U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to suggest that the death of Osama bin Laden offered a unique opportunity for a wider settlement in a region riven by warfare and insurgency.
"Our message to the Taliban remains the same," she said Monday. "You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process."
That has been a long-cherished ambition of U.S. foreign policy - to delink the "good" Taliban from the "bad" Taliban and al Qaeda as a way of bringing peace to Afghanistan. As Clinton put in a speech to the Asia Society in February, the Holy Grail was to "split the weakened Taliban off from al Qaeda and reconcile those who will renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution."Read the full story
Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud, whose notoriety includes allegedly recruiting children as suicide bombers, is being targeted by the United States, the State Department announced Thursday.
"Widely considered to be the deadliest of all TTP's commanders, Hussain and the TTP (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan) have taken responsibility for many lethal suicide bombings throughout Pakistan," the State Department said in a news release on Qari Hussain. The released cited a string of such attacks, including a blast last September that killed at least 54 people at a rally in Quetta and a car bombing the same month that killed at least 17 people - including four children - in Lakki Marwat.
Even among militant groups known for brutal violence, Qari Hussain Mehsud has a notorious reputation. He is alleged to have recruited dozens of Pakistani children as suicide bombers (a form of attack in which he reportedly is an expert trainer) and has boasted of personally beheading enemies. After the abortive Times Square bombing in New York last year, his voice was purportedly on the audio tape that claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the TTP. FULL POST
Hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks paint a picture of corruption in Afghanistan at every level of government and society.
Cables from the U.S. ambassador in Kabul portray Afghan President Hamid Karzai as paranoid, with an "inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building." FULL POST
On the record, Pakistan has persistently criticized the United States' use of unmanned drones to attack militant hideouts in its mountainous border region.
But diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that in private the Pakistani government was not unhappy about the strikes, and secretly allowed small groups of U.S. special operation units to operate on its soil.
In a cable sent in August 2008, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan at the time, Anne W. Patterson, recounted a meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. It coincided with a military operation in one of the restive frontier territories.
Patterson wrote: "Malik suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation. The PM brushed aside Rehman's remarks and said, 'I don't care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.'"
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On the morning of September 26, Linda Norgrove was in an unmarked Toyota Corolla traveling from Asadabad to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, a spectacular route with towering mountains to the right and a broad river to the left. Spectacular but also very dangerous - ambush country in a part of Afghanistan where many different groups, including criminal gangs, the Taliban and al Qaeda - have a presence.
Norgrove, who was British, worked for Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a U.S. company that handles a number of substantial contracts for the USAID in Afghanistan. An experienced development worker who understood the risks of being in this volatile part of Afghanistan, she was wearing a burqa to better blend in and was traveling in a two-car convoy with local staff. But gunmen abducted her that day, on the very same stretch of road where two months earlier a U.S. military convoy had been ambushed.
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One of the most respected voices among U.S. foreign policy experts says the Obama Administration’s Afghan policy is not working.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a veteran of several U.S. administrations, writes in the latest edition of Newsweek: “Continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.”
Speaking on CNN’s American Morning on Monday, Haass said Afghanistan was now “a sponge for American resources and it is a distraction. We out to be thinking militarily about what we might have to do in North Korea or Iran where we really do have vital national interests.” FULL POST
Pakistan has banned the theatrical release of a comedy about Osama bin Laden due to hit cinema screens in South Asia on Friday.
Movie distributors say they are appealing the ban, issued by Pakistan's Film Censor Board.
The film, "Tere bin Laden" ("Your bin Laden"), stars Pakistani pop singer Ali Zafar as an ambitious young journalist trying to land the scoop of a lifetime as a way to win a visa to live in the United States. Made in the India's Bollywood "movie factory," it's a departure from the melodramas and musicals that dominate Indian cinematic fare. It's also unusual in that it has a Pakistani in the starring role. FULL POST
The International Committee of the Red Cross is defending its practice of providing medical training and basic medical supplies to the Taliban in Afghanistan – saying it is in line with the ICRC’s mandate not to discriminate between different sides in a conflict. FULL POST
With its columns and colonnades, the U.S. Treasury is one of the grandest buildings in Washington. But a handful of its staff are currently working in less salubrious surroundings. They’ve been dispatched to Kabul in an effort to stifle the Afghan Taliban’s cash-flow. Their mission: to detect money laundering schemes, investigate offshore accounts and cell-phone transfer, and try to rein in Afghanistan’s huge “informal” banking sector. FULL POST