Wonk Watch: Omar Samad, "Perceptions of Politically Engaged, Influential Afghans on the Way Forward" (USIP)
New Post: Louisa Loveluck, "NATO's thorny prison dilemma" (FP).
Don't listen to them
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday that the two countries must go ahead with the planned Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline despite strong U.S. objections, calling Iran the "only secure source of energy in this region" (AP, RFERL, AFP). Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed Wednesday to complete the construction of the pipeline within the next 15 months (The News).
Meanwhile, Pakistani business sources say Pakistan is yet to ship any wheat to Iran as part of a barter deal that should have seen its first shipment by mid-February (Reuters). The hold-up could be due to the difficulty of working around U.S. sanctions, and the delicacy of doing so with Pakistani elections fast approaching. And the European Union is set to resume imports of seafood from Pakistan, after a six-year suspension due to health and safety concerns (AFP, ET).
Pakistan's Shi'a Muslim Hazaras, an ethno-religious minority that suffered almost 200 deaths at the hands of Sunni Muslim extremists in the first two months of this year, have decided to form their own defense force in the absence of protection from the state (AP, AFP). Shi'a leaders in the country blame the government for failing to protect the Hazaras, who are concentrated primarily in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan.
Militants bombed four boys' schools in Mohmand Province early Thursday morning, injuring no one but bringing to over 100 the number of schools they have destroyed in the province in recent years (AFP).
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the United Nations Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (commonly known as Lotfa), which funds salaries and benefits for the Afghan National Police, has turned a blind eye to procurement fraud within the fund (WSJ). According to an internal UN report, some Lotfa staff colluded with suppliers to inflate the prices of supplies, and "the fact that procurement fraud occurred and continued undetected for so long was only possible due to the failure of UNDP management."
Insurgents on Wednesday launched rockets at Camp Bastion, the main coalition base in Helmand Province, but NATO officials reported that no one had been injured or killed (Guardian).
-- Jennifer Rowland