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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 9, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Pakistani Taliban Claim Responsibility for Karachi Airport Attack

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Monday for an overnight assault on the Karachi airport that left ten attackers and nineteen others dead (NYT), an attack that Pakistani paramilitary Rangers initially ascribed to India. The militant group recently split over disagreement over peace talks with the government, which have faltered, while the military has intensified its air offensive in northwestern tribal areas. Karachi itself has been a city contested by militant groups, and tensions escalated there last week after a political leader in exile was arrested by British authorities; he was released on Saturday but remains under investigation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will convene an emergency security cabinet meeting this week to debate the future of the talks (Dawn). Another suicide attack on Sunday night killed thirty Shias in Balochistan who were returning from a pilgrimage to neighboring Iran (Express Tribune).

Analysis

"Two years ago all the states in the region would have publicly or privately accused Pakistan's military and Interservices Intelligence (ISI) of supporting, protecting, or at least tolerating almost every terrorist group based in Pakistan. The ISI had links with all of them and often collaborated with them. Recently those relations have changed. Governments in the region now accept that Pakistan is in some ways trying to fight terrorism on its soil. But those governments are also concerned that the Pakistani military and political elite have lost control of large parts of the country and cannot maintain law and order. …There is still no overall political or military strategy to combat Islamic extremism. The Pakistani army tries to suppress some terrorist groups but not, for example, those that target India. Such a selective strategy cannot be maintained indefinitely and poses enormous risks to the entire world," writes Ahmed Rashid in the New York Review of Books.

"The split likely marks a return to Pakistan's discredited policy of Good Taliban; Bad Taliban. While American troops head home from Afghanistan, while an election is under way, it would be silly of Islamabad to give up its proxies, runs the reasoning. Who knows what might happen across the border? Who knows what allies Pakistan might need? So long as the Good Taliban steer clear of Pakistani targets then all is well. Rather than clear the militants, the havens can be left for now. But while those refuges remain, the Bad Taliban will remain too," writes Rob Crilly in the Telegraph.

"The ISI's game of prolonging the post-9/11 insurgency in Afghanistan long enough for the tired American leviathan to pack up and go home – and for Pakistan to move in more forcefully – is the direct cause of this terrorist surge, which has taken over 50,000 lives. There are now three separate but interrelated insurgencies eating at the Pakistani state like overfed parasites: the sectarian Sunni jihad against Pakistan's Shia population, the Balochi insurgency, and the gangsterism and religious extremism destroying Karachi. When exporting militancy is a state's central foreign policy tool, it does not take long for the pawns to turn their guns on their masters," writes Omer Aziz in the Diplomat.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Chinese Navy to Participate in U.S. Drills

Beijing confirmed on Monday it will participate for the first time in a twenty-two-nation, U.S.-hosted naval drill called RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) this month (Reuters). Meanwhile, China accused Vietnam of ramming its oil rig in contested waters more than one thousand times (Reuters).

THAILAND: Thailand's governing junta said Monday it had directed Thai ambassadors to meet with representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to "create understanding" (Reuters).

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Modi Government Unveils Economic Plan

India's new government outlined its policy priorities in an address by President Pranab Mukherjee to the parliament on Monday, saying that economic revival amid slow growth and high inflation is "paramount" (Times of India). Mukherjee spoke of incentivizing private-sector development while also improving basic infrastructure to work toward poverty elimination (WSJ).

 

MIDDLE EAST

Ex-General Sisi Sworn in As Egypt’s President

Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday tasked Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb with forming a new cabinet (Mada Masr), a day after Sisi was sworn in as president (NYT). In his inaugural address, he vowed to pursue "inclusive" politics but ruled out reconciliation with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and highlighted appreciation for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, whose government's largesse has kept Cairo afloat.

Writing in Foreign Affairs, CFR's Steven A. Cook expects Sisi's rule to be a banal one.

IRAN: U.S. and Iranian delegates will hold bilateral meetings in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday, seeking to prod nuclear negotiations ahead of a July 20 deadline (al-Monitor).

 

AFRICA

Libyan Supreme Court Annuls PM’s Election

The Libyan Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the parliament's election of Ahmed Maiteeq in May was unconstitutional, the latest in a standoff between Maiteeq and Abdullah al-Thani, who did not cede power (BBC).

SUDAN: The leader of the opposition Congress Party, Ibrahim al-Sheikh, was arrested on Sunday (Sudan Tribune), weeks after the arrest of another opposition leader set off protests. Opposition parties have charged government-backed militias with atrocities in Darfur, and the arrest threatens to derail a national dialogue process that President Omar al-Bashir has advanced to ease tensions ahead of next year's elections (NYT).

 

EUROPE

Vatican Hosts Israeli-Palestinian Prayer Summit

Pope Francis brought together Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on Sunday for an interfaith "prayer summit" (WaPo). The meeting is expected to yield little diplomatically, but is the first contact between the parties since U.S.-backed talks collapsed in April.

In Foreign Affairs, Victor Gaeten holds out hope for the pope's diplomatic initiative.

UKRAINE: President Petro Poroshenko opened talks with Russia on restoring peace in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a day after he took the oath of office (FT). Addressing the diplomatic corps afterward, he said he expects to sign an association agreement with the European Union before the end of the month (Kyiv Post).

"Frozen conflicts" from post-Soviet conflicts in the 1990s offer troubling precedents for eastern Ukraine, says Georgetown University's Charles King.

 

AMERICAS

Colombia Government, Rebels Agree to Truth Commission

Government and FARC negotiators agreed in Havana on Sunday to establish a truth commission (AFP) to address the civilian toll of five decades of conflict. The announcement comes on the heels of the rebel group's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire ahead of the June 15 presidential elections. Challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has made opposition to talks with the FARC a centerpiece of his campaign (Colombia Reports).

BRAZIL: Riot police used tear gas against protestors in Sao Paulo, three days ahead of the opening of the World Cup there (BBC). Public transit workers have been striking since Thursday demanding salary increases, defying a court order and threats of dismissal.

 

 

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