New post: Fatima Mustafa, "Pakistan, in need of a makeover?" (FP).
Dropping the ball
A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to be released on Monday criticizes the Pentagon's and State Department's management of projects planned under the $400 million Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (NYT). The seven projects were to be completed by mid-2013, but now look unlikely to be completed until well after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014, putting at risk the already shaky support of the Afghan populace for the U.S. and Afghan governments.
Two NATO service members were killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan on Friday (AP). Afghan security forces have reportedly been dying at five times the rate of NATO service members over the past four months, a result of higher-than-usual numbers of insurgent attacks as well as the withdrawal of international troops (AFP).
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and one of the leading American diplomats of the past 40 years, Ryan Crocker, says as he retires that the United States must learn from its recent military experiences as it looks to become involved in new world crises such as Syria and Iran (NYT). Amb. Crocker voiced concern about becoming involved in conflicts "in somebody else's stadium, playing by somebody else's ground rules" without first understanding the country's "environment, history, [and] politics."
Tajikistan on Friday sealed its border with Afghanistan as Tajik forces launched a maneuver to capture a former warlord accused of killing a Tajik general, but authorities said NATO trucks would still be allowed through (Reuters).
Strikes roll on
At least seven suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike on a compound and vehicle on Sunday in a village near Mir Ali, North Waziristan (The Nation, Dawn, The News, AP, AFP, ET). Some reports on the strike say the four people killed in the vehicle were "local residents" whose identity could not be confirmed, though. Pakistani ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman said Friday that Pakistan will continue to press the United States to end drone strikes on its territory, arguing that although the attacks have been helpful to Pakistan's war on terror, "they have diminishing rate of returns" (AP).
President Barack Obama's top advisor on Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, and Amb. Rehman exchanged sharp words on Friday during a security conference in Aspen, Colorado (NYT). Amb. Rehman said that Pakistan had provided NATO commanders in Afghanistan with the locations of militants who were attacking Pakistani forces from across the border on 52 different occasions in the past eight months, but the international coalition refused to take action. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) released a statement on Sunday unequivocally rejecting Amb. Rehman's allegations as "incorrect" (NYT).
Violent demonstrations broke out across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Provinces on Sunday in protest of the government's failure to end "load-shedding" during the Ramadan's early-morning meal and later breaking of the fast (ET). Some parts of rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are without power for 20 hours each day.
Local officials at the Torkham border crossing in Pakistan's northwest said Monday that a 5-day ban on NATO trucks will continue until federal authorities can ensure the safety of the truck drivers (AFP). The Pakistani Taliban has repeatedly promised to attack NATO supply trucks, and last Tuesday gunmen opened fire on one truck in Jamrud, killing the driver. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari on Friday sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inviting him to visit Pakistan, in the latest sign of improving relations between the hostile neighbors (AP).
Fighting for gold
Just four years after returning to Afghanistan from a refugee camp in Iran, Rohullah Nikpah accepted a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, becoming Afghanistan's Olympic medalist (NYT). On August 8, Nikpah will once again take the floor at the Olympics, this time in London, and this time with his eyes on the top prize.
-- Jennifer Rowland