Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: DOD Reportedly Planning Deployment of 4000 US Troops; Govt Agencies Deny Interference in JIT

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Topline

  • The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to announce the deployment of around 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to join the advisory missions there, potentially as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman said that no decision had been made, however.
  • A suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening, killing as many as six people; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, the government agencies accused of interfering in the Joint Investigation Team’s investigation into the Panama Papers denied those accusations. A two-member JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani in connection to the Sharif family’s purchase of London real estate.
  • The NDS announced the findings of its investigation into the January attack on the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse, which killed the UAE ambassador and wounded the governor; the report blames the guesthouse chef for carrying out the attack on the Taliban, and suggests the ambassador was deliberately targeted. The Taliban issued a statement on Friday denying any involvement in the attack.
  • Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater Sino-Pakistani military-to-military cooperation during a visit by Joint Chiefs Chairman Zubair Mahmood Hayat.
  • Pakistan’s attorney general told reporters on Thursday that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian petition to delay proceedings in the case of Kulbhushan Jhadav until December.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chinese Military Cooperation: During a meeting with visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater military-to-military cooperation between China and Pakistan.
  • Peshawar Police Killed: Three police officers were killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar on Thursday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]
  • Social Media Crackdown: The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested two sons of the head of the PPP’s Sialkot chapter on charges of distributing “hate content” on social media, The Nation reports.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Speaking after his appearance before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif insisted that he had “accounted for every penny”, adding that “these conspiracies and spectacles have cost this country a lot. It’s time for the truth to be upheld.” Imran Khan dismissed Sharif’s appearance before the JIT, saying he had not provided any new exculpatory evidence. The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and federal minister of state for information Marriyum Aurangezb both touted Sharif’s appearance as having “set an example for all institutions” by cooperating with the investigation. In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, attorney general Ashtar Ausaf Ali said that all departments accused by the JIT of interfering in the investigation had “vehemently denied” those accusations. A two-person JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani regarding his previous letters documenting financial ties to the Sharif family. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pakistan’s attorney general Ashtar Ausuf Ali said that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian request to delay hearings in the case of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav until December. Speaking at a ceremony in Beijing on Thursday welcoming India and Pakistan as members in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou said he believed “both the countries will abide by the charter of the organisation” and avoid tensions. [The Nation]
  • Asset Report: The Election Commission released its report of parliamentarian asset declarations for 2016; both Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan, who are the assembly’s two richest members, reported declines in their assets.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Rangers Disrupt ‘Major Terrorist Activity’ in DG Khan [ET]
  • 12 Karachi Central Jail Staffers Arrested After LeJ Jailbreak [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committee on National Security Warns Against Taking Sides in Gulf Conflict [The Nation]
  • Peshawar High Court Seeks Replies on Transfer of Mashal Khan Case [ET]
  • Judge Behind Axact Officials’ Acquittal Faces Inquiry [Dawn]
  • International Monitoring Board Praises Pakistani Polio Efforts [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Foreign Currency Reserves Drop to $15.3 Billion [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pentagon Reportedly Planning to Send 4000 US Troops: The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to send roughly 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, with an announcement potentially to be made as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman tells Reuters, however, that “no decisions have been made”. Decision-making authority was transferred from the White House to the Pentagon earlier this week. Previous reports have indicated that DOD proposals have been considering between 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops to supplement the training and assistance mission. Testifying before the House Defense Appropriations committee on Thursday, Sec. Mattis said that “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy” and that “our job is to end [the war] as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.” Speaking after a briefing session with Vice President Pence and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Senators McCain and Graham praised the administration’s as yet-unannounced broader strategy. [Bloomberg]
  • Kabul Mosque Attacked: As many as six people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on Shia ceremonies at the al-Zahra mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening; the attack coincided with the 21st day of Ramadan, an important holiday for Shia to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali. A prominent local businessman was among the dead, as well as at least one policeman. The Islamic State claimed responsibility through its Amaq News outlet; Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and others have condemned the attack. [Khaama Press] [WSJ] [Guardian] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Investigation into Kandahar Governors Compound Attack: On Thursday, the National Directorate of Security announced the findings of its investigation into the bombing at a Kandahar guesthouse, which wounded the governor and killed the UAE ambassador, among others. NDS officials laid blame on Sayed Mahboob Agha, the chef at the guesthouse, for carrying out the attack on behalf of the Taliban, and said that the ambassador had been deliberately targeted in the blast. NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai said that Afghanistan had demanded that Pakistan hand over three suspects believed to have organized the attack from Quetta. In a statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected the report, saying they had no role in the attack. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Nangarhar NDS chief Gen. Abdul Saboor Sabit accused “Pakistani militias” of fighting alongside the Islamic State in the province, calling on local residents to defend the districts from encroachment. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Dereliction of Duty in Afghanistan – “Trump turning over the highest duty of his office – to protect the American people and determine matters of war and peace – to the military will only further hamper U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.” [Michael Fuchs and Hardin Lang, US News and World Report]
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