- Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry announced that it had arrested a dozen Pakistani nationals in connection to the multiple suicide bombing attacks around the country at the start of the week, but has provided no details on their identities or how they might be linked. The NATO heads of state summit opens in Warsaw on Friday; ahead of the summit, Australia extended its training mission through mid-2017, and affirmed its commitment to provide $100 million annually through 2020 for the Afghan national security forces. In remarks to reporters on Thursday, U.S. Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel suggested that Pres. Obama’s order to drawn down roughly 1,100 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by January 2017 would not significantly impact ongoing missions, saying that those reductions would be achieved through “moving some capabilities out that can be conducted over the horizon”. Prime Minister Sharif and his entourage will return from London on a PIA charter flight, but officials have still yet to confirm the date of his arrival. The news is otherwise limited as Pakistan and Afghanistan celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.
Pakistan — Security
- Saudi Arabia Arrests Twelve Pakistanis in Connection to Bombing: The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry announced on Thursday that it had arrested a dozen Pakistani nationals as well as seven Saudis in connection to three bombings carried out across the country on Monday; a suicide bomber who attack the U.S. consulate in Jeddah was previously identified as a Pakistani expat living in the country, but the statement did not clarify how those arrested were linked to that attack or the two others, at least one of which was carried out by a Saudi bomber. No claim of responsibility has been made as of yet for the attacks. [AFP]
- Germany Arrests Pakistani Man Accused of Spying for Iran: German officials announced on Thursday that they had arrested a Pakistani man, identified only by his first name according to legal privacy rules, charging him with spying on the former head of the German-Israeli Society for Iranian intelligence.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Prime Minister to Return: A spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines confirmed on Friday that it would fly a dedicated charter flight carrying Prime Minister Sharif and his aides back from London; the statement did not specify the date of his return, although other reports have indicated he may depart tomorrow. [ET]
- Tensions with Afghanistan: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that “we expect that as we intensify our efforts to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan, they will also capitalise on the dividends of these counter-terrorism operations to facilitate this process”, adding that “terrorism could only be defeated with unity and cooperation of the international community”.
Afghanistan — Security
- NATO Warsaw Summit Opens: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah and other top aides arrived in Warsaw on Friday to attend a NATO heads of statement summit, during which the alliance is expected to reaffirm its support for the continued support of the Afghan national security forces. Ahead of the summit, Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull announced that it would extend its military mission in Afghanistan through mid-2017 and continue to contribute $100 million annually for the ANSF through 2020, for a total assistance contribution of $500 million annually. Around 270 Australian trainers are currently based in Kabul, supporting the Afghan National Army officer academy. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
- US Troop Contribution: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel said that Pres. Obama’s directive to reduce current force levels in Afghanistan by roughly 1,100 troops by the end of his tenure would not “impact the principal missions that we are doing, particularly with respect to the Afghan security forces.” He said that U.S. forces would “achieve those reductions by moving some capabilities out that can be conducted over the horizon – that don’t necessarily need to be done in Afghanistan – to support the force”, without providing future details. The Post notes support for the troop extension decision amongst former diplomats, military officials, and analysts, who see it as a necessary signal of support for the Afghan government.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Government Divisions: In remarks on Thursday, Pres. Ghani warned that “anyone that wants to create disunity among [the Afghan nation] will be isolated,” saying that “being in opposition to the government, does not mean uprooting an administration or government system.” Ghani reportedly met with former mujahadeen leader Abdul Sayyaf, although no details of that meeting have been reported. TOLO quotes former Interior Minister Umar Daudzai and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor criticizing the national unity government.