Round-up of the latest AfPak news.
Andrew Sullivan slams Obama's "incoherence" on Afghanistan. Earlier today, Sullivan wrote that "the incoherence of Obama's Afghanistan strategy is becoming clearer by the day," adding that U.S. troops "have not the time nor the manpower nor the central government to make this work."
He was responding to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's thus far unsuccessful attempts to secure the town of Marjah in Helmand Province. Earlier this year, McChrystal tried to stamp out Afghan insurgents based in the town and immediately install a new local government, boasting "We've got a government in a box, ready to roll in."
But insurgents remain active in Marjah, undermining McChrystal's attempts to gain the confidence of the people living there. One tribal leader told Wired that in Marjah, by day there is government, by night it's the Taliban [in control]." Earlier this week, McChrystal admitted the Marjah operation was failing, calling it a "bleeding ulcer."
The car was detonated in a parking lot outside the gate of Camp Nathan Smith, which houses American and Canadian soldiers and civilian employees. Investigators are unsure whether the car was detonated remotely or by a suicide bomber. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Insurgent strikes have escalated since early May in anticipation of a renewed NATO offensive in Kandahar.
Trials for Afghan detainees to start June 1. Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, deputy commander for detention operations in Afghanistan, has revealed that detainees would be able to plead their cases before an Afghan judge, the AP reports. This comes days after a federal appeals court ruled detainees could not be tried by American courts. The announcement is a first step toward Washington's goal of handing full control of the Parwan facility to Afghans by 2012.
Martins made the announcement during a tour by Afghan lawmakers of Parwan Detention Facility, where around 800 prisoners have been held since December 2009. The facility replaces a prison located on Bagram Air Base, which became notorious for prisoner abuse after two prisoners died there in 2002.
More on the new prison from Reuters:
Inside a dark, hangar-like building, small containers made of reinforced corrugated metal hold other detainees. Through a one-way mirror, visitors can peer into the boxes to get a glimpse of what NATO's enemies look like.
Inside one, a man sways gently in his chair, chanting to himself while fingering prayer beads. In another, a bearded detainee talks to a woman wearing a headscarf who sits next to a tanned, smooth-shaved young Western man taking notes.
And from the AP:
Large metal cages hold about 20 men each. Prisoners in orange uniforms with wrist and leg shackles are pushed in wheelchairs to speed transit. The 45-square-foot (4-square-meter) solitary confinement cells have arrows painted on the floor to show the direction of Mecca. Prisoners shower in groups of 20 and have to go into a separate, smaller cage to use potentially dangerous items such as nail clippers.
It is not a happy place, but officials hope the new openness will quash rumors of torture and sleep deprivation.
"We're trying to be transparent with the people of Afghanistan," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who joined the tour. "Our experience with all detention operations from 2001 has made us smarter."
The visiting parliamentarians said they were surprisingly pleased by what they saw.
"There are lots of rumors that Americans torture prisoners during interrogation, said Fazelalluh Mujadeddi, a lawmaker from Logar province. "That was not true. They have good living conditions and time to pray and read books."
Pakistan Taliban attacking eastern Afghan province: reports. Police in Nuristan province have asked for reinforcements from Kabul, claiming nearly 300 insurgents entered the area from Pakistan, the BBC reports. Seven Taliban and two police officers have been killed so far in the clash.
The attack is reportedly being led by Maulana Fazlullah, the Pakistan Taliban chief once believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in January. In April he threatened to carry out attacks on the United States in a video message.