Germany warns of terror threat
By Katherine Tiedemann
Unlike vague warnings last month, German authorities now reportedly have "concrete indications of a series of attacks planned for the end of November" in Germany by militants trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan (NYT, WSJ, Spiegel). Officials say U.S. drone strikes in northwest Pakistan are believed to have killed some of the plotters, though others remain at large, and U.S. officials reportedly have indications that a dozen would-be attackers have already left the border areas for Europe. Germany's Deutsche Welle sets out three possible scenarios: one involving al-Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauretani with a plot against Europe and the U.S., a second with Mumbai-style attacks potentially in Germany, and the third using sleeper cells already in place in Germany (DW). Germany has sent bomb-sniffing dogs and heavily armed police officers to busy airports, train stations, and landmarks across the country.
Obama administration envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Richard Holbrooke said yesterday that former Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is currently seeking a political comeback after living in self-imposed exile in London since 2008, "has about as much chance of coming back to power as (former Soviet) President (Mikhail) Gorbachev" (Reuters). Amb. Holbrooke further asserted that any return to military rule in Pakistan would be a "very big setback."
Saeed Shah profiles the southern port city of Karachi, where 1,300 people have died violently in the last year and clashes are common between the city's mojahirs, mostly represented by the MQM, ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom are supporters of the Awami National Party, and Baluch, who are associated with the Pakistan Peoples Party (McClatchy).
SIGAR under scrutiny
Yesterday at 3:30pm EST, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction Arnold Fields is scheduled to testify before the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight and is expected to face difficult questioning as bipartisan criticism of his performance has grown (WSJ, Post, AP, Senate). Critics have questioned the quality of SIGAR's audits and allege that the organization follows the lead of the interagency joint contracting corruption task force; Fields says that until recently he had not received adequate resources in funding and staff.
At this weekend's NATO conference in Lisbon, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to back a plan to turn over combat responsibility to Afghan security forces by 2014, the first time he has publicly endorsed that time frame (LAT, Post). Yesterday, Obama held his regular monthly meeting with his national security team in preparation for the conference (AFP). Top commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus and Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly had a face-to-face meeting in which Karzai endorsed NATO's military operations and, reluctantly, night raids (AP). Gen. Petraeus is said to have reminded Karzai that Afghan forces now take the lead on every night operation and that civilian casualties occur in only slightly more than one percent of the missions.
McClatchy reports that some residents in the northern province of Bamiyan, one of the more peaceful areas of Afghanistan and therefore likely to be transitioned to Afghan control sooner, are nervous about potential clashes after NATO withdrawal (McClatchy). In the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, Col. Abdul Razzik, an Afghan Border Police officer and local powerbroker, is working with coalition forces to "beat the Taliban" (WSJ). And in neighboring Helmand, NATO is trying to convince the Alikozai tribe to participate in a local village defense force in Sangin, though tribal leaders are said to be skeptical of receiving adequate coalition support (AP).
Learning English in Ghazni
A provincial reconstruction team and an Afghan NGO paired up to provide English and computer classes to more than 70 women from Ghazni for courses six hours a day, six days a week for seven months (Pajhwok). All the students received a Dari to English dictionary as part of the course.AfPak Channel