Last in a long line
Gen, Joseph Dunford took command of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Sunday, replacing Gen. John Allen and becoming the 15th general to lead the international coalition (NYT, Reuters, AP, McClatchy, AJE, LAT, CNN). Gen. Dunford, who has never served in Afghanistan, is also expected to be the last American general to lead there, and will oversee the final withdrawal of troops and equipment, as well as the transfer of security control from NATO to Afghan troops.
While on his way to Afghanistan for the command handover ceremony, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters that enough U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to accomplish the goals set by NATO at a meeting in Chicago last year (Reuters). Gen. Dempsey appeared to play down the option of leaving zero U.S. forces in Afghanistan after NATO's combat mission ends, and said "I will not at any point ask 10,000 troops to do 20,000 troops' work."
The U.S. military has rejected as "categorically unfounded" a report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child finding that U.S. forces have killed hundreds of children in the war in Afghanistan, calling the allegations (LAT). The military pointed to figures from the United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which show that the vast majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan over the past several years have been caused by insurgents.
Six members of a family were killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Friday when their vehicle struck a landmine (AFP). And the AFP reports on Afghanistan's growing number of child drug addicts, who become hooked on drugs often by passively inhaling opium smoked by one of their parents, or being given opium as a painkiller (AFP). A center in Jalalabad run by the Afghan charity Wardan offers a place for women and children to recover from drug addiction.
Worse than thought
The death toll from Friday's deadly blast in the northwestern tribal agency of Orakzai has risen from 10 to 16, and the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared to target a local anti-Taliban militia (AP, NYT). A U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan on Friday killed nine people, all of whom Pakistani intelligence officials identified as militants (AP). Officials identified two of the dead as members of al-Qaeda, Abu Majid al-Iraqi and Sheikh Abu Waqas al-Yemeni, and said the rest were members of the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan announced Friday that it would give the Afghan High Peace Council a formal role in decisions regarding the release of the remaining Afghan Taliban detainees in detention facilities in Pakistan (Dawn). Meanwhile, American, Afghan, and Pakistani officials have said they believe some of the Taliban detainees released last year in a good will gesture from Pakistan to Afghanistan have returned to the battlefield (Post).
The Swiss government has rejected a request from the Pakistani government to reopen a corruption investigation into President Asif Ali Zardari, saying he has immunity under international law (Reuters, Dawn). Pakistan's Supreme Court won a major political battle last year when it forced the executive branch to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen the probe.
The Taliban has warned shopkeepers in Karkhano Market, Peshawar to stop selling pornographic films and Viagra-like male potency pills (AFP). A handwritten pamphlet was distributed Saturday telling movie-sellers that "selling sex drugs, vulgar films and obscene movies are against Sharia," and warning them to quit the business "or face the consequences."
-- Jennifer Rowland