Thousands of Pakistanis chanitng "we want change" filled the streets of Islamabad in a massive anti-corruption protest led by Sufi cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri Jan. 14. Security forces responded with tear gas and shots fired in the air as the protesters attempted to march on parliament. Qadri has given an ultimatum to the Pakistan government to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies by the next day. He is also calling for a delay in elections, and a greater role for the army in forming a caretaker government. Grievances include chronic energy shortages, economic stagnation, and continued attacks by the Taliban like-minded Islamist militants. Islamists accuse Qadri of being backed by the military. (Frontier Post, IBN, Jan. 15)
Shi'ites in Quetta, capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, spent three nights in freezing cold with the bodies of their slain loved ones at one of the city's main intersections—in defiance of their own traditions of speedy burial—to demand action in the face of a wave of terror taregting their community. The bodies were those of 83 people killed last week in coordinated bomb attacks on a Shi'ite neighborhood—the latest in a wave of such attacks across Pakistan. The bodies were finally buried Jan. 14 under heavy security, as mourners chanted slogans against the security forces for their failure to protect them.
Gen. John R. Allen, outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 troops in the country after 2014, defense officials said Jan. 2. Gen. Allen offered Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, an anonymous official told the New York Times. The 6,000 troops would mostly consist of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. With 10,000 troops, the US would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000, the US would add conventional Army forces to patrol in areas of the country.
The US answered to allegations that it has illegally detained juveniles in a prison in Afghanistan in a recent report (DOC) given to the UN Committee on Rights of the Child. The report was released in response to several inquiries regarding US compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In response to an inquiry regarding detention of juveniles, the US claimed that holding the juveniles was not to punish them, but to prevent them from returning to fight. The report cited to Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (text) in justifying this decision. The US also emphasized that it is treating the juvenile detainees in a way that is consistent with the convention. This includes specialized medical attention, potential familial cohabitation and individualized educational, recreational and social activities.
The Guardian on Dec. 7 noted a Dec. 3 story in Military Times, "Some Afghan kids aren’t bystanders," concerning an October air-strike in Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province in which three children were killed, and, apparently, intentionally targetted—two boys and one girl, aged 8 to 12. Local officials protested the targetting of children. Writing from Helmand's Camp Leatherneck, Military Times responds: "But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were 'innocent.' Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission." The supposed hole was intended for an improvised explosive device, according to the Marine official. On Oct. 16 the New York Times reported that the young victims' families said they had been sent to gather dung for fuel. Military Times isn't impressed, noting hundreds of cases in which kids were apparently used on missions by the Taliban—including one in Kandahar's Zharay district, where two boys, 9 and 11, along with a 18-year-old male, were found carrying soda bottles "full of enough potassium chlorate to kill coalition forces on a foot patrol."
A bomb killed at least eight—including four children—and wounded some 70 at a Shi'ite procession marking the Ashura holy day in Pakistan's northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Nov. 24. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. "We carried out the attack against the Shi'ite community," spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location. "The government can make whatever security arrangements it wants but it cannot stop our attacks." (Reuters, Nov. 25; AFP, Nov. 24) On Nov. 25, a second blast targeting an Ashura procession in Dera Ismail Khan left at least a further four dead. (BBC News, Nov, 25) The blasts follow a suicide attack that killed 23 at a Shi'ite procession in the garrison city of Rawalpindi—Pakistan's deadliest bombing for five months.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said Nov. 18 that US forces were capturing and holding Afghans in violation of a detainee transfer pact and that US forces should turn over that responsibility to Karzai's forces. Karzai's statement urged Afghan officials to make efforts towards toward obtaining entire responsibility for Bagram Prison. Listed abuses included Afghan detainees held by US forces despite Afghan rulings to the contrary and the continued arrest of Afghans by US forces. The statement comes less than a week after negotiations began on a bilateral security agreement that will govern US military presence in the country after the majority of US troops withdraw from Afghanistan after 2014. The US has delayed the handover of detention facilities to Afghanistan citing both lack of preparation by Afghan leaders in detention center management and discrepancies over treatment of detainees the US deems too dangerous to release. Both countries agreed to sign the bilateral security agreement within a year.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned a senior Taliban official on Nov. 15 for his alleged role in the Afghan opium trade, saying the traffic is used to finance insurgent activities. Mullah Naim Barich, who operates as Taliban "shadow governor" in Helmand province, is named in the action, which freezes any of Barich's assets held under US jurisdiction and bars anyone in the United States from conducting any financial or commercial transactions with him. "Today's action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban's reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence," David Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.