U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday to discuss with commanders their recommendations for U.S. troop levels after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014 (NYT, WSJ, Reuters, Post, AFP, AP). Panetta said he would be presenting the options to President Barack Obama "within the next few weeks," and the target level will help decide the schedule for withdrawing the rest of the 68,000 American forces currently in Afghanistan.
Some U.S. officials have said the United States will likely keep between 6,000 and 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, and they will be largely confined to heavily fortified bases around the capital city (LAT). That number is much lower than the 15,000-strong contingent that military officials have pushed for.
A report released by the United Nations office in Kabul on Tuesday assesses the implementation and efficacy of the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, and finds that prosecutions under the law have risen over the past year, but still lag far behind the number of reports of violence that authorities receive (NYT, AJE, BBC, Tel). According to the report, the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission received over 4,000 complaints of violence against women in the seven months between March and October of this year, nearly twice as many as it received over the previous 12 months.
Another report, released Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), finds that the Afghan government is doing little to address corruption in the senior official ranks, particularly in the form of smuggling laundered money out of the country (Post).
A report released on Wednesday by the United Nations and Pakistani government finds that almost 75 percent of Pakistani girls are not in school, and the completion rates to the fifth year of schooling have actually declined amongst girls over the past five years (AFP). The report also says that 55 percent of Pakistanis are illiterate, and among women that proportion rises to about 75 percent.
The Post's Greg Miller published a must-read on Tuesday about the female CIA analyst who played a key role in the successful hunt to find Osama bin Laden, and on whom the main character in Zero Dark Thirty is based (Post). A former CIA associate described the analyst by saying, "she's not Miss Congeniality, but that's not going to find Osama bin Laden."
A museum in the city of Herat serves as a fascinating but painful history lesson for a youth population that is largely not being taught about their country's past four decades of war (NYT). The Jihad Museum features captured Soviet tanks, a MIG fighter jet, and helicopters, along with portraits of the mujahedeen leaders who led the fight against the Soviets, many of whom later became top leaders in the Taliban.
-- Jennifer Rowland