U.S. Secretly Releasing Taliban Prisoners
Risky business: The U.S. military has for several years reportedly been releasing high-value prisoners from the Parwan detention center in an effort to broker a peace deal with insurgents in Afghanistan (Post). Military officials receive promises from local village elders that violence will decrease in their towns if certain prisoners are released, and warn the prisoners that if they are caught attacking U.S. troops again they will immediately be detained. U.S. chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (D-MI) said Friday upon his return from a visit to Afghanistan that he was struck by the difference between how the U.S. military views the war in Afghanistan and how the intelligence committee views it (Reuters). Both Rogers and Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said on Sunday that they think the Taliban is stronger now that it was before President Barack Obama sent 33,000 “surge” troops to Afghanistan in 2010 (Post).
U.S. officials have abandoned their plans to build a consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, saying the planned location of the compound is too dangerous (Post). An assessment written by the Kabul Embassy in 2009 and recently leaked to the Washington Post reveals that diplomatic officials had tried to obtain waivers for State Department building rules, and had intentionally ignored security concerns, such as the use of local building methods that would leave the compound without the ability to withstand a car bomb.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned U.S. soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia on Friday that incidents of misconduct by soldiers who “lack judgment, lack professionalism, lack leadership” reflect badly on the entire armed forces, and reduce the chances of success on the battlefield (NYT, AP). A man in an Afghan Army uniform opened fire on coalition forces in the Marja district of Helmand Province on Sunday, killing one service member before he was shot dead by other international troops (NYT,CNN, AP, AFP, AJE). It was the latest in a series of so-called green-on-blue attacks, which have risen sharply in occurrence this year. And five Afghan border policemen were killed on Friday night when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Nangarhar Province (Dawn, AFP, AP).
An Afghan court sentenced three in-laws of 15-year-old Sahar Gul to ten years in prison on Saturday for abusing her for five months because she refused to become a prostitute (NYT, AP). Sahar’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, and husband locked her in a basement last year with very little food and water, and brutally tortured her, attracting international condemnation when she was released by police in December last year.
A U.S. drone strike on a house in the Shawal area of North Waziristan on Saturday killed nine suspected militants, and signaled the United States’ intention to continue the attacks despite vocal Pakistani opposition (AP, CNN, Reuters, BBC, ET, Dawn). Pakistan’s Foreign Office released a statement condemning the strike as a violation of international law and Pakistan’s territorial integrity, and said the drone activity hinders efforts to improve diplomatic ties with the United States (Dawn).
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Pakistani authorities have not yet taken necessary action again Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who is suspected of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks and is wanted by the United States (AFP, Reuters). Sec. Clinton also said that the United States believes al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan, and that the U.S. will continue to put pressure on militants who are active in the country (Dawn).
Militants attacked a Pakistani military convoy outside the city of Miranshah in North Waziristan on Sunday, killing nine Pakistani soldiers and injuring 12 (Reuters, AFP). And on Monday, Taliban fighters beheaded two Pakistani soldiers and hung the severed heads from wooden poles in Miranshah (AP, AFP). A curfew was imposed in Miranshah on Monday as a result of the violence (BBC).
Al-Qaeda’s media wing, As-Sahab, posted on jihadist forums on Sunday the first video of kidnapped 70-year-old American aid worker Warren Weinstein, who disappeared in Lahore last August (AFP, AP, CNN, Reuters, BBC). In the video, Weinstein asks President Barack Obama to meet his captors’ demands in order to save his life.
Crime and punishment
Rawalpindi resident Faujdar Mohammad Sadiq was arrested on Saturday after his cow strayed onto a main road while the convoy of Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was passing by (Dawn). The cow and two calves were also detained and placed in a private holding area, since the police do not have the appropriate facilities for such animals at their building.