Double blow: Shortly after the Taliban had announced yesterday it suspended talks with the United States, President Hamid Karzai demanded that NATO troops end their patrols of rural areas, and confine themselves to their bases by next year (Reuters, CNN, LAT,Guardian, WSJ, NYT, Post). However, a U.S. defense official traveling with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that there will be no changes to the U.S. exit strategy, and that Karzai had not asked for an immediate pullout of troops during his meeting with Panetta (Reuters).
Karzai told Panetta that Afghans lost trust in the international forces after the massacre of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier last Sunday, as Karzai plans to meet with the families of the victims today (CNN). A senior U.S. official said Thursday that the soldier accused of murdering the Afghans "just snapped" as a result of stress buildup from his fourth combat tour, alcohol consumption, and issues with his wife (NYT). Meanwhile, the soldier's lawyer said he and his wife had a "healthy relationship," two children aged three and four, and that he had suffered multiple injuries during his three tours in Iraq (AP, Reuters).
U.S. military officials said Friday that the top U.S. commander in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, was the apparent target of an Afghan man who tried to run over a group of Marines as they waited on a runway for Secretary Panetta to arrive on Thursday (AP, Reuters). The Associated Press reports that Marine officials have just revealed that an Afghan soldier shot and killed a U.S. Marine last month at a joint-run base in the Marja District of Helmand Province (AP). And a Turkish helicopter crashed into a home in Kabul on Friday, killing a reported four civilians and all 12 NATO service members on board (NYT, Post, Reuters, AP).
As early as Monday, Pakistan's upper and lower houses of parliament could hold a joint session to review bilateral ties with the United States and decide on the reopening of NATO supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan (AFP, AP). The supply routes have been closed since NATO helicopters fired on two Pakistani border posts last November, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistani investigators and lawyers met Thursday with the lead Indian prosecutor of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and learned that they will be able to record statements, but will not be permitted to cross-examine Indian witnesses (ET, Dawn, BBC, NDTV). And five of eight companies contacted by a Pakistani advocacy group called Bolo Bhi have reportedly agreed not to respond to the Pakistan government's request for Internet filtering technology it would use to block "undesirable" Web content (NYT).
Height of angerA motorcycle rickshaw driver in Lahore took his protest over recurring fines to the streets on Friday, climbing a telephone pole to wave his three charge sheets in the air (ET). Another man climbed up the pole to convince the angry driver to come down, but instead eight other rickshaw drivers climbed up the pylon to join his protest, as groups in the street cheered them on.
-- Jennifer Rowland