It was a busy day in Afghanistan and the Pashtun border areas.
- New U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Afghanistan, prompting the neighbors in Pakistan to spiff things up a bit.
- Mohammed Hanif, frequent public spokesman for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, was captured while traveling by car from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Afghan intelligence agents arrested a purported Taliban spokesman after he crossed into the country from Pakistan, an agency official said Tuesday. Dr. Muhammad Hanif, who often contacted the news media claiming to speak for the hard-line militia, was arrested at the border town of Torkham on Monday, said Sayed Ansari, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence service. Two people traveling with him were also detained.
Hanif initially told investigators that his name was Abdulhaq Haqiq, Ansari said.
“But during the investigations we discovered that he is Dr. Hanif,” Ansari told The Associated Press. “He also confessed to it himself.”
- Afghan and NATO troops stopped and arrested a carbomber before he was able to set his bomb off.[*]
- In southern Helmand province the province’s police chief reported that 13 Taliban were killed and 17 wounded on Monday. It had previously been reported that one British soldier was killed and several wounded, but no Taliban casualty counts had been given.[*]
- The numbers are in for 2006, and approximately 4,000 people were killed in attacks in Afghanistan, most of the dead being Taliban and other militants.[*]
- Pakistan struck against the Taliban in the tribal areas of South Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan, destroying three hideouts . According to the NYT, “25 to 30 foreign militants along with their local supporters were killed in the airstrike on militant hideouts in Zamzola in South Waziristan.” (best guess is 32°53’16″N 69°32’35″E) One of the most interesting pieces of the NYT story is held until the last paragraph.
Today’s airstrike came hours after Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been strongly critical of Pakistan for failing to root out militants in the border area.
Thus following the old tradition whereby Pakistan waits to do anything against the Taliban until President Bush or one of his top aides visits Afghanistan or Pakistan. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty confirms. See also reuters. ap adds a twist to the story with a bystander’s claim that the dead were woodcutters, not jihadists.
- Musharraf told top generals today that Pakistan would continue to attempt to control extremism and terrorism through political means, but would stand resolute against any illegal border crossings.
“Any hide-out or sanctuary being used by terrorists or miscreants shall be knocked out wherever it is found,” a military statement quoted Musharraf as saying.