March 7, 2011

Daily Brief: Gates on Unannounced Afghan Trip

From The AfPak Channel by Katherine Tiedemann -
U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates landed in Kabul earlier today on an unannounced two-day visit to meet with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus, and other leaders (NYT, AP, Reuters, WSJ). Gates said that both the Afghan and U.S. governments believe the U.S. military should be involved in Afghanistan after 2014.

Gates's visit comes as Karzai rejected Petraeus's rare personal apology over the deaths of nine Afghan civilians in a NATO airstrike in Kunar last week, calling it "not enough" and asserting that civilian casualties are "the main cause of a worsening relationship between Afghanistan and the U.S." (WSJ, NYT, AFP, CNN, Reuters, AJE, Pajhwok, McClatchy). Some 500 protesters in Kabul demonstrated against civilian casualties on Sunday, burning an effigy of U.S. president Barack Obama and chanting "Death to America."

Rajiv Chandrasekaran has today's must-read describing a shift in USAID priorities for Afghan women's rights: "instead of setting ambitious goals [in contracts] to improve the status of Afghan women, the agency is tilting toward more attainable measures" (Post). A senior U.S. official commented, "Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. There's no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down."

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