected individuals may lead to use of these resources for personal enrichment, carrying the risk of derailing the development process.” [Integrity Watch Afghanistan (pdf)]
- Report: We Blew $17 Billion in Afghanistan. How Would You Have Spent It? – “The U.S. government has wasted billions of dollars in Afghanistan, and until now, no one has added it all up. Project after project blundered ahead ignoring history, culture and warnings of failure.” [ProPublica]