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Nov 28, 2013

Afghanistan’s Karzai stands alone in high-stakes game with U.S.

KABUL (Reuters) – President Hamid Karzai’s stubborn refusal to sign a pact that would keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is a high-risk gamble that Washington will give in to his demands, one that has left him isolated as the clock runs down on his presidency.

Diplomats said he may have over-played his hand, raising the risk of a complete U.S. withdrawal from the insurgency-plagued country where Western troops have fought Taliban militants for the past 12 years. It also risks a backlash at home by critics who believe he is playing a dangerous game with the country’s future security.

Nov 14, 2013

Leader’s death plunges Pakistan Taliban into dangerous disarray

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The killing of one of Pakistan’s most wanted Islamic militants in a U.S. drone strike has exposed centuries-old rivalries within the group he led, the Pakistani Taliban, making the insurgency ever more unpredictable and probably more violent.

Hakimullah Mehsud’s death this month has set off a power struggle within the outfit’s ranks, which could further unnerve a region already on tenterhooks with most U.S.-led troops pulling out of neighboring Afghanistan in 2014.

Nov 8, 2013

Imran Khan accuses U.S. of derailing peace talks with Pakistan Taliban

BANI GALA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan accused the United States on Friday of deliberately destroying any chance of meaningful peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban by killing the insurgency’s leader in a drone strike a week ago.

The Taliban have since rejected talks with the government and threatened a wave of revenge attacks for the death of their chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, on November 1.

Nov 8, 2013

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s economic progress

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund said on Friday it was broadly satisfied with Pakistan’s economic progress after stepping in to save the country from a possible default earlier this year.

The IMF has agreed to loan Pakistan $6.7 billion over three years as part of the programme, but its condition of quarterly reviews means the cash is not guaranteed.

Nov 8, 2013

Pakistan committed to completing Iran gas pipeline project

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan is committed to building a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline from neighbouring Iran but the threat of international sanctions makes the task difficult, the South Asian nation’s petroleum minister said on Friday.

The comments follow remarks last month by Iran’s oil minister that the country would probably abandon the contract, prompting speculation that the two sides had decided to ditch the project altogether.

Oct 31, 2013

‘Magnificent Delusions’ of U.S.-Pakistan relations

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Even as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani was one of the most eloquent critics of Pakistan’s military, the nuclear-armed country’s most powerful institution.

Haqqani, once derided at home as Washington’s ambassador to Pakistan for his pro-Western views, has taken a step further, accusing the government of directly supporting militant groups in his latest book “Magnificent Delusions”.

Oct 31, 2013

Book Talk: ‘Magnificent Delusions’ of U.S.-Pakistan relations

ISLAMABAD, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Even as Pakistan’s ambassador
to the United States, Husain Haqqani was one of the most
eloquent critics of Pakistan’s military, the nuclear-armed
country’s most powerful institution.

Haqqani, once derided at home as Washington’s ambassador to
Pakistan for his pro-Western views, has taken a step further,
accusing the government of directly supporting militant groups
in his latest book “Magnificent Delusions”.

Sep 26, 2013

Steeped in ancient mysticism, passion of Pakistani Sufis infuriates Taliban

SEHWAN SHARIF, Pakistan (Reuters) – Yielding to the hypnotic beat of drums and the intoxicating scent of incense, the woman danced herself into a state of trance, laughing and shaking uncontrollably alongside hundreds of others at Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrine.

Swathed in red, the Sufi color of passion, she shouted invocations to the shrine’s patron saint in an ecstatic ritual repeated daily in the dusty town of Sehwan Sharif on the banks of the river Indus.

Sep 22, 2013

Released Taliban leader awaits fate in Karachi safe house

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former Taliban second-in-command released in Pakistan this weekend, is being kept in a safe house in Karachi as regional powers debate what role he could play in the Afghan peace process, sources in Pakistan said on Sunday.

Afghanistan sees Baradar as a respected figure who could use his influence among the Taliban to help coax moderate commanders to the negotiating table and convince warring parties to stop fighting after more than a decade of war.

Sep 20, 2013

Pakistan to free former Afghan Taliban No.2 Saturday

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan is to release former Afghan Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Saturday, yielding to years of calls from Afghanistan to free a man who it hopes could play a pivotal role in bringing peace to Pakistan’s neighbor.

The United States and Afghanistan have long pressed Pakistan to free Baradar, a figure they believe could tempt moderate Taliban leaders to come to the negotiating table as U.S.-led troops prepare to leave Afghanistan at the end of next year.