The Rack: James Traub, "The All-American" (NYT).
Killings at the top
As many as three gunmen carrying explosives on Sunday killed Jan Mohammed Khan,a former governor of Uruzgan province and key adviser to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, in his home in an upscale area of Kabul (NYT, Post, AP, BBC, AFP, Tel, Reuters, WSJ). The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, the second killing of a close Karzai associate in less than a week. The gunmen also killed Uruzgan member of parliament Hasham Atanwal, and at least one of the gunmen battled police for several hours before being killed early this morning (NYT). Khan, a controversial and staunchly anti-Taliban figure, was removed from his governorship in 2006 at the insistence of Dutch officials, who suspected Khan of ties to drug rings and whose troops were scheduled to take over security in the province. The Journal reports that Mahmood Karzai, the Afghan president's older brother, has said that the killer of Karzai's half brother and Kandahar power broker Ahmed Wali Karzai was recruited by the Taliban (WSJ). And the Telegraph considers the difficulties facing international forces in southern Afghanistan's district of Sangin following Karzai's killing (Tel).
Documents seized from the compound of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden reportedly showed bin Laden "brainstorming" a plot to kill U.S. president Barack Obama and former top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus, as well as crash a small plane into a U.S. sporting event (CNN, Independent, ABC, CBS, FT,LAT). In other news, the Tribune reports that Pakistan's Inter Services Itelligence Directorate (ISI) in 2008 informed the CIA about a meeting between former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mehsud and then-bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, which may have prompted the CIA's eventually successful efforts to kill Mehsud (ET). And the Post notes that a manual from the ISI on operational security has been posted to jihadi Internet forums (Post).
The Times of London has an exclusive interview with Haji Pacha Wazir, an Afghan held for eight years in CIA secret prisons and Bagram airbase, before being released in 2010 (Times). The Times reports that Wazir's story is the subject of a new book by former CIA clandestine officer Glenn Carle.
Time for a change
Gen. Petraeus today passed command of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan to Lt. Gen. John Allen, as a contingent of soldiers from New Zealand formally transferred control of security in Bamiyan province to Afghan forces, the first province to undergo such a move (AP, Reuters, BBC, CNN, Tel, ABC, Tel, AFP, BBC, CNN, DW, Dawn). The United Nations Security Council has "delisted" 14 former Taliban officials at the urging of the Afghan government, which considers the effort a key component of reconciliation with the Taliban (CNN, The News, Reuters, AFP, BBC, AP). And a female parliamentarian from Ghazni province, Homa Sultani, told a conference on Thursday that she had met and engaged in peace talks with reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar (Reuters).
A British parliamentary committee has released a blistering report saying that the British Army task force sent to southern Afghanistan's Helmand province was "unacceptably" weak, and that senior officers and defense officials misled the government about the task force's status and morale (Tel, AFP, Guardian). The report's release comes as a British soldier was reportedly killed this weekend by a suspected member of the Afghan National Army (ANA) who is now believed to be hiding with the Taliban (Reuters, CNN, Independent, Tel, AFP, BBC, Post). And Laura King examines the challenges facing Afghanistan as international forces withdraw from the country (LAT).
Two stories round out the news today: The governor of Afghanistan's Central Bank, Mohebullah Safi, denied this weekend that there is a crisis at Azizi Bank, the country's second-largest (CNN, Reuters). And Al-Jazeera profiles the "young" Afghan parliamentarians increasingly playing a role in their country's governance (AJE).
Talks about talks
U.S. officials reportedly told Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha in meetings last week that Pakistan would be given a more active role in peace negotiations in Afghanistan, as foreign ministry officials told Pakistan's senate this week that U.S.-Pakistani intelligence ties would be "back on track" within a few months (Dawn, Reuters, AJE). Afghan president Karzai and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari will meet Tuesday in Kabul (ET). Pakistan's government will appoint Hina Rabbani Khar to take over as the country's foreign minister, a post that has been vacant since February (ET, Dawn). And Pakistan has offered to help Indian authorities as they investigate last week's deadly triple bombing in Mumbai (ET, AP, AFP, The News, CNN,NDTV).
U.S. officials meeting last week with Pakistani finance minister Dr. Hafeez Shaikh reportedly assured him that U.S. civilian aid would continue to the country, while according to a Congressional Research Service report nearly $10 billion in U.S. reimbursements to Pakistan for losses suffered while fighting terrorism is unaccounted for (Dawn, The News, Dawn). Pakistan's foreign office said Friday that cuts in U.S. military funding to Pakistan were as a result of the decision to expel U.S. military trainers from the country (Dawn, ET). And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has delayed a $1.8 billion tranche of funding to Pakistan until a new governor is named for the country's Central Bank (DT).
A return to bloodshed
Violence broke out in Karachi this weekend after Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member, Pakistan International Airways (PIA) worker's union president, and former security guard for assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto Amir Shah was killed by unidentified gunmen (Dawn, NDTV, Dawn). At least eight people have been arrested in relation to the killing, as a strike Sunday by PIA employees in protest to Shah's death delayed flights and stranded thousands of passengers (ET, The News, ET, The News). And Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik said this weekend that Israeli weapons were being used in Karachi (Dawn).
The Guardian has a must-read story about Noor Behram, a resident of Pakistan's tribal regions who has made an effort to document the aftermath suspected U.S. drone strikesin the area (Guardian). Behram claims that civilian casualties from the strikes are far higher than reported, and that, "The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they're doing is far greater." And Pakistani lawyers and a British human rights advocate plan to seek an international arrest warrant against former CIA general counsel John Rizzo for approving drone attacks (ET).
The Tribune reports that suspected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) attack plotter Malik Ishaq has received financial support from the Punjab government since 2008, as a Lahore court granted bail to three other men suspected of involvement with a 2009 attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan (ET, DT, ET). Pakistani army officer Brig. Ali Khan, arrested in May for allegedly supporting the extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, has chosen to be court martialed (ET). The Taliban released a video today purportedly showing the execution of 16 Pakistani tribal policemen seized after a raid last month in Upper Dir (AP). And the Tribune highlights the horror of Taliban violence experienced in Shabqadar, which borders Pakistan's Mohmand agency (ET).
In other incidents this weekend, unidentified gunmen killed 10 people after opening fire on a van in Upper Kurram (Dawn, ET, AP, AFP, CNN). At least three people have been killed as a result of attacks on NATO tanker trucks in Pakistan's northwest (AFP, ET). Rebels in the restive province of Baluchistan have kidnapped five government employees, demanding an end to military operations in the area (AFP). And strikes in the Baluch district of Kech shut down the area last Friday in a protest against the large number of killings and disappearances in the province (ET).
Afghanistan's Ministry of Justice has put forward a law to curb the extravagant costs and size of weddings in the country, which have skyrocketed in recent years (Post). The law would limit weddings to 300 guests, while also forbidding a bride from wearing more than two dresses or any clothing "contrary to Islamic sharia."