Speaking at an international conference in Kabul on Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that he believes Afghanistan will be able to take full control and responsibility over its security in 2013 (Reuters, Dawn, VOA, AP). The conference, a one-day meeting of the so-called ‘Heart of Asia' group, which includes India, China, Pakistan, Iran and Russia, was meant to discuss regional options for stabilizing Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014. It comes after a similar conference under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), another regional body which includes Russia, China, and India, met earlier in the month for a discussion on regional solutions to Afghanistan. In terms of taking over its own security, Afghanistan is currently in the third of five stages of transition whereby the centers of all provincial capitals are to be handed over to Afghan security forces.
Speaking in Kabul at the same conference, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar reiterated her call for the U.S. to apologize over the November 2011 errant NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. "Pakistan still wants an unconditional apology," she said, "and the reassurance that the Salala type of incident does not happen again (Dawn)." Calls for an official apology have been met positively by at least one U.S. lawmaker. On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, after noting that the "National security of the U.S. will be better served with a positive relationship with Pakistan," said "it would do well to apologize" for mistakes made (Dawn). In her remarks to a Senate meeting on the 2013 budget, she referred explicitly to the positive impact that such an apology would have on the current impasse over NATO supply routes going through Pakistan.
Too "in your face" on Pakistan?
U.S. Senator John McCain criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for its "in your face" attitude on Pakistan (PBS). Calling it a very "delicate situation", McCain argued that "to further antagonize Pakistan unnecessarily is not something I would particularly think is appropriate", especially as the Pakistanis "are supporting organizations that are killing Americans." McCain was referring not only to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent harsh tone on Pakistan -- who said last week that the U.S. was "reaching the limits of our patience" with the country -- but also U.S. overtures to India this month to encourage the country to play a more active role in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the 2,000th U.S. soldier died in Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name for the ‘war on terror' that the Bush administration began over 10 years ago in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks (CNN, HuffPo). While these casualty figures include soldiers killed in a number of countries, the overwhelming majority of them have occurred in the Afghan theater.
Fashionistas set their sights on Karachi
At the end of August, Karachi is set to host Men's Fashion Week (MFW), the first male-only fashion show to be held in Pakistan. Munib Nawaz, the creative director for MFW, said men's clothing was the fastest growing industry in the country and noted that "it's time we understand that a vast clientele of Pakistani fashion is men who really want to dress up (ET)."