Two USMC generals fired for not adequately protecting Camp Bastion
Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, released a written statement Monday afternoon, effectively firing two generals for not adequately protecting Camp Bastion in Helmand province from a September 2012 Taliban attack that left two Marines dead, eight American personnel injured, and six fighter jets in flames (Pajhwok, Reuters, RFE/RL). Amos said that he had asked both men, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, to retire from service and that they had agreed - marking "the first time since the Vietnam War that a general has been, let alone two, has been sacked for negligence after a successful enemy attack (Post). Gurganus issued a brief statement after Amos's decision was made public, saying that he felt privileged to have served in the Marine Corps for nearly four decades and that he fully respected the commandant's decision (BBC).
An Afghan official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday that talks between Afghanistan and the United States on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) have "reached a very sensitive phase, but some sticking points remained unresolved" (Pajhwok). The official's statements came as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterated the U.S. government's hope that an agreement will be reached by the end of October (AFP). The BSA will, among other things, determine the size and scope of the U.S. mission after December 2014.
The candidate field for Afghanistan's next presidential election continued to expand on Tuesday when Dr. Abdullah Abdullah entered the race (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Abdullah, who challenged current President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 election, formally registered with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) one day after former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani announced his intention to run on his Twitter account. Abdullah leads the National Coalition of Afghanistan, the main opposition group, and is the most prominent political figure to register so far. All candidates must register with the IEC by Sunday, October 6.
Asmatullah Muawiya, commander of the Punjabi Taliban, said on Monday that his group is willing to hold unconditional peace talks with the Pakistani government, and that they would "present a clear stance on the proposed dialogue" by the end of the week (ET). He also denied any involvement in the recent terrorist attacks that have rocked Peshawar. The Pakistani Taliban's central leadership expelled Muawiya in August when he first welcomed the government's overtures, but he insisted that he headed a separate faction altogether.
The Pakistani Taliban also said that they were not involved in the recent bloody attacks in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkwha province, reiterating its stance that it only targets legitimate military assets (AFP). However, an unidentified Taliban commander admitted to Agence France Presse that the prospect of negotiations has led to divisions within the organization. Because of those internal divisions among militant groups and public pressure on the government to not negotiate after these attacks, the proposed peace talks appear to be going nowhere fast.
While many Pakistani citizens may be giving up hope that negotiations between the government and the various militant groups operating in the country will help stem the violence, a group of religious scholars hasn't given up the fight. On Monday, a number of scholars from the Deobandi school of thought met to condemn the widespread killing of innocent civilians, and called upon both the government and the Taliban to cease-fire and engage in dialogue (ET). In a joint statement, the scholars called the current security situation "civil war-like" and said dialogue was the only way to stem the violence. Sources privy to the meeting said the participants had also decided to establish individual contacts with militants and members of the government in an attempt to bring them to the negotiating table.
Retired Brigadier Sikander Malik, his wife, and their two daughters were killed in Rawalpindi on Tuesday when unidentified gunmen broke into their home and opened fire (Dawn, ET). There were conflicting reports about the status of Malik's son as Dawn reported he had been injured during the attack, and Pakistan's Express Tribune said he wasn't home at the time. There were no immediate claims of responsibility and an investigation into the incident is currently underway.
"Boom Boom Danze"
Annie Khalid, a Lahore-born singer described as "Pakistan's Britney Spears," launched a new musical career in Britain on Monday, when she released a single titled "Boom Boom Danze" (Economic Times). Khalid, who had a fairly lucrative career in Pakistan, fled to Essex after her marriage to Pakistani businessman Malik Noreed Awan swiftly deteriorated following a disastrous wedding ceremony-turned-brawl that left her in the hospital and 15 of her family members and friends in jail; she has also accused Awan of abuse. She is an outspoken artist, often criticizing the Pakistani government's treatment on non-Muslims on her Twitter account, and is hoping to star in a possible BBC documentary about the changing face of Pakistani women.