Event Notice: Please join the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program tomorrow for an in-depth discussion with the National Defense University's Dr. Thomas Lynch, the author of the forthcoming New America research paper, "The 80 Percent Solution: The Strategic Defeat of bin Laden's al-Qaeda and Implications for South Asian Security" (NAF).
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday that the United States could end its combat role and transition to a "training, advise and assist role" in Afghanistan as early as mid-2013, more than a year before the 2014 NATO troop withdrawal deadline (NYT, LAT, Reuters, BBC, WSJ, AJE, Post). NATO defense ministers will meet today in Brussels to discuss potential changes to the alliance's troop drawdown strategy in Afghanistan (AP).
A statement released Wednesday from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected reports that the Taliban leadership plans to meet with Afghan government officials for talks in Saudi Arabia (AP). The Sunday Times on Wednesday released excerpts from the leaked NATO report on information gathered through Taliban detainee interrogations, entitled "The State of the Taliban, 2012" (Times [paywall]). And the Washington Post's Ian Shapira last weekend had a must-read on the family of Jennifer Matthews, one of six CIA operatives killed in a suicide attack by al-Qaeda double agent in Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009 (Post). Bonus read: Art Keller, "The Triple Agent" (FP).
On thin ice
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday initiated contempt of court charges against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari (AP, BBC, Tel, WSJ, AFP, Reuters, Guardian, NYT,CNN). If charged in the trial set to begin on February 13, Gilani could face six months in prison and a ban on seeking office again. And police now suspect a female associate professor at Sindh University Jamshoro of sending a package containing anthrax to Gilani's official residence last October (Dawn, NYT).
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Thursday that Pakistan is "willing to do whatever the Afghans expect or want us to do," including encouraging insurgent groups to sign a peace deal with the Afghan government (AP, AFP, ET, WSJ). Khar also vowed to push an end to Pakistan's shuttered border crossings to Afghanistan, and mused that the parliament would likely pass a review in the first half of February allowing NATO supplies through the border (AFP). Finally, TIME Magazine on Wednesday had a Q&A session with Khar (TIME).
A World Trade Organization committee on Wednesday approved a two-year waiver allowing Pakistan to export 75 products duty free to the European Union, in an effort to boost the Pakistani textile market that was ravaged by floods in 2010 (AFP, AP, ET,Reuters, BBC, Dawn). And United Nations delegates are in Pakistan this week to urge the country's authorities to allow more than two million Afghan refugees who have fled the war at home to remain in Pakistan beyond the end of 2012, when Pakistan has repeatedly said it expects most Afghans to have left (Tel, Reuters, DT). Pakistan's federal minister for states and frontier regions, known by the single name of Shaukatullah, said Wednesday that long-term visas would likely be given to 150,000 Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan (ET).
Taliban militants on Wednesday ambushed policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Lakki Marwat District, leaving three dead and one injured (ET, Dawn). Meanwhile, the United States donated $750,000 worth of equipment to the Sindh police (ET).
A committee at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore granted custody of a one-year-old baby named Fatima who had been abandoned at the hospital last month to a couple from Lahore's Cavalry Ground neighborhood (Dawn). Seven other adoption applicants were turned down, including President Zardari, who had written to request the child for his sister, Member of the National Assembly Faryal Talpur.