CIA chief sees progress in Afghan border region —amid growing chaos

Outgoing CIA director Michael Hayden told reporters in Washington Jan. 15: “The great danger was that—I’m going to use a little euphemism here—the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan was a safe haven for al-Qaeda. It is my belief that the senior leadership of al-Qaeda today believes that it is neither safe, nor a haven. That is a big deal in defending the United States.” (Reuters) Four days earlier, hundreds of Taliban fighters attacked an outpost of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps in the Mohmand district, sparking a gun-battle that left at least 40 militants and six soldiers dead. (NYT, Jan. 12)

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, US/NATO attacks on civilians continue. At least 11 civilians were killed and nine wounded when an errant shell hit a house during a firefight between Taliban militants and NATO forces in the village of Qalai-e-Now, near Tirin Kot, capital of Oruzgan province. Afghan officials did not say who fired the shell, but, ordinarily, if they have determined that the Taliban is responsible, they say so. A spokesman for NATO said the matter if under investigation. (NYT, Jan. 8)

At the Mirwais School for Girls, built in Kandahar by the Japanese government, 15 students and teachers suffered acid attacks in November, when militants on motorbikes encircled the school, armed with acid-filled squirt-guns. They grabbed women and girls, forced them to remove their head scarves or burqas, and squirted into their faces, leaving them permanently difigured.

Authorities blamed the Taliban, who in turn denied being behind the attack. The police arrested eight men and, shortly later the Ministry of Interior released a video showing two men confessing. One of them said he had been paid to carry out the attack by an officer of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani spy agency. (NYT, Jan. 14)

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