Put it in writing
The United States and Pakistan are reportedly close to signing an official agreement governing the transport of NATO supplies through Pakistan, which Pakistani officials demanded during negotiations to reopen ground supply routes after they were closed for seven months in response to NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers (AP, Dawn). The new agreement applies only to supplies that have not yet reached Pakistan, not to the 9,000 containers that have been stuck there since the supply routes were closed, and will also lay out the terms for the tens of thousands of containers NATO will need to pull supplies out of Afghanistan.
Pakistan also suspended high-level counterterrorism talks in response to the November NATO strikes, but Pakistani spy chief Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam is set to meet CIA director David Petraeus for a resumption of these talks later this month (AP). The two officials are expected to discuss U.S. drone strikes, to which Pakistan has demanded an end, and which the United States has shown no indication of halting.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated ambassadors to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He chose James Cunningham, the current deputy ambassador in Kabul, to be the new top diplomat in Afghanistan, and Richard Olson, whose most recent post was a senior economic development position in Kabul, to be the new U.S. ambassador to Pakistan (Reuters, AFP, NYT, Dawn). The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill requiring the secretary of state to explain to Congress whether or not the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network meets the criteria to be designated a foreign terrorist organization (AP, CNN, ET, Reuters).
A minibus carrying Shi'a Muslims in Pakistan's northwestern Orakzai tribal area hit an anti-tank mine on Wednesday, killing 14 of the passengers in what police are describing as a sectarian attack (AP, LAT).
Militants attacked an Afghan National Army checkpoint in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Tuesday night, killing nine Afghan soldiers and also resulting in the deaths of seven insurgents (AP). Elsewhere in Helmand, Afghan police clashed with insurgents, killing a militant commander and capturing six of his fighters. And a NATO helicopter crashed Wednesday in western Afghanistan, injuring two U.S. soldiers (AP).
A magnetic bomb placed on a NATO truck in the northern Afghan province of Samangan exploded at around 2 AM on Wednesday, sparking a fire that destroyed 22 NATO fuel tankers and semi-trucks (AP).
The real soccer players of Afghanistan
Thousands of young Afghans have signed up for the chance to play on one of the eight soccer teams being formed in their country, a project that one former national team player says will help foster national unity (AP). The aspiring players will not just have to try out for the teams, but will compete in a reality television show called Maidan e Sabz (Green Field), which will be filmed in eight Afghan cities, where each studio audience will vote to select a team of 18.
-- Jennifer Rowland