Deadly raid on Afghan MP's house leads to protests. According to an Afghan lawmaker, dozens of U.S. troops raided her home around midnight and killed one of her relatives, Reuters reports. "I will raise my voice... This man had five children. The Americans have created five more enemies," said the lawmaker, Safia Sediqi. The deadly raid sparked anti-American protests in the area, with residents shouting "Death to America" and blocking a major road in Kabul.
Here's NATO's explanation of the incident, via the Washington Post:
In a statement, NATO officials said a patrol with international and Afghan troops killed "one armed individual," while chasing a Taliban facilitator in the district. They said they tried to get him to lower his gun with hand signals and commands through a translator.
"The individual ignored the repeated commands, raised his weapon and aimed at the combined force, and then was shot and killed," the statement read.
Sidiqi, however, challenged NATO's version of the events and said she did not believe her relative was armed. Read the full Post story here.
Here's a photo from the protests, via the AP.
Despair breeds conspiracy theories in Afghanistan. Is the U.S. airlifting the Taliban into northern Afghanistan?, asks Anna Badkhen in Foreign Policy. The question may seem absurd, but many educated Afghans--including journalists and human rights advocates--believe it.
Do not rush to dismiss this far-fetched conspiracy theory as the unenlightened jabber of uneducated men. Consider it, instead, a byproduct of the grotesque failure by international donors and NATO to improve life here, despite the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops pumped into this country since the war began on Oct. 7, 2001.
There are no better explanations than this conspiracy theory for many Afghans, who wonder why the Taliban have reemerged in northern Afghanistan. Badkhen writes that the insecurity has created so much despair that many Afghans speak nostalgically about the past--even praising the Taliban and the Soviets.
US tries to limit Wali Karzai's power. As the U.S. prepares for a major offensive in Kandahar, it is trying to bolster the current governor, Tooryalai Wesa, while at the same time limiting the influence of Ahmad Wali Karzai, an influential power broker and the brother of the Afghan president. The Washington Post reports that the move is part of a broader "pro-government campaign" meant to earn the trust of the local population through grass-roots organizing and more inclusive tribal councils.
It remains to be seen if the clean-shaven, Afghan-Canadian governor can outmaneuver the powerful Karzai. U.S. officials, for instance, now consult Wali more regularly regarding political issues in Kandahar--a sign that his influence is too great to ignore.
Most Afghans skeptical of Kabul government. According to a Pentagon assessment, only 29 out 121 districts in Afghanistan either "support or sympathize" with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, reports The Associated Press. Most of the country is either neutral or supports the Taliban insurgency. The report pointed to widespread corruption as a reason for the lack of support for the Afghan government.
From the AP:
"While Afghanistan has achieved some progress on anti-corruption, in particular with regard to legal and institutional reforms, real change remains elusive, and political will, in particular, remains doubtful," the report states.
The high levels of perceived corruption do not bode well for the Obama administration, which is relying on the creation of a trusted local and national government for its counterinsurgency and exit strategies. However, according to the Washington Post, the report mentions some positive developments as well. The instability in Afghanistan has "leveled off" since January, notes the Defense Department. Moreover, a majority of Afghans polled thought that their government was headed in the right direction.
Mehsud resurrected? The Guardian reports that Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, is in fact alive. A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the newspaper that the Taliban leader did not die in a January CIA drone strike. "He had some wounds but he is basically OK," said the official. Mehsud's survival is a blow to the CIA, which had waged--and still wages--an extensive drone campaign in Pakistan's tribal areas to target the Pakistani Taliban.