The number of insurgent attacks against NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan during April, May, and June of this year was 11 percent higher than it was over the same period last year, making that the period with the most attacks per day since fighting was at its worst in August and September 2010 (WSJ, AFP, AP). The spike in IED attacks has resulted in a rise in the number of blast-caused amputations and other injuries to U.S. soldiers (HuffPo).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai released a "decree on administrative reforms" late Thursday, which offered vague proposals for decreasing corruption across every organ of the Afghan executive, as well as the attorney general's office and the Supreme Court (NYT). The decree, which must be approved by the parliament, comes after donor countries voiced their discontent with Afghanistan's failure to reduce corruption at a conference in Tokyo earlier this month.
Journalist and author Anatol Lieven described in an article for the Financial Times this week his conversations in Dubai with four sources "close to the Taliban," whose claims that the Taliban is willing to distance itself from al-Qaeda and participate in the Afghan government provide positive encouragement for stalled peace talks (FT). Still, these figures also maintained that the Taliban would never negotiate with current President Hamid Karzai, meaning that a political solution may rest on a complete regime change from those close to the Karzai clan.
A new Pakistani intelligence report explains how Dr. Shakil Afridi helped the CIA as it sought to track down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, including details of his meetings with handlers (Post). Supposedly based on interrogations of Dr. Afridi, the report also alleges that he played a "central role" in the intelligence gathering leading up to the raid in bin Laden's Abbottabad compound, which "humiliated Pakistan around the world."
The recently mended U.S.-Pakistan relationship was reportedly set back on track not by high-level officials, but by two finance experts: Thomas Nides, a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan's finance minister (NYT). The two established ties in late May, and used back-channel communication as well as their own influence on their respective sides to find a consensus on the issue of an American apology for last November's NATO airstrikes on Pakistani border posts.
Some 350,000 residents of the Bara region of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Agency have fled fighting between the Pakistani military and Taliban insurgents over the past few years, with over 60,000 of them living in the UNHCR's Jalozai refugee camp outside Peshawar (Post). Some residents say that despite the ongoing Pakistani military operations in Bara, Taliban influence there is growing, and some analysts allege that the Pakistan Army is playing a double game there in order to maintain ties with certain Taliban groups to protect their interests in Afghanistan.
Pakistani senator Rehman Malik was sworn back into parliament on Friday after being forced to step down in early June because of his alleged British citizenship (AFP).
A struggling economy and endemic corruption have kept Pakistan from investing very much in its best athletes, meaning that Pakistani athletes have not brought home an Olympic medal since winning a bronze in Barcelona in 1992 (DT). This year, however, the country's hopes rest on its successful field hockey team, which qualified for the London Games in late 2010 by winning the Asian title.
-- Jennifer Rowland