The Rack: David Rose, "9/11: The Tapping Point" (Vanity Fair).
According to a report released Thursday by the International Crisis Group, nearly 10 years of foreign troops and aid in Afghanistan have failed to build a stable or economically viable Afghan government, necessitating a major shift in priorities (CNN). The report's authors concluded that the NATO-led counterinsurgency effort had not brought security to the country, and that aid priorities were too often short-term, and that, "The impact of international assistance will remain limited unless donors, particularly the largest, the U.S., stop subordinating programming to counter-insurgency objectives, devise better mechanisms to monitor implementation, adequately address corruption and wastage of aid funds, and ensure that recipient communities identify needs and shape assistance policies."
The interim U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Herbert Richardson, resigned suddenly on Thursday, saying that he had received a job offer in the private sector that was "too good to pass up" (National Journal, WSJ, AP). CBS travels to Kandahar to look at U.S. forces building roads in the hope of bringing stability to the area (CBS). And the satellite company Inmarsat, which provides satellite communications services to British troops in Afghanistan, acknowledged Thursday that the withdrawal of British troops from the country is costing the company nearly $1 million per month in reduced business (Guardian, Tel).
Finally today, the Times has a must-read on the Afghan Allies program, designed to provide visas to the United States for Afghans working in high-risk jobs for American forces; since 2009 the program has reportedly received about 2,300 applications, but has only reviewed two cases (NYT).
The violence in Karachi continues to dominate political debate in Pakistan, as key Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) figure Farouq Sattar called for a judicial investigation into the situation (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET, DT). Meanwhile, MQM founder Altaf Hussain apologized Thursday for comments made earlier in the week that offended ethnic Sindhi nationalists and prompted a strike in parts of the province (Dawn, The News, ET). In other Karachi news, Pakistan's navy has moved its battleships away from the city following a deadly attack on the Mehran naval base in May (ET). And six men charged with killing teenager Sarfaraz Shah in June pleaded not guilty Thursday during a court hearing (ET). Bonus read: Bilal Baloch, "A death on screen" (FP).
Indonesian terrorism suspect Umar Patek, arrested in the town of Abbottabad earlier this year, will reportedly be repatriated to Indonesia "soon," and is said to be cooperating with investigators (AFP, AP). Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik announced Thursday that authorities had disrupted a plot to deliver bombs disguised as perfume bottles to Pakistani politicians (Dawn). And Al-Jazeera has a feature story Thursday on the murky killings of five foreigners at a checkpoint outside Quetta in May (AJE).
The Post digs into how a $7.5 billion civilian aid bill has become a political flash point in both the United States and Pakistan, as Congress seeks to limit or cut the aid and Pakistan is frustrated by the slow pace at which the funds have been delivered (Post). Since 2009, only about $500 million of the planned aid has been dispersed. And a Pakistani Central Bank official has reported that the country now holds a record $18.31 billion in foreign exchange reserves, holdings bolstered by increased exports, higher remittances, and new loan packages from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ET, The News).
Two stories round out the day: A spokesman for Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari announced Thursday that the president would not name new provinces in Pakistan on the country's independence day, which is August 14 (Dawn). And the Tribune reports that "hundreds" of Pakistani religious students from Baluchistan are engaged in poppy harvesting in Afghanistan while on their summer break (ET).
The Times of London reports on the uphill battle by U.S. Marine Warrant Officer Jeremy Piasecki to build an Afghan national water polo team, an effort hampered by the country's ongoing insurgency, cool climate, and the fact that Afghanistan only boasts 13 swimming pools (Times). However, the Afghan government recently named water polo a "national sport," and Piasecki hopes to bring the team to train in California in November.