Next in line
President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as the top allied commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. John Allen, who was nominated to become the supreme allied commander of NATO and the head of the U.S. military's Europe Command (NYT, Post, CNN, AJE, BBC, AFP, Reuters). Gen. Dunford currently serves as the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, and has extensive experience in Iraq but has never served in Afghanistan.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta assured his NATO counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday that the coalition is doing all it can to battle the recent spike in "insider attacks" by Afghan security forces on NATO troops in Afghanistan, and called ending these attacks a critical part of achieving success in the war (Reuters, AFP). Panetta also requested that the other NATO countries provide more military training teams, saying, "the U.S. has filled a disproportionate number of these teams in recent years" (AP).
The U.S. military has shut down five of over two dozen Provincial Reconstruction Teams it set up around Afghanistan to distribute development funds, advise local leaders, and manage reconstruction projects, and the rest of the teams are set to be dismantled in the coming year (WSJ). Their withdrawal marks the end of the thrust of the U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan and win "hearts and minds" with humanitarian and economic aid.
Afghan officials this week have severely condemned a report by the International Crisis Group that extrapolates scenarios in which the failure to hold a free and fair presidential election in 2014 could result in chaos and civil war in Afghanistan (NYT). Some legislators demanded an apology from the ICG, while others accused its leadership of being spies and political agents with the intention of undermining Afghanistan's stability.
The shooting on Tuesday of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Swat has united in outrage Pakistanis of all different political and religious beliefs week, a sentiment some hoped would be the public support necessary for a fresh military offensive against the Taliban (NYT, Post, AP). But Pakistani officials deny that there are any plans in the works for a campaign in Swat like the one undertaken in 2009.
Doctors were able to remove the bullets from Malala's head and neck, and they said Thursday that her chances of survival are now at 70 percent (AFP). Meanwhile a bomb blast in the southwestern province of Balochistan killed three people and injured 10 on Thursday, and a bomb strapped to a donkey killed at least four people in the northwestern tribal agency of Orakzai (ET, AFP).
One of the five Pakistani prisoners released by Indian authorities on Tuesday was 13-year-old Khashif Ali, who had been living at a children's shelter in India for an entire year after being left behind during a school trip to Kasur, near the border (ET). Ali got off the bus during a stop on the group's way back to Lahore, and never got back on because he wanted to go to Mumbai to meet Ajay Devgan, an Indian actor, director, and producer.
-- Jennifer Rowland