Afghan government, Taliban meet in Maldives
By Katherine Tiedemann
At least 17 people have been killed in the last day in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi as rival ethnic-based political factions clashed, reportedly sparked on Tuesday night when an office of the Awami National Party, a secular Pashtun nationalist group, was lit on fire (ET, Aaj, Geo, Reuters, Daily Times). At least 200 have been arrested in a bid to quell the violence (ET).
A leading Islamic cleric who had helped broker peace deals between the Pakistani government and militants in South Waziristan was killed by unknown gunmen earlier today (Reuters). Pakistan is contemplating creating a new military post for Gen. Ashfaq Kayani to ensure that the powerful Army chief retains his influence after his term expires in November (FT). An alternative proposal is for Gen. Kayani to assume the position of chairman of an existing Joint Chiefs of Staff committee, currently a largely ceremonial role.
Dawn reports that Pakistan has "in principle" agreed to large-scale operations in North Waziristan, but on its own timeline (Dawn, AFP). Since 2004, 2,421 Pakistani soldiers have died fighting militants, according to military figures, and there are currently nearly 150,000 troops posted in the country's west and northwest (Reuters).
The looming battle
Afghan intelligence has reportedly captured a Taliban shadow governor for the northern province of Samangan, Mullah Gulistan (Reuters). Seven members of the Taliban are reportedly meeting with 15 representatives of the Afghan government in the Maldives, four months after an initial round of talks there (AP).
War reporter C. J. Chivers has today's must-read, a riveting portrait of a Marine patrol in Marjah, Helmand, the site of the coalition last major offensive in Afghanistan (NYT). Fighting between coalition forces and insurgents has gone back up, now that the opium crops are harvested and temperatures are rising. Tyler Hicks has an accompanying slideshow of the patrol (NYT).
Some 10,000 of the Obama administration's 30,000-troop surge are headed to Kandahar for the expected operations there, and incoming soldiers have had to hurry through the transition process as flight delays, some caused by the Icelandic volcano, have slowed deployment (Wash Post). And even as an Afghan government report accuses Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai of helping his "associates" steal land in Kandahar, the Afghan leader is considering approving a deal for security contracts that would give his half-brother even more influence in the southern Afghan province (Times, McClatchy).
The U.S. is reportedly investigating claims that several U.S. soldiers were responsible for the "unlawful deaths" of at least three Afghan civilians (Reuters, DoD). Further details are not available yet.
Mugshots and more
ABC News has failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's mugshot, and the Telegraph reports that Shahzad is baffled that his explosives didn't go off and has asked investigators to explain why his car bomb failed (ABC, Tel). While Shahzad has reportedly been extraordinarily cooperative with authorities, some analysts assess that he "may have undermined any leverage he had" (NYT). Bonus read: a former CIA case officer's take on why Shahzad's bomb was a bust (FP).
A used car dealer from Kansas City has pleaded guilty to providing $23,500 in funds to al-Qaeda, and in 2008 he swore allegiance to the terrorist group (AP, CNN, Reuters, NYT). Khalid Ouazzani, a 32-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Morocco, also pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering in his attempt to help al-Qaeda; he was arrested and indicted secretly earlier this year and faces up to 65 years in prison without parole and fines of up to $1 million.
Twitter ban likely imminent
A day after banning Facebook, Pakistani authorities have blocked access to YouTube across the country in an attempt to contain "growing sacrilegious material" on the website (AFP, AP, ET, Dawn, NYT). Pakistan Telecommunications Authority currently blocks more than 450 websites. Bonus read: a quick history and analysis of Pakistan's restrictions on web content (FP).
AfPak Channel, New America Foundation