AT WAR: US, Pakistan Report Only Modest Progress In Talks

05/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We are blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email us at AfPak [at] Follow Nico on Twitter; follow Nicholas on Twitter. See archives of 'At War' here.

With reporting by Faiz Lalani.

5:40 PM ET -- Clinton asks for $4.5 billion supplemental funding for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for $4.5 billion in supplemental funding for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Clinton requested $2 billion for Afghanistan to "help Afghans provide for their families and revitalize the agricultural sector," and to replicate development efforts similar to the ones in Marjah. The funding would also go towards rule of law and governance programs in Afghanistan and towards the Afghan National Security Forces. Clinton also asked for $370 million to "expand civilian cooperation" in Pakistan, where the administration hopes to help resolve the "water, energy, and economic problems" that ail the country.

5:00 PM ET -- One year after Taliban ousted from Swat, life remains grim. A year after the Taliban were cleared out by the Pakistani Army, life in Swat remains difficult and disillusionment with the government could become a recruitment tool for the Taliban once more, reports Reuters. Massive state funding is being sought to rebuild the area's economy. By creating jobs and new industries in the former tourist region, Pakistani authorities hope to win the hearts and minds of locals. But joblessness is still pervasive and security is still a concern, as a recent suicide bombing that killed 14 demonstrated.

4:30 PM ET -- Afghanistan on the road to self-sufficiency as revenues rise. Afghanistan's domestic revenues grew by 45 percent last year, Reuters reports. After a series of economic reforms and anti-corruption measures, revenues rose from $400 million to $600 million. However, the country remains heavily dependent on foreign aid, with domestic revenues accounting for less than a third of the national budget. For the time being, Western governments have bankrolled the Afghan budget, but the development of the country's mineral resources holds the key to its self-sufficiency. China recently agreed to invest $4.4 billion to extract copper ore, the largest commercial investment in Afghan history. The Finance Ministry announced "[p]lans to improve revenue [that include] imposing taxes on minerals, such as mines for precious stones and coal, as well as tightening ways of taxing flights using Afghan air space or airports."

1:30 PM ET -- U.N. condemns amnesty bill for militants. According to The Globe and Mail, the U.N. has condemned an Afghan law that gives blanket immunity to militants who committed war crimes and human rights abuses before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The law, which was passed by two-thirds of the Afghan Parliament, protects members of Karzai's government and the insurgent groups with whom the government is currently negotiating. Under the law, Afghan authorities are absolved of the responsibility to investigate war crimes and rights abuses. Norah Niland, the chief U.N. human rights officer in Afghanistan, said the law "is likely to undermine efforts to secure genuine reconciliation" because it would undercut efforts at building public trust in reconciliation.

1:00 PM ET -- CIA had birthday cake waiting for suicide bomber. The CIA had bought a birthday cake for Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian al-Qaida double agent who blew himself up at a CIA base in Khost. Seven CIA employees died in the attack, for which many former agents have criticized the agency's for its lack of proper training. "Informants should always be met one-on-one," wrote Robert Bauer, a former top Middle East CIA operative. The agents were trying to build a rapport with their informant, a common practice in the spy business. The attack has, however, begun a debate in the intelligence community about adequate training.

From the AP:

The account of the planned birthday gathering is the latest evidence that CIA officials at the Afghan base trusted the Jordanian and wanted to build rapport with him. It was confirmed by current and former officials briefed on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The bombing not only weakened U.S. intelligence operations, it touched off a sometimes contentious debate within the close-knit intelligence community about whether such emotions led the CIA to be too lax with its security.

12:00 PM ET -- Pakistan and U.S. make modest progress in strategic dialogue. Pakistan and the U.S. have made only modest progress in their talks--termed a "strategic dialogue"--this week in Washington, D.C., reports the Associated Press. At a joint press conference, a smiling Pakistani foreign minister announced that the U.S. would pay $2 billion owed to Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead focused on the $7.5 billion in civilian assistance the U.S. has committed and a thermal energy deal. But on the question of a civilian nuclear deal, which remains one of Pakistan's top priorities, Clinton was elusive, stating that the U.S. "will listen to and engage with our Pakistani partners," but offered no specifics.

11:30 AM ET -- When Afghan allies turn against American troops. Captain Tyler Kurth, commander of Delta Company, recalls how an "Afghan police officer he'd spent months eating, sleeping, and patrolling beside was shooting at him and his men." On October 2, 2009, in Andar, in eastern Afghanistan, Kurth and his fellow soldiers found themselves the target not of the Taliban, but of an Afghan National Police Officer, an ostensible ally, he had helped train. Jessica Stone writes about such instances of "fratricide," when Afghan allies turn against American troops. With a limited recruiting pool, from which both the Taliban and the Afghan National Police recruit, Stone notes the difficult task of training Afghan security forces that lies ahead.

11:15 AM ET -- Insurgent group offers to help negotiate with the Taliban. According to the Guardian, a spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami told reporters that his group was willing to act as a bridge between NATO and the Taliban. The Hezb-e-Islami, one of three leading insurgent factions in Afghanistan, began talks with Hamid Karzai's government this week. Hezb-e-Islami's spokesman, Mohammad Daoud Abedi, said that the group believed it could reach out to the Taliban, saying that both insurgent factions share the end goal of a full withdrawal of foreign troops. Abedi also indicated a willingness for flexibility on the withdrawal timeframe. U.S. troops are slated to leave in 18 months, but "if Washington demonstrated good faith in its intentions," there was room for flexibility, he said. But many doubt the group's ability to convince the Taliban. In recent weeks, the group has clashed with the Taliban. Michael Semple of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard believed that the group "doesn't have much to offer, and there are heavy costs for Karzai to bring him in. He is toxic [politically] and very demanding."