Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Diplomats Meet in Islamabad; Two Killed After Firing on NATO Helicopters in Kabul

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Topline

  • Senior Pakistani diplomats are meeting for a conference in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss the response to the new U.S. regional strategy and new counterterrorism demands. A BRICS summit in China on Monday noted concern over the security situation in region, citing several Pakistan-based militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
  • Two men were killed by NATO helicopters in Kabul’s Qarabagh district on Monday evening after they apparently opened fire on them; an investigation is underway, but the district governor suggests that the firing was part of a wedding celebration.
  • Three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in an attack in Panjgur, Balochistan on Monday evening, including an army lieutenant colonel; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah told reporters on Monday that the provincial government would challenge the census results, expressing doubt over population figures for Karachi.
  • Both Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministry officials made separate statements condemning attacks on Burmese Rohingya Muslims, which Afghan officials described as a “genocide”. Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin also condemned the deaths, blaming them in part on the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of Buddhist statues in Bamiyan.

Pakistan — Security

  • Three Soldiers Killed in Panjgur Attack: Three Frontier Corps soldiers, including an army lieutenant colonel deputed to the force, were killed in an attack in Balochistan’s Panjgur district on Monday evening; a search operation has been launched in the area, but no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn] [AP]
  • Karachi Raids Target Militants: Karachi police killed four Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Islamic State-affiliated militant suspects in raids on Monday, including a cousin of TTP chief Maulvi Fazlullah, identified as Khursheed, who was linked by police to the 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai. Police are still searching for the alleged mastermind behind Sunday’s assassination attempt against Sindh provincial assembly opposition leader Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hasan; the Sindh home minister has ordered an inquiry into the death of one of the gunmen in that attack. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Pakistani senior diplomats from key postings are meeting in Islamabad beginning Tuesday to discuss a response to the new U.S. policy on South Asia and Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policies; speaking at the conference’s opening, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif said that “Pakistan is a peace loving country and wants relation on equal terms with neighboring countries”. He also highlighted “ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar”. On Monday, a BRICS summit in Xiamen expressed concern over “the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, (Islamic State)…, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Census Results: Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the government would challenge the census results together with “all the political parties”, expressing skepticism over Karachi’s reported total population of roughly 14 million.
  • Other Political Activity: Dawn reports that the Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F have formed committees to discuss the possibility of reuniting with other religious parties to revive the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal coalition. The Nation reports that Nawaz Sharif will “launch a mass contact campaign” after returning from London on September 8. Election Commission officials held hearings on Tuesday over alleged violations of the electoral code of conduct by PML-N government officials in the NA-120 Lahore by-election. Dawn notes that both the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Milli Muslim League and the Barelvi community’s Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah party have fielded candidates in the race. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • AQ Khan Praises North Korean Nuclear Technology [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Rules Amended [ET]
  • Eidul Azha Spending Shrinks in Pakistan [Dawn]
  • Annual Inflation Rate Increases to 3.42% in August [ET]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Report on Drug Use in Khyber Paktunkhwa Universities [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: Two men were killed in an airstrike in Kabul’s Qarabagh district on Monday evening after apparently firing on NATO helicopters; the district governor said that the firing had been part of a wedding ceremony. The Guardian notes the uptick of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan has coincided with increases in civilian casualties. UN officials report that at least 223,874 Afghans fled their homes due to conflict between January and August 31 this year, with the greatest number displaced in Kunduz, Nangarhar, and Uruzgan.
  • Special Forces Training: The AFP profiles Afghan special forces commandos, whose expansion is a key element of the Afghan government’s four-year security strategy.
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan army officials in Kunduz report that they killed 11 Taliban fighters in airstrikes in the Chardara district on Monday; the ministry of defense claimed that another 25 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes around Lashkar Gah in Helmand. The Islamic State reportedly executed two men serving with the Afghan National Army in the Haska Mina district in Nangarhar on Monday; elsewhere in the province, three soldiers and a civilian were wounded in a roadside bombing in the Ghani Khel district.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Over Rohingya Deaths: In a statement on Monday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the killing of members of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority, accusing the Burmese military of crimes against humanity and genocide. Hezb-e-Islami also condemned the deaths, which it blamed in part on the Taliban’s destruction of Buddhist statues in Bamiyan in 2001.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Regional Rail Links: Iran will host representatives from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China to discuss a railway project linking all five countries, Afghanistan Railway Authority officials reported; the meeting is expected to take place in November.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abundant Afghan Harvest Wilts Amid Violence and Extortion [NYT]
  • Politicians Dismiss High Peace Council as ‘Purely Symbolic’ [TOLO]
  • Disabled in War, Afghan Soldiers Seek a Living on the Streets [Reuters]
  • 106-Year Old Afghan Woman Faces Deportation from Sweden [AP]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: MQM Leader Escapes Assassination Attempt; Pakistan Welcomes Ghani’s Call for Renewed Talks

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  • Sindh provincial assembly opposition leader and MQM-Pakistan leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan survived an assassination attempt in Karachi on Saturday morning; one police officer and teenage bystander were killed. Police sources report they are searching for Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, identified as a leader of Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan.
  • In remarks on Saturday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif said that Pakistan “wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan” and was ready for “bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral” talks with Afghanistan. His remarks follow Pres. Ghani’s Eid message calling for “comprehensive political talks” with Pakistan; the Pakistani press reports that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group process may be revived as a result.
  • A young girl was killed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district on Saturday in cross-border fire from India, prompting demonstrations by local residents.
  • Pres. Ghani visited an Afghan Air Force base in Nangarhar on Sunday, where he said that the government would spend $6 billion on the air force’s development over the next four years; a NATO commander put the figure at $7 billion. The Pentagon issued a $69.3 million contract on Friday to support the AAF’s “armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft requirement”.
  • In a continuing war of words, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor denounced Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who he accused of “cooperating and providing guidance to the Islamic State”.
  • The National Accountability Bureau is finalizing four corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family, and Finance Minister Dar.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission is preparing to survey polling stations in at least 32 districts in insecure parts of the country, starting within the next ten days.

Pakistan — Security

  • MQM-Pakistan Leader Survives Assassination Attempt: Sindh provincial assembly opposition leader and MQM-Pakistan leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan survived an assassination attempt in Karachi on Saturday morning; a policeman and a teenage bystander were killed in the attack, and several bodyguards were reportedly injured. Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja said that one of the gunmen was subsequently killed in an exchange of fire with police, although at least one account suggests that the attacker was killed by a mob. No claim of responsibility has been reported, but Dawn reported Monday that police were searching for Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, identified as a leader of Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan. Police reported that four militants were killed in raids on Monday. [AP] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Border Clashes with India: Police officials in Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district reported that a five-year old girl was killed by Indian soldiers firing across the border on Saturday. Dawn reports protests were held against the local administration after her death. [ET] [AFP]
  • Bhutto Murder Case: In remarks on Saturday, former Pres. Zardari reiterated that the PPP was “not satisfied” with the verdict by a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court in the case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s 2007 assassination. The Express Tribune has a copy of the full court verdict. In interviews on Sunday, former Pres. Musharraf maintained that allegations of his involvement in Bhutto’s death or a cover-up of evidence in the case were “false, baseless and fabricated”; he suggested that he would return to Pakistan to face trial “after his health improves”. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid Celebrations: Pakistan celebrated the Eid ul Adha holiday beginning on Saturday; Pres. Mamnoon Hussain issued a statement urging worshippers “to seek Allah Almighty’s blessings by sacrificing our ego to make this world a place of heavenly abode”. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited soldiers in the Khyber Agency’s Rajgal Valley on Saturday, and in Turbat and Gwadar in Balochistan on Sunday. On Friday, Peshawar police reported the seizure of a large cache of arms and arrest of 87 suspects, accused of planning terrorist attacks during Eid. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: Dawn reports that the National Accountability Bureau has finalized four corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family members, and Finance Minister Dar, and that they will be submitted to a NAB accountability court later this month after Eid. The references include recommendations to freeze Sharif family assets and bar them from traveling internationally. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Maryam Nawaz visited St Anthony’s Church in Lahore on Friday, where she called for changes to the country’s judicial system rather than changing prime ministers. The Express Tribune reports that the Election Commission is pushing the National Database and Registration Authority to provide fingerprint records for 29,607 voters whose fingerprint data is missing, as part of ECP plans to test pilot biometric voting machines in the NA-120 by-election. Dawn reports that PM Abbasi has told MQM-Pakistan leaders he cannot reopen MQM party offices seized over the past year by paramilitary Rangers or Sindh police. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three New Prisons Planned for Construction in Punjab [Dawn]
  • Sindh Local Government Minister Touts Recovery Efforts After Monsoon Rains Hit Karachi [Dawn]
  • Businessmen Report Tightening Chinese Visa Requirements [Dawn]
  • World Bank to Help FBR Strengthen Tax System [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Air Force Suport: On Friday, the Pentagon issued a $69.3 million contract to support the Afghan Air Force’s “armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft requirement”. Pres. Ghani visited an air force base in Nangarhar on Sunday, where he said the government planned to spend $6 billion on the AAF over the next four years; the commander of NATO training forces tells TOLO that the figure will be $7 billion over the next year fours. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • US Strategy: A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of defense said Saturday that Afghanistan was preparing for the deployment of additional American trainers to the country, suggesting that they may be focused at existing training centers in Kabul, Jalalabad, Helmand, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Kandahar. Huffpost interviews Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who describes some of his attempts to lobby the Trump administration in support of his proposal for the replacement of most U.S. forces with private military contractors, overseen by a single “viceroy” for the country.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Monday, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq announced the launch of a joint military operation in several districts bordering Kandahar and Helmand, which he vowed would be cleared of insurgents. A U.S. drone strike in Parwan’s Jabal Saraj district on Saturday evening killed a Taliban commander, identified as Mullah Agha Gul, and one accompany Taliban fighter, according to provincial police officials. Five Afghan policemen were killed in an attack on their checkpost in Zabul’s Arghandab district on Friday evening. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: In remarks on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Khwaja Asif said that Pakistan “wants to see peace and stability” in Afghanistan, noting that “we already have bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms for dialogue and interaction with Afghanistan in place — those mechanisms should be utilised to their full potential.” Asif’s remarks followed Pres. Ghani’s Eid message on Friday, in which he said that Afghanistan was “ready for comprehensive political talks. Peace with Pakistan is in our national agenda”. The Express Tribune reports that the Afghan government is willing to revive the Quadrilateral Coordination Group process with the U.S., China, and Pakistan; another report suggests Russia could also be added to the group. Another Express Tribune report suggests that the Trump administration is seeking to “tweak the Afghan policy in order to pacify resentment in Pakistan and address the country’s objections”. TOLO quotes anonymous US officials who say that earlier Pakistani press reporting on meetings between Amb. David Hale and Pakistani National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua “misquoted” Hale. [AP] [ET] [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Jamiat-Hezb e Islami Rivalry: In remarks on Friday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor accused Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of “cooperating and providing guidance to the Islamic State”. On Saturday, a group of parliamentarians called for a “truce” between Noor and Hekmatyar.
  • Election Planning: Independent Election Commission officials announced Sunday that the IEC would begin a survey of polling stations in 32 districts in insecure areas of the country within the next ten days, after having completed surveys in other parts of the country. A spokesman for the IEC said that they were negotiating access to the areas through contacts with local tribal leaders.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Six Men Accused of Facilitating Slain Taliban Leader’s Pakistani ID Out on Bail [ET]
  • Australian Military Probes Rumors of “Possible War Crimes” in Afghanistan [Reuters]
  • A Mosque Was Bombed. What to Do with the Shoes Left Behind? [NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NAB Seeking Sharifs’ Asset and Travel Freeze; Mattis Approves Additional Troop Deployments

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Topline

  • The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly seeking asset and travel freezes on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members as it reopens corruption investigations against them. Punjab government and Chinese embassy officials disputed new charges of corruption on the part of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Opposition lawmaker Sheikh Rasheed petitioned the NAB to investigate PM Abbasi on charges of financial irregularities in the negotiation of a LNG import agreement during his tenure as petroleum minister.
  • Sec. Mattis told reporters on Thursday that he had signed orders approving the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but did not provide details and said that the Pentagon was still finalizing decisions on which units would be deployed.
  • US Amb. Hale met with Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua on Thursday, and was quoted as seeking to reassure Pakistan that “engagement with Pakistan had not been ruled out”.
  • In an Eid message on Friday, Pres. Ghani called for “comprehensive political talks with Pakistan” and for insurgents to lay down arms.
  • PPP leaders criticized a Thursday verdict that convicted two senior police officers but acquitted five TTP militant suspects in the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto; PPP party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the verdict was “disappointing and unacceptable”. The five TTP suspects remain in custody.
  • UN investigators confirmed the deaths of at least 26 civilians during separate Afghan Air Force and US airstrikes in Herat and Logar earlier this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • PPP Rejects Bhutto Murder Verdicts: On Thursday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the conviction in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court of two senior police officers in connection with his mother’s December 2007 assassination was “disappointing and unacceptable”; his sisters Aseefa and Bakhtawar also said that there would be “no justice until Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes”. Other PPP leaders echoed those remarks and indicated that the party would appeal the court’s rulings. Musharraf was declared a fugitive in the case and five other accused Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants were acquitted for lack of evidence, although they remain in custody for at least another thirty days after intervention by the Punjab Home Department. [NYT] [WSJ] [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations: The Express Tribune reports that the National Accountability Bureau is seeking to freeze the assets of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family, and Finance Minister Dar as part of its newly reopened corruption investigations, and restricting their ability to travel abroad. A spokesman for the Punjab government and China’s acting ambassador Lijian Zhao rejected reports of kickbacks being paid by a Chinese firm to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as part of the Multan Metro Bus project; on Thursday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan and vowed to pursue the case against Shehbaz. The PPP filed a complaint against Shehbaz with the NAB over the issue on Thursday. Separately, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed filed a corruption reference against PM Abbasi with the NAB, alleging irregularities in the negotiation of a liquefied natural gas import agreement.
  • US Relations: US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met with National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua on Thursday; a statement by Janjua after the meeting quoted Hale saying that “it was wrong to assume that the policy recommended a purely military solution, or that engagement with Pakistan had been ruled out”. Janjua was said to have told Hale that Pakistan had been “wrongly blamed, threatened and negatively projected to the world, which was unacceptable”. At a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry reiterated that allegations by US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson that the Taliban were maintaining sanctuaries in Quetta and Peshawar were “unacceptable”. [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Kulsoom Nawaz underwent successful surgery for cancer in London on Friday, family members announced; she will reportedly begin chemotherapy next week. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the Election Commission of “not providing a level playing field” in the NA-120 elections, accusing the PML-N of violating the code of conduct and calling for the removal of 29,000 voters whose identities could not be verified by the National Database and Registration Authority. Maryam Nawaz met with PML-N women activists on Thursday to campaign for her mother’s election. The ECP summoned Imran Khan to appear on September 14 in the contempt of court case against him. The Nation reports that the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership believes it is “too early” to break with the PTI in Khyber Paktunkhwa, and will continue to maintain the PTI governing coalition there. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Karachi Flooding: At least 23 people have been killed from rain-related incidents — mostly electrocution from downed lines — after heavy flooding from monsoon rains that hit Karachi on Thursday; more rain is forecast for Friday. Army and Sindh Rangers personnel are assisting in rescue and drainage operations. [ET]
  • Tax Revenues: The Federal Board of Revenue has collected Rs 449 billion during the first two months of the fiscal year, a 22.8% increase over the same period last year, the Express Tribune reports, which if maintained throughout the year would put the FBR on track to meet the annual target of Rs 4.013 trillion.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three Killed as Pro-Government Tribal Elder Targeted in Mohmand [AP] [Dawn]
  • Ten Militants Killed in Harnai Operations [ET]
  • Karachi Reports First Polio Case in Over a Year [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Declares Public Health Emergency Over Dengue [Dawn]
  • Ministry of Finance Approves Rs 12.64 Billion Power Subsidy for Industrial Sector [APP]
  • Ministry of Energy to Begin Negotiations on Nigerian Oil and Gas Imports [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mattis Approves Troop Deployments: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Sec. Mattis said that he had “signed orders” for the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but did not provide details on how many, and said that the Pentagon was still identifying which specific units would be deployed. Mattis said he would provide more details when briefing Congress next week, but that the deployments would include “is more advisers, it is more enablers, fire support, for example”. In Thursday C-SPAN interviews, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Washington Hamdullah Mohib praised the new U.S. strategy, saying that “it couldn’t have been any better than what we were expecting”. Separately, the Pentagon approved a new $2.2 billion contract for the supply of up to 11,560 Humvees to the Afghan national security forces and other foreign military sales customers. [NYT] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Civilian Casualties: In a statement on Thursday, the UN said that it had confirmed the deaths of at least 28 civilians during separate airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force and NATO in Herat and Logar this week; another 16 were injured. [Khaama Press] [UNAMA Statement]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The Ministry of Interior said Thursday that it had arrested at least four people in connection to a violent clash at a wedding hall in Kabul earlier this week, in which at least four people were killed; those involved were reportedly linked to a senior Supreme Court official and the son of the head of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council, although it is unclear if either of those individuals were among those arrested. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid Messages: In an Eid-ul Adha message released on Friday, Pres. Ghani said that “peace with Pakistan is our national agenda”, calling for “comprehensive political talks with Pakistan”. Ghani also said that anti-government armed groups should “choose whether they are Afghans” and lay down arms. In his Eid message, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor called for national unity, accusing “certain circles in the government [of] attempting to spark ethnic tensions among the people”. [AP] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Help Afghans Exploit Their Mineral Riches – “The Afghans cannot develop these vast deposits on their own, but if they get U.S. help to do the job right, they will have an opportunity to move from a war-torn nation to a self-sustaining economy.” [Michael Silver, WSJ]
  • Commentary: I Was a Mercenary; Eric Prince’s Plan is Garbage – “Prince is looking for a billion-dollar paycheck while wrapping himself in the American flag. No one should fall for his con.” [Sean McFate, Politico]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parliament Rejects Trump Remarks; DOD Confirms Higher Current Troop Levels

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s national assembly and senate passed separate resolutions on Wednesday condemning “hostile and threatening” remarks by Pres. Trump towards Pakistan. Anonymous diplomatic sources suggest that Pakistan may reopen talks with the U.S. after PM Abbasi’s visit to the UN General Assembly meeting in late September. The NYT reports that the Trump administration has placed $255 million in military aid to Pakistan “in escrow” until Pakistan takes more action against terrorist groups.
  • The Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday that the current number of troops deployed to Afghanistan is higher than previously reported, at around 11,000 when accounting for temporary duty deployments and at least some covert counterterrorism operators. No announcements of new deployments have been made, but the Washington Post reports that new Marine artillery and air support units will be deployed, in additional to several thousand soldiers from the 82nd Airborne and 25th Infantry Division.
  • At a press conference on Wednesday, National Accountability Bureau officials confirmed their plans to reopen at least four corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif after the Eid holidays.
  • The offices of the NDS and Afghan national security advisor denied an AP report that both were in regular contact with Taliban officials in Pakistan and Qatar; the Taliban also denied being involved in any talks. Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada released a new Eid message on Wednesday, professing that a “peaceful solution of the Afghan issue is the main pillar of the policy of the Islamic Emirate, should the occupation come to an end”.
  • A Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court issued 17-year prison sentences against two senior police officers on negligence charges in connection to the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
  • At least 11 Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in a NATO helicopter airstrike during operations in Logar province’s Dasht-e-Bari district on Wednesday, the provincial governor’s office report. NATO officials said they were investigating the incident.

Pakistan — Security

  • Convictions in Bhutto Murder Case: On Thursday, a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court convicted two senior police officers, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, on charges of negligence in connection to the 2007 murder of Benazir Bhutto; they face fines and 17-year prison sentences. [Dawn]
  • Border Tensions with India: One Pakistani civilian was reportedly killed in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Relations: Pakistan’s national assembly passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning “hostile and threatening” remarks by Pres. Trump during his announcement of U.S. regional strategy earlier this month; the resolution also rejected remarks by Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson that had noted the presence of Taliban sanctuaries in Quetta and Peshawar, and said that calls for increased Indian involvement in Afghanistan would be “detrimental to regional stability”. The senate also passed a resolution calling for a “regional diplomatic initiative” to respond to the US. The Express Tribune reports that the Trump administration has “told Islamabad through backdoor channels that Washington wants to maintain its relations with it”, and suggests that the two sides will hold talks soon. Pakistani diplomatic sources tell The Nation that “we are working to remove the misunderstandings” but that talks may not be reopened until after PM Abbasi’s visit to the UN General Assembly in late September. The NYT reports that the Trump administration notified Congress on Wednesday that it was placing $255 million in military aid for Pakistan — the story does not specify, but this appears to be money from the FY2016 Coalition Support Fund account — “in escrow” until Pakistan takes more action against terrorist groups. [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sharif Investigations: At a press conference on Wednesday, National Accountability Bureau officials said they will reopen at least four corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members after Eid, despite “receiving threats”. Nawaz arrived in London on Wednesday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Census Debates: At a press conference on Wednesday, Federal Statistics Minister Kamran Michael pushed back at objections from the Sindh provincial government and opposition parties over the new census figures; he also said that the next general elections would be held on the basis of the new population figures. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: At a press conference on Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that he had declined the opportunity to become prime minister “out of fear that mega development projects in Punjab would be left unattended”. Shehbaz also rejected recent reports alleging that he had received kickbacks from a Chinese company in connection to the Multan Metro Bus project. The MQM-Pakistan, PML-F, PML-Z, PML-J, and Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party are among the parties barred from contesting future elections until they submit financial records, the Election Commission announced Wednesday. The Islamabad High Court dismissed a PTI petition seeking to stay ECP hearings on the party’s foreign funding source; the court has set September 5 hearings for the case. [ET] [The Nation] [ET] [The Nation] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PPP Senator Calls for Investigations into ‘Nuclear Proliferation’ in Musharraf Era [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Activists Protest Against Enforced Disappearances [ET]
  • Two Children Injured in Khyber Agency ‘Toy Bomb’ Blast [ET]
  • Confessions of TTP’s Mufti Shakir Reveal Dark Underbelly of Militancy in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Four Islamabad Police Arrested in Civilian Shooting [Dawn]
  • 12 Baloch Republican Army Members Surrender [Dawn]
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Forwards Money Laundering Case Against Chinese Firm to Federal Investigation Agency [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pentagon Confirms Higher US Troop Levels: At a press briefing on Wednesday, Pentagon officials acknowledged that there were around 11,000 U.S. troops currently serving in Afghanistan, when accounting for temporary-duty deployments and some covert counterterrorism forces that had not previously been included. The WSJ had previously reported that the number was around 12,000. Pentagon officials said final decisions had not yet been made on the deployment of additional troops beyond that level, but the Washington Post reports that planners are considering the addition of several thousand paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne and 25th Infantry Division, as well as Marine artillery units and additional air support. CNN reports that Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson and Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford will brief the House and Senate in closed-door sessions focused on North Korea and Afghanistan strategy next Wednesday. [Reuters]
  • Civilian Casualties: Logar provincial governor Halim Fadee reported that at least 11 Afghan civilians were killed and 16 wounded when a NATO helicopter fired on a house that was also sheltering Taliban fighters during operations in the Dasht-e-Bari district on Wednesday. The AFP puts the death total at thirteen. NATO officials said they were investigating the incident, which follows another report of civilian casualties in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Herat earlier this week. Former Pres. Karzai issued a statement condemning the civilian deaths. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Elsewhere in Logar, the ministry of interior claimed to have killed a Haqqani network commander during operations in the Kharwar district on Tuesday. Uruzugan police officials say they killed ten Taliban fighters during operations around the provincial capital. Three police officers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Phusht Koh district on Thursday, including the district police chief.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In statements on Wednesday, the offices of National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai denied an AP report that they were in contact with Taliban representatives in Pakistan and Qatar; the Taliban also denied taking part in any talks. On Wednesday, the Taliban issued an Eid-al Adha message by movement leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, in which he proclaims to be supporting a “free, independent and progressive” Afghanistan and says that “peaceful solution of the Afghan issue is the main pillar of the policy of the Islamic Emirate, should the occupation come to an end”, reiterating that “the main obstacle in the way of peace is the occupation.” [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Gen. Raziq Calls for “Nationwide Campaign” Against Taliban [TOLO]
  • Ghani Criticized for Promotion of Acting Defense Minister [TOLO]
  • Sunni and Shia Scholars Emphasize Sectarian Harmony [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Contractors, Not Troops, Will Save Afghanistan – “It’s not too late to find a new path and give a new band of Flying Tigers a chance to serve America as valiantly as their predecessors did.” [Erik Prince, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Cabinet Considers Economic Costs of US Pressure; ISIS Attacks Lawmaker’s Jalalabad Home

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s National Security Council is meeting again today to discuss the response to the new U.S. strategy for the region. A cabinet meeting on Tuesday reportedly focused on the “economic implications” of a possible break with the U.S., noting concerns over Pakistan’s worsening balance of payments position and the possibility of a future loan program from the IMF.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on the Jalalabad home of Wolesi Jirga deputy speaker Haji Zahir Qadir; two security guards and two attackers were killed.
  • The AP reports that NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai and national security advisor Hanif Atmar are in regular contact with Taliban representatives in Pakistan and Qatar, and describes Taliban conditions for a peace agreement as including the formation of a new interim government and measures to reverse land theft, among other steps.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan has sought the early publication of census results as a precursor to redrawing constituency boundaries ahead of the next general elections; final results are not due until April 2018.
  • In response to criticism by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor on Sunday of Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, HIG hit back on Wednesday with an article accusing Noor of acting as a “slave and defense attorney of Iran”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Response to US Strategy: PM Abbasi chaired the second meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Council within the past week on Wednesday; the meeting is ongoing as of this writing. A cabinet meeting on Tuesday reportedly focused on the “economic implications” of the US strategy, with the finance ministry briefing on Pakistan’s worsening balance of payments position and the possibility of future loans from the IMF; the Express Tribune report suggests there was no decision taken on the need for a new program. The senate is finalizing a resolution calling on the government to “launch a regional initiative to coordinate response” to the new US policy; PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah called for a joint session of parliament, criticizing the government for “foreign policy failure”. [WAPO] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Census Results: The MQM submitted a national assembly resolution on Tuesday laying out its objections to the new census figures released earlier this week. At hearings on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Statistics proposed a re-count of one percent of the census blocks to test the findings. In a letter on Monday, the Election Commission has sought the early publication of final census results — which are not due to be completed until next April — as a basis for re-drawing constituency boundaries. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • NA-120 Elections: Maryam Nawaz inaugurated new campaign offices for the PML-N election campaign for the NA-120 Lahore seat on Tuesday, calling on supporters to “elect Nawaz Sharif for a fourth time”. On Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif departed for London to meet with his wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing cancer treatment. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari defended his acquittal last week in the last of six reopened corruption cases, all of which he described as “politically motivated”. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Siraj-ul Haq held a rally in Upper Dir on Tuesday, warning the government against removing Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. Imran Khan led a rally in Chakwal on Tuesday; separately, his lawyers petitioned the Islamabad High Court against ECP contempt of court proceedings against him. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • NACTA Begins Compiling Database of Pakistani ‘Foreign Fighters’ [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Peshawar Bans Roadside Animal Slaughtering and Hide Collection at Eid [ET]
  • Aizaz Chaudhry Dismisses Critical Letter [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • HBL Vows to Fight US Regulator’s Charges [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Puts Off Decision on Rs 175B Borrowing for Karachi-Lahore Gas Pipeline [ET]
  • ISI Asks Islamabad Capital Development Authority Not to Meet Directly with Foreign Diplomats [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Is Pakistan Willing to Lose America? – “Pakistan’s willingness to lose American patronage is the clearest indicator that its interests in Afghanistan are not a product of ambition, or grandeur, but of deep and existential fears about the damage an unchecked India can do to Pakistan.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, NYT]
  • Commentary: Will US Threats to Pakistan Help Crack Down on Terrorism? Not Really – “In the face of new U.S. threats, Pakistan is likely to offer minor concessions, such as launching token crackdowns and perhaps handing over individuals the military does not view as allies.” [Asfandyar Mir and Paul Staniland, WAPO]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Lawmaker’s House Attacked in Jalalabad: The Islamic State’s Amaq News agency claimed responsibility for an attack on the home of deputy speaker of parliament Haji Zahir Qadir in Jalalabad on Wednesday. One attacker detonated a suicide vest, and the other was killed; at least two security guards were killed in the attack. [AP]
  • Taliban Talks: The AP reports that National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai and national security advisor Hanif Atmar hold regular recurring telephone talks with Taliban leaders in both Pakistan and Qatar; the Taliban’s demands for any future peace talks with the Afghan government reportedly include the formation of an interim government and new elections, and the formation of special courts to restore land rights. RFE/RL interviews Taliban commanders who have relocated to Kandahar under an amnesty program promoted by police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq.
  • Herat Airstrike: The NYT provides additional reporting on civilian casualties in Monday’s airstrike in Herat’s Shindand district; a spokesman for the ministry of defense confirmed that the Afghan Air Force had carried out the strike and suggested that as many as 18 Taliban fighters had been killed, but local residents say that no Taliban were present and that all of the victims were civilians. A government investigation is due to report its findings today.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Wednesday, NATO denied Taliban claims of having shot down a helicopter in Logar province, but confirmed that a U.S. helicopter had made “a precautionary landing for [a] maintenance issue”. A rocket attack destroyed a fuel tanker in Parwan on Wednesday, temporarily closing the highway. Jawzjan provincial officials say they killed three Taliban fighters in operations in the Aqcha district on Monday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat-Hezb-e-Islami Rivalry: In response to criticism on Sunday by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor against Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, HIG has responded by accusing Atta of being a “slave and defense attorney of Iran”, Khaama Press reports.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pres. Ghani met with the UN special representative on Tuesday to discuss cross-border shelling and disputes along the Durand Line border with Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mineral Extraction: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tells Foreign Policy that the Trump administration is “try[ing] to figure out how to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country that can provide jobs for its people and its own budget” by developing Afghanistan’s mineral resources, but the piece notes the challenges involved in the sector and provides no details on any new administration initiatives.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Discusses New Afghan Strategy with Russian Foreign Ministry [TOLO]
  • Study Finds 91% of Afghan Children Abused in Some Way [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Fatal Flaw in President Trump’s Approach to the War in Afghanistan? – “[Trump’s] de-emphasis on the need for significant improvements in Afghan governance and political processes is deeply misguided and could be a fatal flaw in the strategy.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Chinese Official Visits Islamabad After US Talks Cancelled; Five Killed in Kabul Bank Bombing

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua met with China’s Special Envoy on Afghan Affairs Amb. Deng Xijun on Monday, after cancelling meetings with U.S. diplomats. The government is reportedly considering calling in key ambassadors to discuss the response to the newly announced U.S. strategy.
  • The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics released district-level data for the census conducted earlier this spring; Sindh provincial government officials challenged those figures, and called for an all-parties conference to discuss the issue. The MQM-Pakistan has also rejected the census results.
  • The National Accountability Bureau began taking statements from members of the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Tuesday; the NAB reportedly plans to officially reopen at least four corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif and family members after Eid.
  • At least five people were killed in a suicide bombing outside a Kabul Bank branch on Tuesday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Afghan officials are investigating reports that at least 13 civilians were killed along with Taliban fighters in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Herat’s Shindand district on Monday.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: On Monday, army spokesmen reported the arrest of six militant suspects during Frontier Corps search operations in the Orakzai Agency; they also reported seizures of arms and weapons. [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistan formally protested the deaths of three civilians after exchanges of fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday. In remarks on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif warned India against “any unilateral plan by India aimed at modifying the terms” of the Indus Water Treaty, accusing India of “displaying belligerence by designing water projects that violate the treaty”. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FBR Guards Killed: Two private security guards were killed in a shooting outside the Federal Board of Revenue offics in Karachi on Monday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Talks on US Strategy: China’s Special Envoy on Afghan Affairs Amb. Deng Xijun met with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on Monday to discuss “regional and international efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan”, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced, at which China “reaffirmed China’s continuing and firm support to Pakistan’s commitment and efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan”. Separately, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the president of Tajikistan in Dushanbe on Monday. Speaking in a closed-door senate session on Monday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif reportedly affirmed that Pakistan had cancelled talks and bilateral visits with the United States as protest against the newly announced U.S. strategy towards the region. The Express Tribune reports that the government may hold a meeting with Pakistani ambassadors posted in key world capitals in Islamabad after Eid to discuss the response. [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Census Count: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics released provisional district-level data from the national census on Monday; the official data can be found here. A cleaned up version of that data, extracted from the pdf, can be found here. Sindh parliamentary minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro rejected the results at a press conference on Monday, which he said “aims at reducing Sindh’s share in the National Finance Commission as well as national and provincial assembly seats and job quota in federal government services”, and called for an all-parties conference to discuss the issue. The MQM-Pakistan also rejected the results. Although the Election Commission has previously indicated it will not redraw constituency boundaries based on the new census data before the next general elections, the Express Tribune estimates that Punjab’s low population growth may cause it to lose seats in the next redistricting, with Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan gaining. Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa defended the census during senate testimony on Tuesday; a final census report will be finalized by April 2018. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sharif Investigations: The National Accountability Bureau interviewed the head of the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Tuesday; at least two other members of the JIT team have also been summoned for questioning. The NAB reportedly plans to file at least four new corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family members, and Finance Minister Dar after the Eid holidays; the Supreme Court verdict had set a September 11 deadline for the cases against them to be reopened on the basis of the JIT’s findings. Meanwhile, Nawaz will reportedly travel to London on Wednesday to visit his wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Diplomatic Dispute: A copy of a July 2017 letter between former Pakistani ambassador to India Abdul Basit and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, formerly the foreign secretary and now ambassador to U.S., was leaked on Tuesday, in which Basit directly and extensively criticizes Chaudhry. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI leadership formally expelled national assembly member Ayesha Gulalai on Tuesday, after her earlier allegations of abuse by Imran Khan. Former PTI minister Ziaullah Afridi joined the PPP on Monday after a meeting with former Pres. Zardari. The National Database and Registration Authority is missing biometric data for 29,607 voters in the NA-120 constituency, Election Commission officials said on Monday; the ECP is piloting new biometric voting machines in the contest, but will allow voting by those whose information is not in the system. 321,786 voters are registered in the constituency. The PTI has petitioned the ECP to bar political meetings from being held at official government offices. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • India and Pakistan Hit by Spy Malware [Reuters]
  • Two Killed in Panjgur Landmine Blast [ET]
  • AJK Legislative Assembly Dismisses Disqualification Reference Against PM Haider [Dawn]
  • Axact Diploma Mill VP Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison in US Court [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Clears Asim Hussain to Travel [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Police Cadets Graduate from Army Training Facility [ET]
  • WAPDA Chairman Urges Construction of Kalabagh Dam [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Enumerating Pakistan – “The political impact of the census will be far-reaching and will become clear over the next year.” [Umair Javed, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombing: At least five people have been killed in a suicide bombing outside a Kabul Bank branch on Tuesday; the attack also took place near the U.S. embassy building. Nine more people were reported to have been wounded; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Civilian Casualties: Afghan officials are investigating reports from provincial officials that as many as 13 civilians as well as some Taliban fighters were killed in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Herat’s Shindand district on Monday; the Taliban claimed that as many as 35 civilians had been killed.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least four border policemen were killed in attacks on their checkpost in the Shamlzai district in Zabul province over Monday night. The Taliban executed two Islamic State leaders in Nangarhar’s Bati Kot district, according to provincial government officials on Tuesday. As many as 14 ISIS fighters were reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike in the Achin district on Monday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Mohmand Calls for Action Against Noor: In remarks on Monday, Balkh provincial councilmember Asif Mohmand reiterated demands for the government to take action against Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor over his arrested and beating. [Ariana News]
  • Regional Diplomacy: In remarks during a meeting with representatives of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu community on Tuesday, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that he had “urged the Pakistani and Indian Ambassadors not to bring their rivalry into Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • $727M Contract Awarded for Afghan Air Force Support [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Civil Aviation Authority Clears Kam Air for European Flights, But EU Restrictions Remain [TOLO]
  • Ghani Receives Credentials from New Canadian Ambassador [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Held Accountable for Torture: CIA Psychologists Compensate Family of Dead Afghan – “The two psychologists who designed and implemented the programme, have paid compensation to two survivors and to the family of Gul Rahman, an Afghan who died of hypothermia after being left semi-naked on a bare concrete floor in a CIA black site near Kabul in November 2002.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
  • Commentary: The Empire Stopper – “Foreign powers have tried to subdue Afghanistan for three centuries. It has not gone well for them. Now the U.S. is digging back in.” [Rod Nordland, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Diplomat’s Trip to Pakistan Postponed; Islamic State Claims Attack on Kabul Shiia Mosque

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Topline

  • A visit to Pakistan over the weekend by acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells and a National Security Council delegation was postponed, Pakistani and State Department officials confirmed; Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif is reportedly planning to travel to China, Russia, and Turkey to discuss Pakistan’s response to the newly announced U.S. strategy for the region. Demonstrations were held in Karachi, Chaman, and Torkham against the United States.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shia mosque in Kabul on Friday, which left as many as forty people dead. Funeral services were held over the weekend. In Helmand, at least thirteen people were killed in a suicide car bombing in a marketplace in the Nawa district on Sunday; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • The Washington Post and TOLO interview Gen. John Nicholson, who says that “support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped” and that the U.S. strategy aims to “put increasing pressure on [the Taliban] inside the country and on the external sanctuaries.”
  • Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addressed a convention of PML-N lawyers on Friday, calling for an end to the “nexus of force and court”. The Supreme Court has approved the questioning of Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team members by the Naitonal Accountability Bureau in reopened corruption cases against Sharif. Former Pres. Zardari, meanwhile, was cleared of the last of six outstanding corruption cases against him in a ruling on Saturday.
  • The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics presented provisional census figures to the Council on Common Interests meeting on Friday, which indicate that the country’s total population has reached 207.77 million people. Several opposition parties have challenged the figures, although only aggregate provincial totals were released.
  • In remarks on Sunday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor denounced Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and warned the central government “not to conspire against him”, vowing that “no power will be able to oust him from his position”.
  • Maryam Nawaz is remaining in Lahore and leading her mother’s campaign for the NA-120 constituency while Kulsoom Nawaz undergoes treatment for cancer in London. Imran Khan led a rally in Sukkur on Friday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghan Border Security: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with his Afghan counterpart Gen. Sharif Yaftali on the sidelines of a Quadrilateral Counter-terrorism Coordination Mechanism meeting in Tajikistan on Sunday, at which both sides reportedly agreed to “jointly work and formulate security recommendations for government level discussions aimed at addressing mutual concerns”. Afghan officials did not put out a corresponding statement. Gen. Li Zuocheng of China and Gen. Sobirzoda Imomali Abdurrahim of Tajikistan also attended the session. [TOLO]
  • Tensions with India: Three Pakistani civilians were killed in an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani forces along the Line of Control on Sunday evening, Pakistani officials in Azad Jammu and Kashmi reported. [AP]
  • Balochistan Operations: Balochistan police announced the arrest of as many as 24 suspected militants during house-to-house searches in Quetta on Saturday; on Sunday, the Pakistani military announced that Frontier Corps soldiers had killed two militant suspects during search operations in Dera Bugti. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • FATA Operations: Two army soldiers were killed in a landmine blast in South Waziristan on Sunday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. On Monday, two suspected terrorists were killed in a military operation in Khyber Paktunkhwa’s Bannu district. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with US: Foreign Minister Asif met with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to discuss planned travel to China, Russia, and Turkey, where he is expected to hold talks related to the newly announced U.S. strategy for South Asia before traveling to Washington. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan is planning to host an international conference “to put the global spotlight on its significant contributions towards the war against terrorism”. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Asif said that the “Afghan Taliban were the US and Afghanistan’s problem, not Pakistan’s”, and that “the US will have to work in collaboration with Pakistan to seek a solution to the Afghanistan issue”. In a Bloomberg News interview, PM Abbasi said that “from day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work”; Abbasi is due to visit the US to attend the UN General Assembly in September. Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells was due to visit Islamabad on Monday, but her travel was postponed “until a mutually convenient time”; the U.S. embassy said the delay was “at the request of the government of Pakistan”. Dawn reports that a visit by a National Security Council delegation was also rescheduled, and that Foreign Minister Asif’s visit to the US has also been rescheduled. Several hundred protestors, organized by the Imamia Students Organization and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, demonstrated outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi on Sunday before being forcefully dispersed by police; protests were also held at the Torkham and Chaman border crossings on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sharif Challenges Disqualification: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addressed a convention of PML-N lawyers in Lahore on Friday, calling for an end to the “nexus of force and court” and saying that “your right to vote and elect a leader has been usurped.” On Saturday, lawyers for Nawaz filed a second review petition appealing the Supreme Court’s verdict disqualifying him from office. The Supreme Court bench overseeing the verdict’s implementation approved the questioning of Joint Investigation Team members by the National Accountability Bureau on Saturday; Nawaz and family continue to argue that their review petitions must be heard first before the NAB proceeds with its case. Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid petitioned the Supreme Court against the NAB’s failure to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharifs and Finance Minister Dar. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: On Saturday, an anti-corruption court acquitted former Pres. Zardari in the last of six corruption references against him, all of which he has been cleared of due to lack of evidence. In response, Imran Khan alleged collusion between the PPP and the National Accountability Bureau. Maryam Nawaz officially kicked off her mother’s campaign for the NA-122 Lahore constituency on Saturday; Kulsoom Nawaz is in London undergoing cancer treatment, and several other Sharif family members departed on Saturday to visit her. 44 candidates in total will contest the elections. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Imran Khan described the race as a “test case” for “whether Lahoriites support the rule of law or a corrupt person”; both the PTI and PML-N have sought to challenge ECP restrictions on campaigning by sitting national assembly members. Imran held a rally in Sukkur earlier on Friday, targeting his criticism at former Pres. Zardari and the PPP; Dawn has an extended interview with Imran. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led a rally in Attock on Saturday, criticizing the PML-N government’s management of foreign policy and Imran for mismanagement of the Khyber Paktunkhwa government. On Monday, PTI national assembly member Gulzar Khan passed away of a heart attack. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Census Figures: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics presented provisional data from the census conducted earlier this spring to Friday’s meeting of the federal-provincial Council on Common Interests, which put Pakistan’s total population at 207.77 million, a 57% increase since the last full national census was completed in 1998. Only aggregate provincial totals were released, putting Punjab’s population at 110 million, Sindh at 47.9 million, Khyber Paktunkhwa at 30.5 million, and Balochistan at 12.3 million. The total number of households was reported at 32.21 million, indicating a decline in the average household size; 37.85% of all households are in urban-classified areas. PPP and other opposition party leaders questioned the census results in remarks on Saturday, as did several Sindhi nationalist parties, MQM factions, and lawmakers from the FATA. [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [PBS Population Results (pdf)]
  • PM Visits Karachi to Inaugurate LNG Terminal: PM Abbasi visited Karachi on Sunday to inaugurate a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Karachi’s Port Qasim facility, touting the governments investment in the sector. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • HBL to Close New York Branch: Habib Bank Limited announced Monday that plans to close a New York branch after the state’s Department of Financial Services imposed a $629 million fine after investigations found “deficiencies in the risk management and Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering compliance program” at the HBL branch.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Extends Rangers’ Authorities For Two More Months [Dawn]
  • Sindh Government to Move Accountability Bill for the Second Time [ET]
  • Braving Security Fears, Chinese Seek ‘Silk Road’ Riches in Pakistan [Reuters]
  • Father of Mashal Khan Rejects Settlement Offers [ET]
  • Gunman Arrested in 1997 Murder of KESC Managing Director [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Asked to Revoke Bail of Three Jail Officials in LeJ Escape Case [Dawn]
  • ANP Plans All-Parties Conference on FATA Reforms [The Nation]
  • PPP Accuses AJK Government of Embezzlement [ET]
  • CCI Undecided on Higher Education Commission Devolution [ET]
  • Nearly Half of Corporate Taxpayers Paid No Tax in 2016 [Dawn]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Supports Creation of Bank of Balochistan, More Agricultural Credit [ET]
  • Audit Reveals Billions of Irregularities in 2016 Haj Operation [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Government Plans to Merge WAPDA, IRSA Under Water Division [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Mosque Attack: The Islamic State claimed responsibility through its Amaq News agency for Friday’s attack on the Imam Zaman mosque in Kabul, the death toll for which has risen to at least twenty dead and dozens more wounded; members of the Shia community put the toll at at least 40 dead. The Taliban had earlier denied involvement in the incident. Funeral services were held on Saturday; survivors accuse a nearby police station of failing to respond to the attack. Afghan special forces commandos killed the last of the attackers after a four-hour gun battle; a spokesman for the Interior Ministry insisted that police responded quickly to the attack. On Sunday, the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs called for the deployment of more security to protect mosques around the country. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • US Strategy: Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that “winning in Afghanistan is really aimed at allowing Afghanistan to be Afghanistan” and that “the outcome is to ensure that a threat from that region doesn’t threaten the safety and security of the American people”. The Washington Post and TOLO both interview U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson; he tells TOLO that “support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped” and that the U.S. strategy aims to “put increasing pressure on [the Taliban] inside the country and on the external sanctuaries.” Pakistani officials rejected Nicholson’s remarks confirming the presence of Taliban leadership in Quetta and Peshawar. In separate interviews with TOLO, Afghan military commanders express hopes that the U.S. will transfer more heavy weapons to the Afghan national security forces and Afghan Air Force. [WAPO] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least thirteen people were killed and 18 wounded in a suicide car bombing attack at a market in Helmand’s Nawa district on Sunday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. Afghan military officials claim to have killed at least thirteen Taliban fighters in separate airstrikes in Nawa and outside the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah over Saturday night. Clearance operations were launched outside the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad on Friday. [TOLO] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
Opposition Politics: Speaking at a gathering of the Coalition to Rescue Afghanistan

  • in Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor denounced Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, accusing him of “sparking tensions”; Noor also warned the central government “not to conspire against him” and vowed that “no power will be able to oust him from his position”. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Taliban Repatriation: Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq told reporters on Sunday that several family members of the late Taliban leader Mullah Omar and several “high ranking leaders of the group” had returned to Kandahar after being encouraged to do so by local officials.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Government Contracting: Pajhwok has a detailed report on contracts issued to Khatib and Alami Consulting Engineers SAL Offshore, a Beirut-based company that has won $16 million in contracts for seven Afghan government projects in the past two years, which implies but not establish a relationship between the firm and First Lady Rula Ghani.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Human Rights Activists Say New Law Needed to Allow Torture Victims to Sue Afghan Govt [Reuters]
  • Watchdog Warns of Millions Being Lost in Mining Sector [TOLO]
  • How Climate Change is a ‘Death Sentence’ in Afghanistan’s Highlands [Guardian]
  • Former Interior Ministry Official Accused of Beating Taxi Driver [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s New Law on Freedom of Assembly: Limiting the Space to Demonstrate – “A draft of the law, leaked on 8 July 2017, has led to strong reactions from civil society, as it became obvious that the new law would seriously restrict the right to organise and participate in demonstrations, public gatherings, strikes and sit-ins.” [Ehsan Qaane, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan National Security Council Rejects US ‘Scapegoating’; US Airstrikes on the Rise

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s National Security Council met on Thursday and issued a statement afterwards rejecting “the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan” in Pres. Trump’s regional strategy announcement earlier this week. In a comment on Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif suggested that it was “time for Pakistan to politely and gratefully close the chapter on US assistance so that the bilateral relationship can be freed from the shadow of contemptuous taunts”.
  • The NYT profiles US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson. Reuters anticipates an increase in U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan as a result of the increase in U.S. forces, and notes that strikes have already escalated from 1074 in 2016 to 2,244 as of August 20 so far this year. U.S. military officials tell the Washington Post that they plan to deploy military advisors at the brigade and battalion level following the increase in force levels in country.
  • Gunmen attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul on Friday afternoon; fighting is ongoing as of this writing.
  • Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif’s children filed additional Supreme Court petitions on Friday challenging the court’s Panama Papers verdict. The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly considering a “third and final notice” to the Sharifs to give statements as part of corruption investigations reopened by that verdict.
  • Supporters of Balkh councilmember Asif Mohmand rallied in Kabul on Thursday, calling on the government to complete investigations into his allegations of detention and abuse by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor.
  • The Sindh provincial government replaced Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo on Thursday with his predecessor, Mushtaq Maher.

Pakistan — Security

  • National Security Council Rejects “Scapegoating Pakistan”: In a statement following the conclusion of a meeting of top civilian and military leaders in Islamabad on Thursday, Pakistan’s National Security Council rejected “the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan” during Pres. Trump’s remarks earlier this week announcing a new U.S. regional strategy, insisting that “Pakistan has an abiding interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan” and that “Pakistan has taken indiscriminate actions against all terrorist networks and sacrificed tens of thousands of troops and civilians in this fight”. The statement downplayed the significance of U.S. assistance to Pakistan and said that Pakistan “would like to see effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan”. The statement also “stressed that India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west”. In a comment on Twitter on Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that “it is time for Pakistan to politely and gratefully close the chapter on US assistance so that the bilateral relationship can be freed from the shadow of contemptuous taunts”. In parliament, opposition leader Khurshid Shah called on the government to hold a joint session of parliament to discuss a response to the U.S. strategy. In a comment on Twitter on Thursday, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif said that instead of criticizing the government former Pres. Zardari should “rein in” former ambassador Husain Haqqani, who he suggested was “taking credit [for] authoring US policy”; Haqqani responded that Asif “should deal with the policy instead of trying to bully an exiled Pakistani on Twitter”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Karachi Police Chief Removed: On Thursday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah removed Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo after 37 days on the job, transferring him to a role overseeing the traffic police and replacing him with Mushtaq Maher, his predecessor in the police chief role. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Investigations Against Sharifs: Lawyers for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s three children filed additional petitions with the Supreme Court on Friday challenging its July verdict in the Panama Papers case. Dawn reports the National Accountability Bureau is considering issuing a “third and final notice” to Nawaz and his family members, and might consider arrest warrants if they refused to give statements to investigators; lawyers for the Sharifs have sought to stay NAB investigations while their court appeals are pending. Opposition leader Imran Khan denounced the Sharifs for refusing to appear before the NAB. On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to bar the broadcast of any “anti-judiciary speeches” by Nawaz or other PML-N members while it hears a petition on the issue. [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Thursday, Nawaz Sharif met with Asad Junejo, the son of former prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, who announced his decision to join the PML-N. The PTI will hold a rally in Sukkur on Friday. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Council on Common Interests Meeting: A rescheduled meeting of the Council on Common Interests has been scheduled to meet Friday, at which the government is expected to discuss proposals for the changes to the federal petroleum policy. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reportedly plans to challenge the withholding of taxes from the provinces by the Federal Board of Revenue.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • More JSQM Workers in Badin Quit Nationalist Politics [Dawn]
  • Anti-Terrorism Court Resumes Hearings on Benazir Bhutto Assassination [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Attorney General Wants Law Officers to Help End Chaos in Legal Fraternity [Dawn]
  • $3.4B ADB-Funded Projects Mired in Delays [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s $100B Deal with China: What Does it Amount To? – “Chinese companies expect high returns on their investments after Pakistan pays back the multibillion dollar loans that these companies have taken from Chinese banks.” [Nadia Naviwala, Devex]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: The NYT profiles US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson, noting that he has yet to meet personally with Pres. Trump, who was reported to have previously called for his firing before reversing and approving a strategy that meets Nicholson’s requests for additional forces to support the mission in Afghanistan. Reuters anticipates an escalation of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, which have already increased from 1,074 in all of 2016 to 2,244 as of August 20th this year; a spokesman for the U.S. military said that U.S. forces are still limited to conducting airstrikes in cases of “self-defense, counter-terrorism strikes against specific groups, and helping Afghan troops achieve strategic effects”, and declined to say whether that might change as a result of Trump’s pledge to “lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field”. A U.S. military official in Kabul tells the Washington Post that “more than 95 to 98 percent of what we’ve asked for is the [train, advise, assist] mission” in Afghanistan, and that the deployment of additional forces will allow for the use of advisors at the brigade and battalion levels. In remarks on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, which he said “puts emphasis on force”, saying that “we believe that this path offers no prospects.” New Zealand announced Friday it would deploy an additional three non-combat personnel to Afghanistan, bringing its contribution to the NATO-led mission to 13. [AP] [WAPO] [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Mosque Attacked: Several gunmen are reported to have attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul on Friday afternoon following a suicide bombing attack; fighting is ongoing as of this writing and casualties have been reported. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Officials in Paktia claim to have again retaken control of the Janikhel district after joint police and army special forces operations there. Residents of the Mirzakai district in Paktia vowed to destroy the homes and impose fines on individuals who cooperated with or joined the insurgency. Security forces repelled a Taliban attack on the Doshi district center in Baghlan province on Thursday morning. Four Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack on a checkpost in Kandahar on Friday morning. One person was wounded when a magnetic bomb was planted on a vehicle in Kabul on Thursday evening; no claim of responsibility was reported. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protest in Support of Balkh Councilmember: Several hundred supporters of Balkh provincial council member Asif Mohmand demonstrated in Kabul on Thursday, calling on the government to complete its investigation of Mohmand’s allegations of detention and abuse by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor. A spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami called on the government to refer the case the Attorney General’s Office by Saturday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Trump Locks America Into Its Forever War – “There is surely no greater sign of the bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy than its Afghanistan policy.” [Fareed Zakaria, WAPO]
  • Commentary: Bush and Obama Fought a Failed ‘War on Terror’. It’s Trump’s Turn – “For the last nearly 16 years, both parties have followed the same script, one based on false, costly assumptions that they refuse to challenge, crossing ethical boundaries without acknowledgment — all the while steadfastly refusing to learn from their mistakes and change course.” [Micah Zenko, NYT]
  • Commentary: Trump Singled Out India to Do More in Afghanistan; That Could Easily Backfire – “If India does play a bigger role and Pakistan continues — or increases — its cross-border support, it is likely to leave all the players roughly where they now sit: engaged in a holding action to prevent the territorial defeat of the Afghan state from a mostly indigenous insurgency bolstered in part as a result of Pakistan’s havens and support of militant proxies.” [Christopher Clary, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Leaders Huddle to Discuss Response to Trump; Ghani Signs New US-Afghan ‘Compact’

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Topline

  • Pakistani civilian and military leaders are meeting as of this writing to discuss the response to the newly announced US strategy towards Afghanistan and the region. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with US Ambassador to Pakistan Hale on Wednesday, stressing that Pakistan was “not looking for any material or financial assistance from the US, but [rather] trust”. Imran Khan denounced the new US strategy and the Pakistani government’s response. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi spoke by phone with Sec. Tillerson on Wednesday, voicing support for Pakistan’s “sovereignty and legitimate security concerns”; PM Abbasi also met with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud during a one-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
  • Pres. Ghani announced the launch of a new “Afghan-US Bilateral Compact” on Wednesday after meetings with Amb. Llorens and Gen. Nicholson, cover a range of reform benchmarks; no further details were provided, however. At a press conference on Thursday, Nicholson reiterated calls for the Taliban to join the peace process, saying that they “cannot win on the battlefield”. Nicholson said that an increase in U.S. trainers into Afghanistan was already underway and would continue for the next several months, but did not provide specific deployment figures.
  • Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif met with top aides on Wednesday to discuss his legal strategy in response to summons from the National Accountability Bureau, and the governments plans to amend Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. Nawaz is reportedly planning to travel to London, where his wife is now undergoing cancer treatment.
  • The Taliban overran the district headquarters of the Zana Khan district in Ghazni on Wednesday night, seizing military equipment and materiel.
  • Afghan ministry of finance figures indicate that the government has spent only 28% of its total development budget for the fiscal year thus far.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Reacts to New US Strategy: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale on Wednesday; the Pakistani military’s public relations wing quoted Bajwa as emphasizing that “we are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the US, but trust, understanding and [an] acknowledgement of our contributions.” Bajwa was also quoted saying that Pakistan had “done a lot” to support peace in Afghanistan and “shall keep on doing our best, not to appease anyone, but in line with our national interest and national policy”. The Express Tribune reports that Hale was warned that Pakistan would pull out of an Afghan reconciliation process if the US did not “adopt a balanced policy”. PM Abbasi is chairing a meeting of top military and civilian aides on Thursday to discuss Pakistan’s response to the US strategy, which is ongoing as of this writing. On Wednesday, Pakistani senators debated the response to the Trump administration’s strategy; Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani called for the cancellation of a planned visit by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to Washington. In a press conference on Wednesday, PTI leader Imran Khan denounced the new U.S. policy, which he said was aimed at “de-nuclearizing” Pakistan and was the product of “Jewish and Indian lobbyists”, and criticized the government’s response. The WSJ interviews Imran. Separately, JUI-S and Defense of Pakistan Council chairman Maulana Sami-ul Haq held a press conference on Wednesday, saying that “the whole nation needs to rise up to defeat the West” in Afghanistan and saying that Pakistan would not carry out any military operation against the Haqqani network, as sought by the United States. The Atlantic interviews former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani, who describes his previous proposals with now National Security Council aide Lisa Curtis to put in place a “sustained, graduated process of trying to change Pakistan around”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [AFP] [ET]
  • Regional Diplomacy: On Wednesday, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi spoke by phone with Sec. Tillerson, in which he said that “we should attach importance to the important role that Pakistan plays in the Afghanistan issue, respect (Pakistan’s) sovereignty and legitimate security concerns”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement. Bloomberg notes that rising Chinese investment in Pakistan has largely offset the decline in U.S. assistance in recent years. On Wednesday, PM Abbasi met with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud in Jeddah during a one-day visit to the kingdom, who “acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in its resolute fight against terrorism”. [Reuters] [The Nation]
  • PML-N Reorganizing: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif met with several top aides to discuss his response to summons from the National Accountability Bureau over reopened corruption investigations, which Nawaz and family have thus far not responded to. The meeting also reportedly discussed the government’s plans to amend Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. Railways Minister Saad Rafique told reporters afterwards that “we haven’t yet made our mind on absolute boycott of the NAB proceedings”. Nawaz is reportedly preparing to travel to London to meet with his wife, who is now undergoing cancer treatment. On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan transferred records of companies owned by Finance Minister Dar and members of the Sharif family to NAB investigators. [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Election Commission has requested the deployment of army personnel to provide security for the NA-120 Lahore by-elections, scheduled for September 17. The Returning Officer for the election has sought responses from the PML-N alleged code of conduct violations ahead of the polls. Spokesmen for MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain reported an attempted break-in at his London home over Tuesday night, which the party suggested could have been an attempt on his life. British police are investigating the incident. [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Police Official Among Kidnappers Killed in Raid to Rescue PPP Lawmaker’s Son [Dawn]
  • Two Frontier Corp Soldiers Killed in Turbat [The Nation]
  • India Repatriates Seven Pakistani Prisoners [The Nation]
  • Bench-Bar Tiff Assumes Alarming Proportions [ET]
  • 50M at Risk of Arsenic Poisoning in Pakistan [AP] [AFP]
  • Eidul Azha Holidays from September 1-4 [ET] [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Orders Electricity Distrbution Companies to Refund Rs 20 Billion to Consumers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Washington Runs Serious Risk in Coercing Islamabad – “Unless the Pakistanis appreciate that the costs have been significantly raised on their current approach, and simultaneously that some of their core national interests can be be met by a new approach – principally their concerns about India – they will not change their course.” [Daniel Markey, Cipher Brief]
  • Commentary: Washington Bad Cop – “Trump’s strategy is high risk. It’s one thing to exit the region and get tough on Pakistan. It’s another to dig your heels into the war in Afghanistan and then not only get tough on Pakistan but go zero-sum with India.” [Nadia Naviwala, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Why Trump is Right to Get Tough with Pakistan – “The Trump administration should make clear to Islamabad that it would be willing to reverse these moves and repair relations — but only after Pakistan has demonstrated a change in conduct that has the clear result of diminished violence in Afghanistan.” [Zalmay Khalilzad, NYT]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said that the new U.S. strategy was a signal of “our continued commitment” to Afghanistan, vowing to “annihilate the Islamic State” and “crush remnants of al-Qaida”. Nicholson said that the Taliban, which he described as a “criminal organization that is more interested in profits from drugs, kidnapping and murder for hire”, “cannot win on the battlefield, it’s time for them to join the peace process”. Nicholson said that a troop increase into Afghanistan was already underway and would continue over the next few months, but did not provide specific numbers on those deployments. Separately, former Afghan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil praised the new U.S. strategy for “speaking loud and clear about Pakistan’s deceiving strategy supporting terrorist groups and offering them safe heavens”. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Reuters] [TOLO] [NYT]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters attacked multiple security checkposts in the Nurgeram and Kamdish districts of Nuristan province over Wednesday night, but were repelled, Afghan army spokesmen said. The Ghazni provincial police chief confirmed that Taliban fighters overran the Zana Khan district headquarters over Wednesday night, seizing military equipment; at least four policemen were killed. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • New ‘Bilateral Compact’: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani’s office announced the formulation of a new Afghan-US Bilateral Compact after meetings with US Special Charges D’Affaires Hugo Llorens and Gen. Nicholson, which the presidency said would cover “more than 200 benchmarks” across the “matrices” of Governance, Economics, Peace and Reconciliation, and Security. At a briefing session in Washington on Wednesday, senior administration officials highlighted the compact as the principle means through which U.S. reform conditions would be structured, but provided no further details. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Execution: Ministry of Finance officials report that the government has only spent 28% of its development budget for the fiscal year to date, and that priority will be given to those ministries and departments that have spent their budget during the next fiscal year.
  • Mining: A spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said Tuesday that the ministry was assessing the implementation of a contract with an Indian mining consortium for the development of the Hajigak iron mine and would pull the tender if the consortium did not fulfill the requirements of the contract. Reuters looks at the broader development of the mining sector and its role in shaping Trump administration thinking on the US strategy.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Trump Made the Right Move on Afghanistan – “In these trying circumstances, with no great policy options available to him, we would especially commend Mr. Trump for making a difficult and very presidential decision about future American policy.” [John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings]
  • Commentary: What Works in Afghanistan – “These four cases of success in Afghanistan carry common elements: limited aims, tight alignment with their foreign sponsors’ interests, and expert execution.” [Phillip Carter, Slate]
  • Commentary: The Taliban’s Response to Trump’s Afghanistan Address – “One of the contradictions in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan since about 2006 is that many experts, including military ones, will acknowledge that the war cannot be won on the battlefield, and yet they will simultaneously advocate for policies that prioritize military action.” [Steve Coll, New Yorker]
  • Commentary: President Trump Needs a Special Envoy in Afghanistan – “The president needs to appoint a special envoy, reporting directly to him, who commands his and the international community’s full faith and confidence.” [Saad Mohseni and Mitchell Shivers, WSJ]
  • Commentary: Why India Should Buy Into Trump’s Plan – “If India wants to become a source of regional stability, then it must start acting like one — and spending like one.” [Mihir Sharma, Bloomberg]
  • Commentary: Give Trump Credit for His Afghanistan Plan – “President Trump deserves credit for reconsidering his opposition to persevering in Afghanistan.” [Kori Schake, The Atlantic]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: More US Forces Could Deploy in “Days or Weeks”; Pakistan Expresses “Disappointment”, Risks Sanction

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Topline

  • CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters on Tuesday that new U.S. forces could be deployed to Afghanistan “within days or weeks”, but no announcements have been made at this point on changes in troop levels. The WSJ reports that the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is actually higher than the official cap of 8,400 soldiers, and that when temporary and special duty forces are accounted for the current total is closer to 12,000, before any new deployments. The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff also tells Reuters he is considering the deployment of additional air assets as part of the new strategy. Sec. Tillerson told a press conference on Tuesday that the strategy was “intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand that you will not win a battlefield victory”; U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said in a statement that “this new strategy means the Taliban cannot win militarily… now is the time to renounce violence and reconcile.” Pres. Ghani again welcomed the strategy in a national address on Wednesday; former Pres. Karzai was critical.
  • Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry expressed “disappointment” with the new Trump administration policy, saying that “instead of relying on the false narrative of safe havens, the US needs to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism.” In remarks on Tuesday, Sec. Tillerson and U.S. National Security Council officials suggested the U.S. would consider bringing new sanctions against Pakistan or removing its Major Non-NATO Ally Status if it failed to take more aggressive action against terrorist groups. On Wednesday, PM Abbasi made his first visit to Saudi Arabia since taking office. China’s deputy chief of mission also met with the top Pakistani military spokesman on Wednesday.
  • Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz has been diagnosed with lymphoma, her daughter Maryam Nawaz confirmed on Wednesday; she is undergoing treatment in London but for now appears not to be dropping out of the NA-120 Lahore by-election in which she is running to succeed her husband.
  • The PML-N government passed an electoral reforms package through the national assembly on Tuesday, over the objections of the PTI; the government also confirmed its intentions to bring an amendment to remove or modify Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, under which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified.
  • At least five people were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Wednesday morning; seven people were injured in a grenade attack on a police checkpost in Kabul on Tuesday evening.
  • If you find this daily update useful, please feel free to share or subscribe new contacts through this link. Suggestions of additional articles to include in coverage are always appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Pakistan —  Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Reacts to Newly Announced US Strategy: Speaking at a press conference in Washington, Sec. Tillerson said that “Pakistan must adopt a different approach” on counterterrorism and suggested that the U.S. might consider revoking Pakistan’s Major Non-NATO U.S. Ally status or imposing other punishments if it did not cooperate. Speaking earlier in a briefing for reporters, a National Security Council official said that the U.S. “could conceivably” impose new sanctions on the Haqqani network and “Pakistani officials tied to these kinds of groups”. US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday to discuss the Trump administration’s announced strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia; Asif is expected to visit Washington at an unspecified future date. In a GEO interview on Wednesday, Asif said that the U.S. “should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan”. In a separate interview on Tuesday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal described the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism as his “top priority”. In a statement that followed a Pakistani cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that “it is disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation… instead of relying on the false narrative of safe havens, the US needs to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism.” A meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee has been called for Thursday. [NYT] [WSJ] [LAT] [Reuters] [AFP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Tillerson Press Conference Transcript]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pakistani diplomats are reportedly reaching out to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, and China “before issuing a detailed policy statement” on the new US strategy. On Wednesday, PM Abbasi made his first foreign trip since taking office to Saudi Arabia, accompanied by Foreign Minister Asif and Finance Minister Dar; they are expected to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman Al-Saud. China’s deputy chief of mission, Lijian Zhao, met with the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations arm, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, on Wednesday to tout the bilateral military relationship between the two countries. Elsewhere, a spokesman for India’s ministry of external affairs welcomed Trump’s “efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists”, and said India would continue reconstruction and development assistance efforts in Afghanistan. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Former PM’s Wife Diagnosed with Cancer: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz, his is contesting his former seat in the NA-120 Lahore constituency, has been diagnosed with cancer; she had traveled to London last week for treatment. Most sources initially reported that she was suffering a form a throat cancer, but The News reported that it was blood cancer, and her daughter Maryam Nawaz confirmed Wednesday that it was lymphoma. Maryam has reportedly been tasked with leading her campaign in absentia. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa spoke by phone with Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday to convey prayers for Kulsoom’s health, and opposition leader Imran Khan also expressed hope for her recovery. On Tuesday, the Election Commission heard complaints from opposition parties who allege the use of state funds by the PML-N in the Lahore campaign. [AP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Electoral and Constitutional Reforms: In remarks on Tuesday, Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid confirmed the government’s plans to amend Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, which set undefined standards of honesty for prospective candidates, and under which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court. Hamid indicated that the government would also set a maximum period of disqualification, less than five years. PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah said that the party would not support the change “just to save one person”. A Supreme Court petitioner from the Watan Party proposed extending the articles’ requirements to members of the judiciary and military in a filing on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the national assembly passed the government’s election reform legislation package on Tuesday, some of whose provisions Dawn summarizes; the PTI held a protest walkout immediately afterwards, saying its demands had not been met. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI has filed a new Islamabad High Court petition challenging the Election Commission’s investigation into the party’s foreign sources of funds; the IHC declined to issue a stay order against the ECP. On Wednesday, the ECP issued another notice to Imran Khan after he failed to respond to contempt of court proceedings over his criticism of the commission. The two factions of the ANP led by Asfandyar Wali Khan and Begum Naseem Wali announced their reunion after a meeting on Tuesday. Jamaat-e-Islami leaders threatened to lead a protest march after Eid if the government did not implement its reform plans for the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa. The MQM-Pakistan cancelled a planned conference scheduled for Tuesday to discuss “conspiracies against the solidarity of Pakistan, elimination of corruption and empowerment of local governments” after several other major parties declined to attend. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh High Court Hears Challenge to Amendments to NAB Authorities in Province [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Event Cancelled at University of London [Dawn] [ET]
  • Auditor General Finds Rs 1.3 Trillion in “Irregularities” in Power Sector in FY2016-17 [Dawn]
  • PM Assures Sindh Government of Karachi Circular Railway Approval [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sindhi Nationalist Party Members Quit [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Nawaz Sharif: Crying in the Rain – “Pakistan’s civil-military disequilibrium exposes this country to massive internal and external threats.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, The News]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Troop Deployments: In remarks to reporters during a trip to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel suggested that additional U.S. forces could be deployed to Afghanistan to expand advisory support to the Afghan army and police “within days or weeks”. The WSJ reports that the Pentagon has in fact already been maintaining forces in Afghanistan in excess of the 8,400 soldiers capped under Force Management Level caps set under the Obama administration, and that another 3,500 soldiers are also present through temporary details or other special status. No official announcement of new troop deployments has been made since Pres. Trump’s strategy announcement on Monday, but official sources indicate around 3,900 soldiers are likely to be deployed, which would bring the total to around 16,000 American servicemembers. Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein tells Reuters that he is reviewing proposals to expand US Air Force assets in Afghanistan for both training and airstrikes, but that no final decision has been made. The Washington Post reports with Marine forces in Helmand, who have been providing advisory support to Afghan army forces since April.
  • US Strategy: Although Pres. Trump heavily emphasized his commitment to “winning” in Afghanistan, multiple news analysis pieces note the lack of clarity on how U.S. objectives will be defined. A senior administration official tells Reuters that the administration would use territorial control by the Taliban and the Afghan government as one measure of progress in assessing the course of the strategy going forward, as well as “estimated number of fighters, the presence of al Qaeda and ISIS”, and the readiness of the Afghan national security forces; the official indicated that the administration does not “expect to see any real gains materialize for at least six months” but would “essentially never stop evaluating” from that point onward. U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said in a statement that “this new strategy means the Taliban cannot win militarily… now is the time to renounce violence and reconcile. A peaceful, stable Afghanistan is victory for the Afghan people and the goal of the Coalition.” In his remarks at Tuesday’s press conference, Sec. Tillerson said that the strategy was “intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand that you will not win a battlefield victory”, speaking directly to the Taliban to say that “we may not win, but neither will you”. In remarks to CNN and The Hill, Blackwater founder Erik Prince suggested that Pres. Trump would ultimately reconsider the Pentagon-backed strategy, which he criticized as “Obama-lite”. Politico and the Washington Post look at the role of senior generals in the Trump administration and their impact on the Afghanistan policy decision. [NYT] [CNN] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • More Reactions to US Strategy: In a national address on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani said that the newly announced U.S. strategy was “another opportunity for Pakistan to review its old regional approach” and that the Taliban should “forget about winning the war and bringing down government”. Former Pres. Karzai was critical of the new strategy, saying that the “U.S. must seek peace and stability in Afghanistan rather than extending conflict and bloodshed in Afghanistan and the region”. TOLO and Ariana News collect remarks from other Afghan political party leaders; the Post, AP, Vox, and Military Times collect reactions from the U.S. Congress. [Khaama Press] [WAPO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A Taliban suicide car bombing struck near a police headquarters building in Helmand’s capital of Lashkar Gah on Wednesday morning, killing at least five people and wounding dozens more. A grenade attack at a police checkpost in Kabul on Tuesday evening wounded at least seven people; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Wardak provincial police report that the Taliban shadow district governor for the Chak district was killed in an Afghan airstrike on Tuesday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Collected Commentary and Analysis

  • Alyssa Ayres, “The Not-So-New ‘New’ South Asia Strategy” [CFR]
  • Max Boot, “Back to Nation-Building in Afghanistan; Good.” [NYT]
  • Daniel Byman, “Why Are We Losing in Afghanistan?” [Lawfare]
  • Kate Clark, “’Not Nation-Building’ but ‘Killing Terrorists’: Trump’s ‘New’ Strategy for Afghanistan” [AAN]
  • Christopher Clary, “Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Limits of US Influence” [War on the Rocks]
  • John Dempsey, “There is No Military Path to Victory in Afghanistan” [TIME]
  • Andrew Exum, “When Will Enough Be Enough in Afghanistan?” [The Atlantic]
  • Michael Fuchs, Hardin Lang, and Vikram Singh, “The American People Deserve More Answers on Afghanistan” [CAP]
  • Brandon Friedman, “Our Afghanistan Repetition is a Form of National Madness” [New York Daily News]
  • Susan Glasser, “America is Out of Ideas in Afghanistan” [Politico]
  • Patricia Gossman, “Trump’s Afghanistan Speech Ignores Civilian Harm” [HRW]
  • David Ignatius, “Trump’s Strategy Isn’t to Win, It’s to Avoid Losing” [WAPO]
  • John Nagl, “A True Afghanistan Counterinsurgency is Trump’s Only Hope” [The National Interest]
  • Uzair Younus, “Trump’s Afghanistan Plan: Old Wine in a New Bottle” [The Diplomat]