Empty promises? The much-lauded strategic partnership agreement signed by U.S. president Barack Obama on his surprise visit to Afghanistan Tuesday night reportedly has many promises but few guarantees, such as a pledge on the part of the Afghan government to address corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, without any consequences if it fails on any of those counts (AP). Some of these details will be worked out at the NATO conference in Chicago this month, but the existing language leaves many tough questions.
U.S. and Afghan officials have one year to decide on the details of their long-term military partnership, and President Hamid Karzai has already given troops permission to ignore American intelligence and military advice if they "have any doubt" about it, indicating Afghanistan's growing sovereignty over its military (Post). This independence has already had an economic impact; the United States recently handed over responsibility to the Afghan government for procuring military supplies, and the government abandoned domestic boot manufacturers for cheaper products from China and India (Reuters). Starting in 2010, NATO forces had adhered to an "Afghan First" rule that forced them to purchase supplies from domestic producers if possible, creating around 15,000 jobs that likely prevented many men from joining the Taliban insurgency.
Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev said on Wednesday that the continued presence of a U.S. airbase in his country after its lease expires in June 2014 will depend not only on higher rent payments, but also on Afghanistan's impact on regional security, and on the opinions of Kyrgyzstan's "strategic partners" (AP).
The Times' Declan Walsh details the impact the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound has had on Save the Children, the international aid group that Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi says introduced him to CIA agents, whom he tried to help obtain more intelligence on the Abbottabad compound and its occupants (NYT). Dr. Afridi has been in Pakistani custody since last May, and Pakistani authorities have forbidden Save the Children employees from leaving the country, prevented other employees from obtaining visas, and blocked aid supplies.
A remote-detonated bomb exploded on Thursday targeting pro-government tribal leaders in the northwest province of Bajaur, and a second bomb was detonated as security forces arrived on the scene, killing a total of five people (AP, ET, AFP). Almost a month after a massive avalanche buried 124 Pakistani soldiers and 14 civilians on Siachen Glacier, and despite many calls to settle the remote land dispute, India and Pakistan have not made any progress on finding a political solution to the Siachen conflict (Post).
Political unrest in Pakistan struck the Rawalpindi District Bar Association on Thursday, when lawyers for Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tried to introduce a resolution to have convicted Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani removed from office (ET). Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyers chanted slogans on one side of the courtroom, while PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawyers shouted on the other side, until anger finally boiled over and a brawl broke out between the two sides.
-- Jennifer Rowland