AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN
Petraeus Parallels Iraq, Afghanistan Strategies - Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the author of the military’s counterinsurgency manual, yesterday explained the principles that led to success in Iraq and how they apply to the fight in Afghanistan. Petraeus cited the downward spiral the country has taken, with an expanded and stronger insurgency and markedly increased levels of violence. Also, the Afghan government has been slow to develop, is wracked with corruption, and its legitimacy in the eyes of the locals has suffered. Petraeus embraced President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan, saying that progress there is tied to a “robust, sustained and comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign.”
General Retires, Readies to Become Ambassador to Afghanistan - Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry retired here today, 24 hours before being sworn in as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Until today, Eikenberry served as the deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium. Tomorrow he will be sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as ambassador.
US Sets Fight in the Poppies to Stop Taliban - Dexter Filkens, New York Times. American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations. The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency.
US Training of Pakistan Army to Grow - Julian Barnes, Los Angeles Times. The Pakistani government has agreed to allow the U. a greater role in training its military, part of an accord that will also send counterinsurgency equipment to help Islamabad step up its offensive against militants. Washington has been watching with growing alarm as Taliban forces have made military gains in Pakistan and US officials have stepped up pressure on Islamabad to do more. Although the Pakistani military launched an air attack against the Taliban on Tuesday, senior US Defense officials remain deeply worried about Islamabad's ability to beat back the militant advance.
US May Fast-track Aid to Block Taliban - Raza Khan and Christina Bellantoni, Washington Times. The Obama administration is considering expediting aid to Pakistan, where militants are advancing on the capital and posing a threat to a cluster of strategic installations, including a major dam, a key bridge and the country's largest weapons and ammunition complex. Pakistani military analysts say militants could bring normal life to a halt in a large part of Pakistan if they move against the Tarbela dam. The world's largest earthen dam, it is located on the Indus River about 30 miles northwest of the capital in the districts of Swabi and Haripur.
Pakistan Battles Taliban in Northwest - Barry Newhouse, Voice of America. Pakistan's military has opened a new front in its offensive against Taliban militants in the country's northwest. Troops are pursuing an estimated 500 militants in Buner district, a region just 100 kilometers from the capital. Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says security forces, backed by attack helicopters and jets have moved into Buner district. He says the operation is focused on the estimated 500 Taliban militants now camped out in the mountainous terrain.
Pakistan Claims to Retake Town From Taliban - Carlotta Gall and Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times. After a week of strong criticism here and abroad over its inaction, the Pakistani military claimed on Wednesday to have reasserted control of a key town just 60 miles from the capital in the strategic district of Buner which was overrun by hundreds of Taliban militants last week. The development came one day after the military deployed fighter jets and helicopter gunships against the insurgents. It was not immediately clear what level of resistance the Taliban had offered. Pakistan also agreed to move 6,000 troops from its Indian border to fight militants on its western border with Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani official who did not want to be identified discussing troop movements in advance.
Pakistan Launches Air Strikes Against Taliban - Matthew Rosenberg and Zahid Hussain, Wall Street Journal. Pakistani fighter jets pounded Taliban positions in a district near the Swat Valley on Tuesday as ground troops pressed on, in the military's most robust effort to repel a Taliban advance. Pakistan faces intense pressure from Washington to abandon a peace deal with the Taliban in Swat, which has become a major militant base since the deal was struck in mid-February. Tuesday's fighting in the neighboring Buner district seemed likely to further undermine the already shaky accord. The Taliban moved last week from Swat into Buner, 70 miles northwest of Islamabad, the capital. Their advance - and Pakistan's passive initial response - raised alarm among US officials, who said the government was capitulating in the face of a Taliban sweep toward the capital, which lies in the plains where most of the country's population and industry is situated.
Pakistan Attacks Taliban Bases Near Islamabad - Zulfiqar Ali and Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times. The Pakistani army launched an air attack Tuesday and began deploying ground troops against Taliban bases near Islamabad, the nation's capital. The offensive appeared to be a broadening of the state's moves against militants, many of whom have become increasingly brash since reaching a controversial peace deal this year largely on their terms. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, told reporters in Rawalpindi that army and Frontier Corps paramilitary units launched the operation in Buner district, building on a several-day offensive in the region. Abbas said 450 to 500 Taliban fighters are believed to be active in Buner.
Taleban Advance Halted by Pakistan's Combined Air and Ground Onslaught - Zahid Hussain, The Times. Pakistani jets pounded Taleban positions and ground troops moved into the northwestern town of Buner yesterday in an escalation of a military offensive against militants seeking to strengthen their grip in a region close to the country's capital. Jets and helicopter gunships launched airstrikes to cover the ground troops' advance through Buner's mountainous terrain and to keep Taleban fighters in the neighbouring Swat Valley from bringing in reinforcements.
US Welcomes Pakistani Offensive, Calls for Sustained Effort - Al Pessin, Voice of America. The US Defense Department on Tuesday welcomed Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban and other groups near Islamabad, but says the real test will be whether the effort is sustained and actually defeats the militants. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that after months of calling for more decisive Pakistani action against the militants, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top officials are "clearly pleased" with the offensive.
US Officials Ratchet Up Pressure on Pakistan Over Taliban Militants - Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor. The Obama administration appears to have pushed some hot buttons with the government of Pakistan – getting some quick action against the rising threat from the country's extremist forces, but also irritating a leadership anxious to show it is not acting under pressure from anyone. That sequence follows a familiar pattern in US-Pakistan relations, experts in the region say: first comes some American action, usually rhetorical, followed by just enough Pakistani action to satisfy Washington. The difference this time is that Pakistani action follows a shift in US focus: from Pakistan as it affects the war next door in Afghanistan to Pakistan itself and its stability amid an intensifying confrontation with Taliban militants.
Afghanistan Cancels Public Celebration of Holiday - Pamela Constable, Washington Post. The streets of the Afghan capital were deserted Tuesday in a tense, silent observance of an annual holiday that evokes an era of patriotic heroism for some Afghans and a period of brutal, devastating civil war for others. For the first time in 16 years, there was no military parade through city streets and no cheering crowd of retired mujaheddin donning pie-shaped pakul hats and faded combat jackets in memory of their triumphant guerrilla fight against Soviet occupation forces during the 1980s.
How Pakistan Is Countering the Taliban - Husain Haqqani, Wall Street Journal opinion. The specter of extremist Taliban taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan is not only a gross exaggeration, it could also lead to misguided policy prescriptions from Pakistan's allies, including our friends in Washington. Pakistan and the international community do face serious challenges in confronting terrorists and the ideologies that sustain them. But panicked reactions of the type witnessed in the U.S. media over the last few weeks -- after the Taliban drove into Buner, a town 60 miles north of the capital Islamabad -- are not conducive to strengthening Pakistani democracy or to developing an effective counterterrorism policy for Pakistan. Now that the Taliban have been driven out of Buner, and Pakistani forces have militarily engaged them just outside their Swat Valley stronghold, it should be clear to all that Pakistan can and will defeat the Taliban.