President Karzai bans Afghan forces from calling in NATO air support following numerous incidents involving civilian casualties. The most recent was Wednesday, when ten non-combatants, including children, were killed. New ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford says he will comply.
Two police killed and 4 injured by a roadside bomb in Shiberghan, the capital of northern Jawizjan province. (This is an area where we have heard little previously about insurgent activity. - C) Meanwhile, in a separate incident, 1 officer was killed, 1 injured, and 2 kidnapped at a checkpost in Herat province. Security forces are seeking the kidnapped officers.
Gunmen attack vehicles of a demining contractor in Kandahar province. They torch one and steal the other.
Mohammad Rasouli, writing for Khaama, discusses the opium economy. Opium has become so deeply ingrained in the economy, and in rural Afghan society and government; while civil institutions generally are weak and corrupt; that the problem will take a long time to combat. Excerpt:
In the past two decades, Afghanistan had provided more than 90 percent of the world’s opium and was a key producer in this field. According to statistics, the total illicit narcotic drug trade is equal to one third of the country’s GDP, benefiting millions of Afghan citizens directly or indirectly.Some of the main reasons for production of opium include the combination of anti-government unrest, nationwide insecurity, armed rebellion and widespread corruption in the state itself.The Counter Narcotics experts believe that due to the corruption in the government and bribery of the authorities to exempt some fields from the elimination of the opium program, farmers prefer to ask Taliban forces to protect their opium crops.On the other side of the moon, according to UN estimates, only about 10 percent of total opium profits go into the pockets of farmers and 20 percent is the share of insurgents. The rest of this magical income is for traffickers, police forces, local strongmen and those government officials who are complicit in the trade or facilitating in the transport of drugs.
Good-luck-with-that department: Afghanistan to begin distribution of high-tech national ID cards next month. "The new National ID system will enable the government to establish a very accurate, up to date and effective database of the census of the country’s population, their movement, and addresses, age categories and many more. This in turn will enable the government to prepare very effective and efficient development plans as well as public services projects and simplify business and public processes and procedures, and by doing so remove the very complicated government procedures and tackle the issue of corruption." (Don't hold your breath. -- C)
Alissa Rubin and Declan Walsh report for the NYT on the renewed effort to negotiate a deal with the Taliban. They see little progress as yet, but a general recognition that a settlement is necessary as NATO prepares to get out.
Ahmad Massoud reports on the appalling public health conditions in Afghanistan, where one out of every five children dies before the age of five. That is 550 children every day. (The national ID cards should solve this. -- C)
Karzai orders interrogations to be videotaped to prevent torture. He also orders the Attorney General to prosecute torturers. (We'll see.)
Ministry of Public Health suspends or permanently bans 87 private hospitals for violations of standards.
Lt. Col. Matthew B.Tully, a survivor of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and a veteran of combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is awarded the bronze star as he recovers from serious combat injuries sustained in August, 2012.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, The death toll from the marketplace bombing yesterday in Quetta has risen to 84.
And in Iraq, six car bombing in Shiite areas of Baghdad kill at least 28, while attacks on security forces kill Brigadier General Aouni Ali, head of main intelligence academy and two of his guards, an army lieutenant and two other soldiers, and a former terrorism investigator now working as a judge. (Sure Sen. McCain, the "surge" worked perfectly and everything is now fine. -- C)