First U.S. Drone Strike of 2015 Kills 6; Ghani Suggests U.S. Reconsider Afghan Timeline; India Alleges Pakistani Boat Carried Terrorists

Reaper Aircraft Flies Without Pilot From Creech AFB
Event Notice: “Undercover Jihadi,” a discussion with Mubin Shaikh and Dr. Anne Speckhard, WEDNESDAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America).

Pakistan

First U.S. drone strike of 2015 kills at least six militants

A suspected U.S. drone strike on Sunday, the first of 2015, killed at least six militants in the Datta Khel section of North Waziristan, multiple media outlets reported. According to Pakistani security officials, two missiles were fired from the drone and hit a compound belonging to an Uzbek militant leader known as Usman, a supporter of Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur; it is unclear if either man was among the casualties (BBCNYTRFE/RLVOA). The drone strike came amidst fresh air strikes by the Pakistani military, which said it had killed 31 militants on Sunday (AP).

Polio vaccination campaign begins in Quetta

Pakistani health workers launched a new seven-day polio vaccination campaign amid tight security in Quetta on Monday, the first time since the efforts were suspended more than five weeks ago after attacks on vaccinators (Dawn). According to Dr. Sher Ahmed Satakzai, the local health officer, vaccine drops will be administered to more than 700,000 children under the age of five.

The move comes just days after Pakistan’s first polio case of 2015 was recorded in Balochistan’s Chagai district, and the provincial government declared a health emergency in Quetta, the capital city (Dawn). In 2014, a total of 23 cases of polio were recorded in the province, with most of them coming from the Killa Abdullah, Pishin, and Quetta districts. Pakistan is one of three countries were the poliovirus remains endemic; Afghanistan and Nigeria are the other two. 

Afghanistan

Ghani says U.S. might want to reconsider deadline

In an interview with the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” which aired on Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the United States might want to “re-examine” its timeline for withdrawing the remaining U.S. troops from the country (BBCReuters). Ghani noted that: “If both parties, or, in this case, multiple parties, have done their best to achieve the objectives and progress is very real, then there should be a willingness to reexamine a deadline” (RFE/RL). Of the 140,000 troops that were once in Afghanistan, about 13,000 remain under a two-year mission named Operation Resolute Support.Bonus Read: “The True Cost of the Afghanistan War May Surprise You,” Mark Thompson (TIME).

The U.S. and NATO combat missions in Afghanistan officially ended in December 2014, and Afghan forces have taken full responsibility for the country’s security. However, many observers both inside and outside Afghanistan have expressed concerns over the Afghan government’s ability to maintain control, especially after the increased violence of 2014. Bonus Read: “Frustrated Afghans wonder who is in charge amid cabinet delays and Taliban attacks,” Pamela Constable (Post).

Ghani’s comments were aired shortly after the Taliban declared that international troops had been defeated in Afghanistan, and reports emerged that a Taliban delegation had visited Beijing in late November 2014 (BBCRFE/RL).

While a majority of Americans continue to believe that the 13-year Afghan war was not worth fighting, aWashington Post-ABC News poll conducted in December found that over half (54 percent) of the respondents favored keeping U.S. troops in the country to help train Afghan security forces (Post).Bonus Read: “Why the U.S. needs to stay in Afghanistan,” Peter Bergen (CNN).

Two killed in attack on European police

Two civilians were killed and more than 10 were wounded in Kabul on Monday when a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden vehicle into a car belonging to the European Union Police (EUPOL) force (Pajhwok). No EUPOL personnel were hurt in the attack, the first against a foreign target in Kabul in 2015 (AP). Pia Stjernvall, the acting head of EUPOL’s training mission, told reporters that an investigation into the incident would be conducted in cooperation with the Afghan National Police. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack (TOLO News).

Parliamentarians call for investigation into wedding strikes

Afghan parliamentarians in the Meshrano Jirga (upper house) on Sunday called for a thorough investigation into a New Year’s Day shelling of a wedding party in Helmand province, and harsher punishments for the perpetrators (Pajhwok). According to a number of media outlets, several mortar rounds allegedly fired by the Afghan military hit the group in the province’s Sangin district, killing 28 people, including the bride (APNYTRFE/RL). More than 50 others, mostly women and children, were wounded. Six Afghan National Army soldiers who were manning the posts from which the shells were fired have been arrested; two of them are being court marshaled.

— Bailey Cahall

India

India alleges Pakistani boat carried terrorists

Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday that the men on a Pakistani boat, which blew up after being intercepted off the coast of the western state of Gujarat last week, were “suspected terrorists” (Economic TimesBBC). Parrikar dismissed claims that the boat housed smugglers, saying: “I think they were suspected terrorists as they committed suicide, a normal boat even carrying drugs can surrender” (NDTV). The Indian Coast Guard intercepted the boat on New Year’s Eve and after an hour-long chase, the crew set the boat on fire to escape arrest.

The incident off the coast of Gujarat came as a ceasefire violation on the international border in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir resulted in the deaths of four Pakistani troops and one Indian soldier (IBNLive). Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad on Dec. 31 to lodge a protest. Tensions between India and Pakistan over the Line of Control increased throughout 2014. Both countries have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of which were over Kashmir.

Airports on high alert after hijack warning

Indian airports were on high alert on Monday after local intelligence agencies warned of a possible hijack attempt on Air India flights to Kabul (Indian Express, BBC, NDTV). Official sources stated that security was strengthened around airports and anti-hijacking measures were put in place. An airport official said: “We received an alert from intelligence agencies that Air India flights between Delhi and Kabul could be hijacked, following which we launched anti-hijacking measures and carried out anti-sabotage checks of the flights. While quick reaction teams have been kept on a standby, the Air India security staff has also been asked to keep a close watch on any suspicious activity” (The Hindu). The alert comes ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India, where he will be the chief guest at India’s annual Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26.

Japanese tourist gang-raped in India

Indian police arrested five men who operated as a gang and targeted single Japanese tourists for allegedly raping a Japanese tourist for nearly a month close to Bodh Gaya, a Buddhist shrine located in the central state of Bihar, according to officials on Sunday (WSJ, BBC, Livemint, CNN). The woman was reportedly kidnapped by two tourist guides on Nov. 23, and taken to a seaside resort where she was forced to withdraw $1,200 from an ATM cash machine. The woman was then taken to a location near Bodh Gaya, where she was held captive for several weeks and allegedly assaulted.

In December, the woman managed to escape, and filed a police complaint in Kolkata, located in the eastern state of West Bengal, with the assistance of the Japanese consulate. Kolkata Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) P.K. Ghosh said: “This gang used to operate from Kolkata and used to dupe and sometimes physically abuse Japanese tourists” (NDTV). Three other men have been arrested in connection to this case.

— Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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