Debate comes to the fore
In an unprecedented public hearing on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from six experts (including our own Peter Bergen) on the "Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications" of the covert U.S. drone program. Many of the panelists warned that the drone strikes are engendering deep anti-Americanism in the countries where they are taking place (Post, NYT). Among those experts was Yemeni youth activist Farea al-Muslimi, who said a drone strike hit his native village of Wessab six days ago, sparking fear and anger in the residents. "What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America," al-Muslimi said.
The U.S. soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in a middle of the night rampage last March, Sgt. Robert Bales, appeared in court again on Tuesday for a hearing that focused primarily on who would be able to testify at his sentencing if he is convicted, negotiations that could determine whether he receives the death penalty (AP).
NATO commanders in eastern Afghanistan said Wednesday that 13 insurgents had been killed in joint operations with Afghan forces in Kapisa and Nangarhar provinces (AP, ). Speaking before a gathering of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Pakistan must play a positive role in bringing long-term peace and stability to Afghanistan, and urged Pakistani authorities to take concrete action against militants launching cross-border attacks into Afghanistan (Reuters, Pajhwok).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed with a call from a group of conservative clerics for the banning of television programs that are "vulgar, obscene and un-Islamic and are counter to social morality," according to a statement he made on Wednesday (Reuters). And four children of one family were killed while one teenage girl was seriously wounded when a Taliban-planted bomb exploded while they were playing in the southern province of Kandahar on Tuesday (Pajhwok).
Blasts across Pakistan
A suicide bomber who appeared to target a prominent leader of Pakistan's ethnic Hazara minority in Quetta, Balochistan, killed six and wounded many others on Tuesday (Reuters). That attack was just one of four explosions in the provincial capital on Tuesday, which were followed by two more bomb attacks on Wednesday, one on a police station and one outside a private hospital.
In all, eight blasts were reported in three of Pakistan's provinces from Tuesday evening through Wednesday (Dawn, ET/AFP). In addition to the two Quetta blasts on Wednesday, a bomb killed at least five people at a roadside campaign office of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Karachi late Tuesday night, an explosion near the home of a Pakistan People's Party leader in Peshawar wounded three on Wednesday, and two remotely detonated roadside bombs exploded as a convoy of election candidates moved through Dera Ismail Khan, though no casualties were reported (ET, ET).
On Monday, Pakistan's Supreme Court released a list of journalists who received funds from the government totaling over $1.8 million, which was used to cover everything from hotel stays and plane tickets to vague "special assignments" (WSJ). According to some, this is known as a "bribe."
-- Jennifer Rowland