A suicide bomber targeted and wounded Asadullah Khalid, the head of Afghanistan's intelligence agency, at a guesthouse in the wealthy Kabul neighborhood of Taimani on Thursday (NYT, BBC, AP, Reuters, AFP, Reuters). The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The United States is reportedly scaling back significantly its original plans for a large civilian presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 (Post). The Obama administration recently told planners to decrease their proposed civilian forces by at least 20 percent, which officials say is a result of lessons learned in Iraq.
The Afghan government is planning to implement major tax breaks and investment incentives in 2014 ahead of the final withdrawal of combat troops, in an effort to encourage investment in the country and minimize the flow of capital out of the country along with the international troops (WSJ).
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton pressed her NATO allies to follow through on the monetary commitments they've made to Afghanistan, pointing to their mutual interest "in ensuring this region does not once again become a safe haven for international terrorists" (AP, AJE).
Two months after the Afghan government blocked access to YouTube over the site's refusal to remove the Innocence of Muslims video that sparked protests across the Muslim world, the service still has not been restored (NYT). Interestingly, even Afghanistan's younger generations have largely joined their elders in either supporting the ban or not caring whether or not it exists.
Three Pakistani soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded early Wednesday by two suicide bombers who detonated their car bomb at the entrance of an army base in the northwestern tribal agency of South Waziristan (CNN, ET, BBC, NYT). And a U.S. drone strike killed three suspected militants on Thursday in the Mubarak Shahi village of North Waziristan (AP, The News).
According to sources inside the Pakistani military, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is poised to experience a leadership change from the ruthlessly violent Hakimullah Mehsud to his more moderate deputy Wali ur-Rehman (Reuters). Mehsud has led the group for the past three years, but his violence has alienated many of his own fighters, and Pakistani Army officials say he has already lost operational control of the group.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out door-to-door verification of Karachi's voter rolls with the help of the army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps (AFP, The News, DT, ET). Justice Azmat Saeed said Karachi's current voter lists "do not inspire confidence," and cited the "peculiar security situation" in Karachi as the reason behind enlisting the help of the armed forces. Three of Pakistan's main political parties had petitioned to have the voter lists checked, while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which enjoys power in Karachi, had insisted that the rolls were already correct.
Lost in translation
At the end of an idyllic picnic lunch with some Afghan village elders, one member of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team asked his translator to tell his hosts, "Thank you for your great hospitality. The food was delicious." (NYT) Unfortunately the translator turned to the Afghans and said, "Thank you for your great food. We will build you a hospital." Of course, said hospital was never built and the elders were not very pleased.