Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests Continue in Parachinar; NATO to Increase Afghan Troop Contributions

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  • Protests continue in Parachinar after last week’s double bombing targeting members of the town’s Shia population; Prime Minister Sharif, who has not visited the area, announced a compensation package on Thursday, but demonstrators rejected that as insufficient. Pakistan’s military warned against a “malicious campaign” to “fragment us along sectarian/ethnic lines”.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Thursday that at least 15 alliance members had agreed to send additional troops to Afghanistan to support the training mission there; he did not specify numbers, although the UK Defense Secretary said that Britain would send an additional 100 troops. Anonymous NATO officials complain to Reuters about the lack of a clear policy direction from the United States.
  • The Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case resumed hearings on Thursday, interviewing the former head of the National Accountability Bureau on investigations against the Sharif family dating back to 1999.
  • The NYT notes attacks by an Islamic State affiliate group in Jawzjan, led by two former Taliban commanders – one of whom reconciled with the government last year but later broke from it, accusing Vice Pres. Dostum of reneging on their agreement.
  • A spokesman for Junbesh-e-Milli said that Vice Pres. Dostum, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Atta Mohammad Noor, and Harakat-e-Islami party leader Mohammad Mohaqiq had reached a cooperation agreement among their parties during meetings in Turkey earlier this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Parachinar Protests Continue: In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistan’s military spokesman warned against a “malicious campaign by hostile intelligence agencies and anti-state elements” in the wake of last week’s double suicide bombing in Parachinar aimed at “fragment[ing] us along sectarian/ethnic lines”. Protests continued in the town for the seventh straight day on Thursday, and were attended on Wednesday by the national leadership of the Shia Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimin party; a variety of different opposition parties are taking part in the protests. Prime Minister Sharif, whose absence from the area since the attack was criticized by PTI chief Imran Khan on Wednesday, announced a Rs 1 million per victim compensation fund on Thursday; tribal elders rejected that as insufficient. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Local police in the Kotli district in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported Wednesday that one person had been killed and three wounded in cross-border fire by Indian forces; Pakistan formally protested in the incident on Thursday. In remarks on Wednesday, Imran Khan denounced the joint meeting between Pres. Trump and Prime Minister Modi earlier this week, saying that their joint statement had “removed fig leaf of morality and justice in US foreign policy which is now only based on arms sales and financial gains”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: On Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case heard testimony from former National Accountability Bureau chief Amjad Naqvi regarding the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case he led against Finance Minister Dar in 1999-2000. The Federal Investigation Agency has also resumed investigations into allegations that the Securities and Exchange Commission is withholding or tampering with records sought by the JIT. Speaking on Wednesday, Imran Khan reiterated warnings that the PTI would lead mass protests if the government interfered in the JIT’s investigations, adding that “national sovereignty will be harmed if [Prime Minister Sharif] survives”. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Following his resignation from the PPP and switch to join the PTI, Senator Babar Awan submitted his resignation from the Senate on Thursday. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senior Journalist Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Assembly Member Jamshed Dasti Alleges Starvation and Abuse by Police [Dawn]
  • Demonstrators Block Construction of Hazara Expressway [ET]
  • World Bank Estimates ‘Tax Gap’ of Rs 3.2 Trillion [ET]
  • Commentary: There is No Other Way with Pakistan – “Whether one follows the advice of Hadley and Yusuf or Fair, the United States is in no position to influence Pakistan’s security policies in a meaningful way.” [Hussain Nadim, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Agrees to Force Increase: Speaking at the outset of Thursday’s meeting of NATO defense ministers, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that 15 nations had pledged to increase their troop contributions for the advisory and assistance mission in Afghanistan; he did not specify numbers but said that NATO military commanders had sought “a few thousand more troops”. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that the UK would send an additional 100 soldiers; there are currently roughly 13,500 NATO forces in country, of which around half are American. Anonymous NATO diplomats tell Reuters that “we need clarity from the United States” on its strategy in Afghanistan, noting repeated delays in the announcement of a strategy by the Trump administration. Sec. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. had not finalized decisions on a troop increase; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford met with Pres. Ghani on Wednesday. In a meeting with Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi on Tuesday, the Iranian parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, expressed concern over the NATO presence in Afghanistan. [Stars and Stripes] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Provincial officials in Jawzjan accuse members of a local Islamic State affiliate of destroying a clinic in the Darzab district, where ISIS fighters took control of the district center but were later repelled by government forces last week; 15 patients reportedly died while being evacuated from the medical facility. The NYT notes that the leaders of local affiliate are two former Taliban commanders, one of whom had agreed to join the government last year before accusing Vice President Dostum of reneging on their agreement. Elsewhere, Taliban and ISIS forces reportedly clashed in the Wanat Waigal district of Nuristan province on Tuesday, leaving at least one ISIS fighter dead. A roadside bombing in the Farah provincial capital on Wednesday killed two police officers and wounded another two; two policewomen were killed in an attack in Badakhshan on Wednesday, and two other policemen killed in an attack on their checkpost in Zabul.
  • More Visas Approved: The Senate Armed Services Committee’s final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018, approved by the committee in a vote on Wednesday, includes a provision for the issuance of 4,000 additional Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who worked with U.S. forces as interpreters or support staff; the measure must still be reconciled through conference with the House. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Leaders Meet: A spokesman for the Junbesh-e-Milli party tells Khaama Press that Vice President Dostum, Jamiat leader Atta Mohammad Noor, and Harakat-e-Islami party leader Mohammad Mohaqiq reached an agreement on “unity among the political figures, movements, and parties”, but insisted they were not seeking the collapse of the national unity government. TOLO reports that acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani departed for Turkey on Wednesday, but has not yet met with Dostum.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Continues Removal of Concrete Barriers [TOLO]
  • Central Statistics Organization Reports 3% GDP Growth, 2% Population Growth [TOLO]
  • Report: Ideology in the Afghan Taliban – “While the movement once typified a ‘traditionalist’ Islam – that is, it sought to articulate and defend a particular conception of Islam found in the southern Pashtun village – it is now, during its insurgency phase, closer to the form of political Islam espoused in the Arab world. This does not mean that the Taleban are less conservative or less authoritarian, but rather that the objects of their repression, and the way they frame their mission, have shifted in important ways.” [Anand Gopal and Alexander Strick van Linschoten, AAN (pdf)]

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