New Post: Khalid Mafton, "The folly of reconciliation in Afghanistan" (FP).
Dark day down under
A man wearing an Afghan Army uniform and identified as Hekmatullah opened fire on Australian soldiers as they approached an Afghan Army base in Uruzgan Province on Wednesday where they planned to spend the night, killing three and wounding two (Reuters, AP, Post, Tel, NYT). And early Thursday morning, just hours after the deadly "insider attack" two more Australian soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in Helmand Province. The spate of deaths marked Australia's deadliest 24 hours in the 11-year war, and prompted Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to cut short talks with Pacific nation leaders in the Cook Islands.
Reuters' Mirwais Harooni reported Wednesday on the soaring numbers of allegations against members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) concerning human rights abuses and the violent settling of personal conflicts (Reuters).
U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday that the number three commander of the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, Badruddin Haqqani, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan last week, though they did not specify the date (Post). The Obama administration holds Badruddin responsible for planning a number of attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan, including the siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last September. Pakistani officials also confirmed the militant leader's death, and said it took place on August 24 in one of three consecutive strikes on militant hideouts in the Shawal Valley (AP).
Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Tehran late Wednesday night for the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, on the sidelines of which he is expected to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on improving relations between the two neighboring countries (ET, BBC).
The judge hearing the case of Rimsha Masih, a young Pakistani Christian girl with possible mental illness accused of burning Islamic religious material, postponed her bail hearing on Thursday on the grounds that the government was trying to influence it (AP, CNN, ET). And gunmen in Balochistan ambushed a car carrying a Shi'a judge at a railway crossing as he traveled to work on Thursday, killing him, his driver, and his police bodyguard (AFP).
An account of the death of Osama bin Laden written under the pseudonym Mark Owen by a member of the SEAL team that conducted the raid on his compound last May gives a slightly different version of events than that of the White House, saying that bin Laden was shot immediately on sight and did not appear to pose a threat to the U.S. forces (NYT, Post). While Owen's first-hand account of the raid is largely consistent with what is already public knowledge, Peter Bergen points out in a new CNN opinion piece that two other recently released books discussing the operation give off-base descriptions of not only the raid itself, but the entire planning and decision process leading up to it (CNN). Bergen reviews the Owen book in the Washington Post Thursday (Post).
Educational or misleading?
Pakistan's National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has conducted a review of Pakistani school textbooks to identify disciminatory content against religions other than Islam, and recently published their findings in the hope that they will start a national debate on tolerance (ET). The review found a significant amount of biased material in the textbooks, including a line on Eid in an Islamic Studies book used in Sindh Province that says "people of other religions usually stay busy in useless activities during their religious festivals. There is no concept of God or submission among them."
-- Jennifer Rowland