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Imran Khan’s PTI Party Retaliates for Drone Strike, Outs Islamabad CIA Station Chief

Recall that back on November 21, John Brennan allowed the CIA to carry out a drone strike that hit a settled area of Pakistan rather than the tribal areas where most strikes occur. I noted that by striking within the province governed by former cricket star Imran Khan’s PTI party, Brennan was setting himself up for some significant blowback.

Today, less than one week after the drone strike, that blowback has hit hurricane force. From The Guardian:

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA‘s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

Recall that another station chief was outed in 2010, also in response to a drone strike. He left the country very quickly. If you insist on knowing the name that was revealed, this article mentions it, but the name strikes me as more of a cover name than a real name.

The document that names John Brennan and the Islamabad station chief is an FIR, or First Information Report. Here is how those reports work in Pakistan:

First Information Report (FIR) is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence. It is a report of information that reaches the police first in point of time and that is why it is called the First Information Report. It is generally a complaint lodged with the police by the victim of a cognizable offence or by someone on his/her behalf. Anyone can report the commission of a cognizable offence either orally or in writing to the police. Even a telephonic message can be treated as an FIR. It is a duty of police to register FIR without any delay or excuses. Non-registration of FIR is an offence and can be a ground for disciplinary action against the concerned police officer.

/snip/

A cognizable offence is one in which the police may arrest a person without warrant. They are authorized to start investigation into a cognizable case on their own and do not require any orders from the court to do so.

In the FIR, PTI officials are claiming that the station chief does not have diplomatic immunity and should be blocked from exiting the country. I wonder if John Kerry is going to have to make another surreptitious pick-up like the one he did when he spirited out of Pakistan the unidentified driver who killed a pedestrian on his failed mission to rescue Raymond Davis before his arrest in Lahore.

Khan’s party also has been attempting to shut down NATO supply vehicles passing through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, but they have not been very successful in that regard. Returning to the Guardian article:

Khan responded with a massive rally in the provincial capital of Peshawar and ordered PTI activists to block vehicles carrying supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan.

However, party workers have struggled to identify Nato cargo amid all the sealed containers plying the roads to Afghanistan. The exercise has received no support from the national government and the police have tried to stop PTI workers blocking lorries.

There also are reports of arrests for damaging shipping containers on trucks and attacking drivers.

Khan has clearly upped the stakes in his battle with Brennan. How will Brennan respond? At a bare minimum, more drone strikes in the province seem like a pretty safe bet.

Where Is the Moral Rectitude When Political Retaliation Drone Strike Hits Settled Area, Misses Target?

Early this morning, just hours after the US had assured Pakistan that drone strikes would be curtailed if Pakistan is able to restart peace talks with the Taliban (after the US disrupted them with a drone strike), John Brennan lashed out with one of his signature rage drone strikes that seems more calculated as political retaliation than careful targeting. Earlier documentation of political retaliation strikes can be seen here and here.

Here is how Dawn described the assurance from the US late on Wednesday:

The United States has promised that it will not carry out any drone strikes in Pakistan during any peace talks with Taliban militants in the future, the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Wednesday.

Briefing a session of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Aziz said a team of government negotiators was prepared to hold talks with former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov 2, the day after he was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan.

/snip/

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had told reporters last week that the process of peace talks could not be taken forward unless drone attacks on Pakistani soil are halted.

Nisar had said that the drone attack that killed Mehsud ‘sabotaged’ the government’s efforts to strike peace with anti-state militants.

Bill Roggio, writing in Long War Journal, is convinced that the Haqqani network’s leader was the target of today’s strike:

The US launched a drone strike at a seminary in Pakistan’s settled district of Hangu, killing eight people in what appears to have been an attempt to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operations commander of the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

But see that bit about the strike being in “Pakistan’s settled district”? One of the many unwritten “rules” of US drone strikes in Pakistan is that they are restricted to the FATA, or Federally Administered Tribal Area, of Pakistan where Pakistani security or military personnel have little to no freedom of movement. In fact, the ability of drones to enter these otherwise forbidden territories is touted as one of their main justifications for use.

Just over a week ago, the chief fundraiser for the Haqqani network was killed near Islamabad. That killing involved a gunman, though, not a drone. If Nasiruddin Haqqani could be taken out by a gunman near Islamabad, why couldn’t Sirajuddin also have been taken out by a gunman in Hangu rather than missed in a drone strike?

Various reports on this drone strike place the death toll at anywhere from three to eight and say that either three or four missiles were fired into the seminary. The seminary appeared to be frequented by Haqqani network fighters. From the Express Tribune:

Another Haqqani source said the seminary was an important rest point for members fighting in Afghanistan’s restive Khost province.

“The seminary served as a base for the network where militants fighting across the border came to stay and rest, as the Haqqani seminaries in the tribal areas were targeted by drones,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

An intelligence source told Reuters separately that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of Taliban-linked Haqqani network, was spotted at the seminary two days earlier.

It appears that there have been no other drone strikes outside the tribal areas since March of 2009. Roggio notes that all three of the others were in the Bannu district.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province now is governed by former cricket star Imran Khan’s PTI party. Khan already was highly agitated by the drone killing of Hakimullah Mehsud and its impact on the planned peace talks with the TTP. It seems entirely possible that striking in Khan’s province was a deliberate act by Brennan in retaliation for Khan’s rhetoric after the Hakimullah Mehsud killing. But by striking out with such rage, and especially by missing his target in a strike in a highly populated area, Brennan seems to have set himself up for a huge blowback.  Khan is now ratcheting up his rhetoric considerably: Read more

With US-Pakistan Relations Nearing Tipping Point Again, Watch the Border Crossings

When NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November of 2011, Pakistan retaliated by closing both of its border crossings into Afghanistan. They remained closed until then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an apology in July of 2012. Perhaps because that action by Pakistan stands out as one of the few times Pakistan has had a bit of an advantage in dealing with the US, Imran Khan, whose PTI political party controls the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has called for the closing of the Khyber Crossing in retaliation for the drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud. Khan blames the strike for derailing for now the budding peace talks between Pakistan’s government and the Pakistan Taliban.

Yesterday, Khan provided a bit of room for maneuvering, and gave until November 20 for US drone strikes to end in Pakistan before closing the crossing:

Taking yet another staunch stance, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday announced to extend the deadline for blocking NATO supply lines across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP) for 15 days in respect of Moharram, asking the US administration to stop drone strikes inside Pakistan or deal with the blockade of supply lines.

In passionate speech in the NA, Khan said the KP government would suspend the supply line on November 20, urging Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek guarantee from America that no drone strike would jeopardise future peace talks with the Taliban.

Some PML-N leaders, however, termed the change in mood of Khan and the postponement of deadline to cut NATO supply line a result of backchannel contacts with Khan by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan. They said Nisar had saved Khan and his party’s government from a head-on clash and tensions would decline as peace talks may soon be “back on track”.

So while there may be a cooling off period before closing the Khyber Crossing, there are a number of incidents to report in the vicinity of the southern crossing at Chaman. First, Pakistan Today noted that a US drone crossed into Pakistani air space at the crossing on Monday:

An American drone violated Pakistan’s airspace by 300 meters on Monday. Security sources said the drone, controlled from US base of the Afghan Qarahag district, entered Pakistani airspace at 6am and returned after flying over the city for five hours.

This is far from the tribal area where US drones hover nonstop. The article went on to state that the last time a drone had crossed the border at this location was three weeks ago.

Ah, but it appears that the drone missed its likely target by a day. There was a suicide bombing from the Afghan side of the crossing today: Read more

WHO, Bill Gates and Islamic Scholars All Push For Polio Vaccination in Province Now Governed by Khan’s PTI

There are public calls on a remarkable number of different fronts for a renewed commitment to polio vaccination in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which is now governed by Imran Khan’s PTI party. Direct appeals to Khan are coming from the World Health Organization and from Bill Gates. A major conference of Islamic scholars also came out with a statement backing polio immunization and providing push-back against the view that immunization campaigns aim to sterilize Muslims or are run by Western intelligence agencies.

Dawn gives us the details of the WHO push:

World Health Organisation, Pakistan polio chief Dr Elias Durry on Thursday apprised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan in Lahore of the threat to the health of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa children due to non-vaccination, it is learned. PTI, which has the most seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, leads a coalition government in the province.

According to the relevant officials, the meeting has coincided with the confirmation of three fresh polio cases from Federally Administered Tribal Areas by National Institute of Health.

They said Fata had reported five, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa four and Sindh two of this year’s 13 countrywide polio cases.

Khan is eager to help in the campaign and has taken part in promoting immunization before his party was elected to govern KP:

The officials said WHO had publicly recorded its reservations about polio eradication efforts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Peshawar.

They said the PTI chairman, who had inaugurated various polio campaigns in the country’s several cities, apprised the WHO, Pakistan polio chief of his eagerness to see fight against polio succeed.

The officials said Imran Khan carefully listened to Dr Elias Durry’s concerns about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa children’s vaccination and assured him that he would convey them to the PTI-led provincial government for necessary action on emergency basis.

“Imran Khan said he would issue special instructions to the provincial chief minister (who belongs to PTI) to ensure vaccination of all children under five as ensuring better health care in the province is his government’s top priority,” an official said.

Also joining the push for immunization is Bill Gates, as we learn from the Express Tribune:

Famous American business magnate Bill Gates has sought Imran Khan’s cooperation to eradicate polio in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as the province apparently failed to provide security to polio workers.

Gates sent a personal letter through his emissary to chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) Imran Khan asking for his party’s cooperation in furthering the anti polio vaccination programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said an official statement.

Imran Khan is scheduled to speak to him on the phone to discuss modalities of moving against polio which takes the lives of so many children in Pakistan especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Especially welcome news comes from a meeting held by Islamic scholars who produced a statement in favor of immunization and condemning the killing of vaccination workers. They also condemned Dr. Shakil Afridi and any other participation of intelligence agencies in vaccination programs: Read more

Pakistan’s Next Government Beginning to Take Shape

Most of the results from Saturday’s historic election in Pakistan are in. The biggest surprise is that Imran Khan’s PTI party, which had been viewed as a possible upset winner, fell to third place behind the outgoing PPP. Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N party came very close to achieving a majority in the National Assembly, but since a majority was not achieved, Sharif is now in the process of forging the alliances that will be needed for him to form a government for which he will once again become Prime Minister. Here are the latest numbers from the Express Tribune:

Contrary to most pre-poll predictions, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the single largest party by securing 123 seats of the National Assembly, according to the results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The election commission has received 256 results out of 268 constituencies, and are still waiting for results from 12 constituencies, a senior ECP official said.

In order to win a simple majority in the 342-member lower house, a party or coalition would need 172 seats. Of the total seats, 272 are for directly elected members while 60 are reserved seats for women and 10 are for minorities.

These reserved seats are allocated to parties as per their performance in the polls. As per the results from ECP, PML-N has secured 123 seats; Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) bagged 37 seats, followed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which managed to get 27 seats. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) won 18 seats, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) 10 seats, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) four seats, Jamaat-e-Islami three seats, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) two seats, NPP and PML two seats each.

We learn more about how the election proceeded from AFP (via the Express Tribune):

It was targeted by the Taliban, women and minorities were vastly under-represented, and videos of irregularities went viral online – yet Pakistan’s 2013 election may still have been its fairest ever.

A much improved voter roll, near-record turnout, and vigilant citizens tweeting alleged rigging all played their part in what former Norwegian PM and election observer Kjell Magne Bondevik called “a credible expression of the will of the people”.

Saturday’s election saw about 50 million Pakistanis vote, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif emerging the winner nearly 14 years after he was deposed in a coup.

/snip/

Violence in the run-up to polls and on election day itself killed more than 150 people, according to an AFP tally, as the Taliban set their sights in particular on secular parties that made up the outgoing government.

In a remarkable use of technology, voters were able to text their voter ID number to find out immediately the location of their polling station. Although 50 million votes were cast, the polling location service was accessed 55 million times.

Perhaps because of the unexpectedly poor performance of his party, Imran Khan is continuing to pursue charges of rigging in several districts: Read more

Imran Khan Injured, Doctors Order Rest Ahead of Saturday’s Election

Yesterday, former cricket star Imran Khan was injured when he fell off a lift that was raising him and a number of bodyguards to an elevated stage for a rally in Lahore. Prior to the injury, Khan and his PTI party were seen as slightly trailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PMN-L party for Saturday’s first-ever election in Pakistan after a civilian government (Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP party) has successfully completed a five year term in office. Pakistan’s Dawn News paints Khan’s injuries as serious while the Express Tribune downplays the seriousness.

Here is Dawn’s description of the fall and injuries:

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan Tuesday sustained serious injuries on his head and back after falling from a lifter during climbing up the stage installed for an election rally in Lahore.

TV footage showed him tumbling down along with three or four personal body guards on a pick up truck. The PTI chief was seen bleeding when he was taken away by his party supporters to the city’s Liberty Hospital.

/snip/

Khan sustained injuries on his head and back, said the hospital sources. They also said that Khan had to have as many as 16 stitches due to the injuries he sustained at back of his head.

The Express Tribune, meanwhile, claims the injuries are not serious:

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan will not attend a public meeting in Islamabad on Thursday (May 9).

Additional Information Secretary PTI Lahore Umar Khan, while talking to APP, said Imran Khan’s condition was not serious but he had been advised bed rest by doctors for a week.

This same article describes what appears to be spinal fractures but no damage to the spinal cord: Read more

Congratulations to Pakistan for Peaceful Transfer of Civilian Power the Military Ignores

McClatchy has an article hailing the Pakistani Parliament’s ability to serve out its entire five year term without being overthrown.

Pakistan’s Parliament completed its term Saturday and the coalition government was dissolved, the first time in the country’s history that a democratically elected government has served its full five years in office.

The way is now open for elections and an unprecedented peaceful transfer of power to another elected administration, even though the country is plagued by political instability.

“This is a milestone in the political history of Pakistan,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a political science professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “The significance is that there is consensus among all political parties that democracy must continue, no matter how good or bad.”

He added, “The only way to improve the quality of democratic government is democratic continuity.”

Pakistan has long been dominated by its giant military, which until Saturday had scuttled every previous Pakistan experiment with democracy. The United States, which has supported military governments in Pakistan in the past, blames the military for supporting radical Islamist groups and keeping relations tense with India and hopes that the establishment of democracy will weaken the army sufficiently to force it to give up its support for extremist groups.

[snip]

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has won praise for not seeking to topple the PPP government, and army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani has been lauded, especially by the United States and other Western powers, for staying out of politics more than his predecessor had. [my emphasis]

And while I don’t want to diminish this achievement, I find the celebration ironic given this report, from the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, reporting on his trip to investigate America’s use of drones in Pakistan. In it, Emmerson pointed to a number of pieces of evidence showing Pakistan does not consent to our drone strikes on its soil.

The Special Rapporteur was informed that Pakistan considers that its own democratically elected civilian Government, aided by its law enforcement agencies and military forces, are best placed to judge how to achieve a lasting peace in the region, and that interference by other States in this process has been, and continues to be, counter-productive to those efforts.

[snip]

Officials stated that reports of continuing tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory by any other State are false, and confirmed that a thorough search of Government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given. Read more

Administration Continues Apparent Policy of Harassing Pakistani Drone Critics

Yesterday, US officials detained and questioned former cricket star turned politician and drone critic Imran Khan in Canada before allowing him to travel on to New York.

Khan told his followers on Twitter on Friday that he was detained and interrogated about his views on drones.

A State Department official confirmed Khan had been briefly detained, but said the Pakistani politician was later released to travel the United States. “The issue was resolved and Mr. Khan is welcome in the United States,” said the official.

[snip]

Khan, who led a protest march to northern Pakistan earlier this month to protest U.S. drone strikes, sent a message about the incident on Twitter on Friday, vowing to continue opposing the deadly attacks. “Nothing will change my stance,” he said.

“I was taken off from plane and interrogated by U.S. Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan tweeted on Friday afternoon.

This is not an isolated example of harassment. This is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics.

In April, the government stalled on giving Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer suing the US for its drone strikes, a visa to speak at an anti-drone conference.

If you want to see how President Obama’s drone war efficiently turns America’s friends into adversaries, meet Pakistani attorney Shahzad Akbar. After getting his legal education in the United Kingdom, Akbar returned to his native Islamabad to practice the kind of corporate and public accountability law that the U.S. says its hopes to encourage in Pakistan. He worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development on trade issues. While prosecuting a Pakistan consular officer who was selling visas, he coordinated his case with the FBI.

Then came the Obama administration’s escalation of the drone war. Now Akbar is a full-time critic of the U.S. government who was repeatedly denied a visa to visit Washington. After a spate of news articles, Akbar was granted permission to travel to Washington this weekend, where he warned Americans about the consequences of a remote control war where no U.S. lives are lost and Pakistani civilian casualties are routinely downplayed.

And in May, the government refused a visa to Muhammad Danish Qasim, preventing him from traveling to Seattle to accept an award for a film he made

In particular, “the film identifies the problems faced by families who have become victims of drone missiles, and it unearths the line of action which terrorist groups adopt to use victimised families for their vested interests.” In other words, it depicts the tragedy of civilian deaths, and documents how those deaths are then successfully exploited by actual Terrorists for recruitment purposes.

We can’t have the U.S. public learning about any of that. In April, Qasim was selected as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. Qasim, however, along with his co-producers, were prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept their award and showcase their film because their request for a visa to travel to the U.S. was denied. The Tribune reported: “Despite being chosen for the award, the filmmakers were unable to attend the award ceremony as their visa applications were rejected twice.

This is becoming a pattern in which the US harasses any Pakistanis who might speak out against drones in this country.

Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?

Shorter Stafford Smith to Obama: “Don’t Drone Me, Bro!”

On Saturday, a march is planned into South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Three groups are involved in the march: Reprieve, of the UK, headed by attorney Clive Stafford Smith, CodePink, of the US, headed by Medea Benjamin and Pakistan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, headed by former cricket star and likely presidential candidate Imran Khan. The march is intended to draw attention to the plight of innocent civilians suffering from drone strikes aimed at militants who hide out in the area.

Prior to leaving for Pakistan, Stafford Smith wrote a letter (pdf) to President Obama (with a copy also going to CIA head David Petraeus), asking that he not be targeted by drones while he is in South Waziristan. From the letter:

This letter makes a simple request: when I march into Waziristan on October 7th, 2012, please do not let the CIA kill me, Pakistani politician Imran Khan, or the others – including many Americans – who will be marching with me to highlight the plight of the innocent people, including at least 174 children, targeted by drones in recent months and years. Indeed, should my picture come up in your weekly Powerpoint display, please remember that you and I are both lawyers from the same tradition, and it would be unseemly (as well as being both illegal and upsetting for my family) if you were to authorize my assassination.

/snip/

In terms of the studied leak to the NY Times that you and John Brennan studied St Augustine and Thomas Acquinas before authorizing a “hit”, I fear you guys must have been reading an edited edition of the ‘just war’ theory. We won’t even get into the rights and wrongs of the drone strategy, since Acquinas’ first principle was that the war had to be declared by an acknowledged sovereign: here there has been no declaration – only obfuscation by the secretive CIA — and we are waging war on an ally, Pakistan, without its consent. Arguments that these drone attacks are legal are, sad to say, hollow advocacy.

/snip/

I would be grateful if you would assure me – a simple email will do – that the CIA will not target me and my colleagues as we do what little we can to right these tragic wrongs. Surely I don’t ask much: simply not to be killed. In order that we may proceed in peace, I would appreciate such an assurance by 10am EST, on Monday, October 1st, 2012.

It does not appear that Stafford Smith has gotten Obama’s assurance that he will not be targeted.

There is now a “threat” against the march, prompting officials in the region to say that it cannot be permitted to take place, but the threat comes from a previously unknown militant group: Read more

With US Attention on Memogate Fallout and Taliban, Khan’s Tsunami Gathers Strength

As reported late yesterday by the New York Times, the US is finally acknowledging that it faces a diminished role in Pakistan. However, restoring even a diminished level of relations with Pakistan after the November 26 airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops is complicated by the fact that “civilian and military leaders are clashing over purported coup plots”. At the same time, the US continues its efforts at negotiating with the Taliban on a peace agreement for Afghanistan once the US leaves, and has even arranged for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar. These diplomatic moves are all focused on the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan, but standing between now and then are the scheduled Pakistan elections in 2013.  Former cricket star Imran Khan appears to be gaining a huge political following and so it seems likely that whether it is the long-rumored military coup or an electoral loss, the Zardari government appears to have lame duck status while participating in these critical discussions.

The Times describes the reduced US role with Pakistan:

With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan.

The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said.

It appears that the reduced number of “spies and soldiers” is down to about 100 from a high of 400. It is also very interesting to note that there have been no drone strikes in Pakistan since November 16, a full ten days before the November 26 border post attack. Today marks the one month mark for the blocking of supply lines through Pakistan in response to the border post attack.

While trying to sort out whether the Zardari government is stable enough to negotiate with over US involvement, the US is continuing its frequently ill-fated attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.   Read more