National Security Brief: October 31, 2011

— The Taliban took credit for a suicide bombing on Saturday that left 17 people dead but Afghan and American officials suspect that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network orchestrated the attack as a possible response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Pakistan and her demands that the Pakistani government do more to combat the terrorist network.

— As the U.S. seeks aid from Pakistan for peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the powerful Pakistani spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), may be reluctant to offer help, seeing the Taliban as a key way to gain Pakistani influence in Afghanistan after the U.S. departs.

— U.S. Special Forces continued to deliver prisoners to an Afghan prison — and the C.I.A. kept tabs on them — after getting early credible warnings about torture and abuses there, which the U.N. later publicly exposed.

— NATO will officially end its Libya mission today at 4:59 pm Eastern time. The Atlantic Alliance hailed the Libya campaign as one of its “most successful.”

— With NATO’s role in Libya drawing to a close, new information is emerging about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic efforts to hold together the NATO alliance and her central role in negotiating disagreements between the coalition members who enforced a no-fly zone over Libya.

— Libya’s outgoing prime minister Mahmoud Jibril yesterday called for speeding up the timetable for holding elections. “We don’t want an eight-month gap,” he said at a news conference. The delay would be “dangerous,” he said.

— Despite success in its Libya mission, NATO has nearly completely ruled out the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. “We would need a clear mandate from the international community, as well as support from the Arab League and Syria’s neighbours,” a NATO official said, adding that so far “no-one had asked” for NATO’s help.

— The Arab League is awaiting a response from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to its proposal that the Syrian regime withdraw its military from the streets and engage the country’s opposition in a dialogue.