Top of the Agenda: Afghanistan-Pakistan Summit
A trilateral summit bringing together the leaders of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan opens today in Washington, fresh on the heels of major U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan and a Pakistani military campaign in Swat Valley. A Background Briefing from MSNBC outlines the schedule for the meetings and says the primary goal for the United States will be to reiterate its stance that all three countries share the same common threat--Islamic extremism.
U.S. officials restated their support (WashPost) yesterday for the governments of both countries, while Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai pushed for increased aid and a broadened understanding of the political dilemmas they face.
The meetings comes amidst fresh violence in both countries. Pakistani troops launched heavy attacks today (FT) on Taliban militants in Pakistan's Swat Valley, aiming to retake government buildings seized yesterday by militants. Dawn reports the violence--and early signals from the government that major raids were imminent--have led some 40,000 civilians to flee the Swat region. Al-Jazeera reports Pakistani Taliban have declared a cease-fire agreement they signed earlier this year with the provincial government to be void, given the attacks.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, U.S. air raids in Farah province killed scores of people. Different news sources reported different death tolls, but the BBC says reports of civilian deaths could hang heavily over today's summit talks. The Red Cross reports dozens of civilians were killed in the raids, the BBC article says. Al-Jazeera reports as many as one-hundred civilians may have been killed in the attacks. Quqnoos, an Afghan news source, says the number of civilians killed may be as high as 120.
- In a new interview with CFR, Bruce Riedel, who chaired a special interagency committee to develop President Obama's policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says concerns about internal violence in Pakistan are rapidly escalating and that the United States should quickly ramp up aid to Pakistan.
- In a recent policy options paper, CFR's Daniel Markey says the United States should shift its "Af-Pak" strategy to focus more squarely on Pakistan.
The Obama administration's White Paper describing its Af-Pak strategy is available here.