December 14th, 2009
07:01 PM ET

Quetta in the drone crosshairs?

WASHINGTON - Is the United States looking to expand its unmanned aircraft strikes to hunt down insurgents in the teeming populace of Quetta, Pakistan?

The idea is being considerd, according to an article in the L.A. Times on Monday.  But the logic and risk was already being questioned by government officials.

The Pakistani city is teeming with Taliban refugees from Afghanistan who are trying to escape the U.S. and coalition presence in that country.  These are the hardcore Taliban, set on fighting the U.S. presence and desiring a strict Muslim religious state.  Quetta is close enough to orchestrate operations inside Afghanistan, but just far enough inside Pakistan and out of reach of the U.S. military's bombs. FULL POST

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Filed under: Pakistan • Pentagon • Taliban
December 14th, 2009
04:11 PM ET

Helmand a dangerous place, but also 'a precious jewel'

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Atia Abawi is touring areas of the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. (Read the posts from Day 1 and Day 2)

Another interesting day in Khan Neshin; we walked through a field of hashish, got a glimpse into the lives of Afghan women here, I was able to hold a smiling little baby and we had tea with a soldier who has a kill count of 83 – for mice in his tent.

On patrol
“Singayaay!” the Marines and soldiers greeted villagers in Pashto.  Walking on patrol in Maranjan, we followed the troops as they helped the Afghan police pass out blankets to the villagers.  Hearts and minds in action, this time in hopes that it would shed a positive light on the local police - a police force that has been traded out several times for misbehavior including intimidating the villagers and drug use. The last group kicked out had 11 out of 20 test positive for drugs.  FULL POST

December 14th, 2009
12:51 PM ET

Around the Web: Debating the drone program in Pakistan

Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes of the Los Angeles Times report that some “senior U.S. officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in Quetta.”

“The proposal has opened a contentious new front in the clandestine war. The prospect of Predator aircraft strikes in Quetta, a sprawling city, signals a new U.S. resolve to decapitate the Taliban. But it also risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad,” they write.

Newsweek magazine's Mark Hosenball reports that President Obama thus far is opposed to expanding the drone program into more densely populated areas of Pakistan.

“Five administration officials tell Newsweek that the president has sided with political and diplomatic advisers who argue that widening the scope of the drone attacks would be risky and unwise,” Hosenball writes.

“Obama is concerned that firing missiles into urban areas like Quetta, where intelligence reports suggest that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and other high-level militants have sometimes taken shelter, would greatly increase the risk of civilian casualties.”


December 14th, 2009
12:16 PM ET

Sniffing out explosives

The Mine Detection Agency in Afghanistan has been using dogs to clear mines and unexploded bombs since 1989 and operated even when the Taliban were in power. They currently have more than 300 dogs and operate all over Afghanistan. The agency breeds its own dogs and training starts from when the animals are born. Officials say mine dogs can clear fields more reliably and faster than any other mine clearance tool. CNN followed a day of training with the dogs. See more of the photos or watch the video

December 14th, 2009
11:38 AM ET

Pakistan blocks deportation of 5 Americans

A court order issued Monday blocks five Americans arrested in Pakistan last week from being deported or being handed over to the FBI, officials said.

"All the government functionaries, including federal government or provincial governments are directed not to hand over the alleged detainees [Americans] to any American agencies, or any other foreign agencies," the order said, according to Faisal Zaman, attorney for the government of Pakistan's Punjab province.

Read more about the court order

Filed under: Daily Developments
December 14th, 2009
11:20 AM ET
December 14th, 2009
09:15 AM ET

Attack on Afghan police post kills 8 officers

Kabul, Afghanistan - Gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in northern Afghanistan early Monday, killing eight police officers, authorities said.

The attack took place in Baghlan province about 3:30 a.m., said Mohammad Akbar Barikzai, provincial governor.

In the ensuing firefight, police killed two attackers and wounded a third, said Zalma Afzal of the provincial police.

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Filed under: Daily Developments