COMMENTS: Harare, Mosul, Kabul

There were plenty of international hotspots in the news. NBC's Andrea Mitchell (no link) followed Katie Couric's example on CBS Tuesday and updated us on the crisis in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe's longtime ally Nelson Mandela chose his 90th birthday party as the occasion to switch sides, denouncing his "tragic failure of leadership." She quoted Newsweek's Rod Nordland as reporting that government forces are no longer using violence to keep opposition voters away from the polls; they are now "brutalizing to make sure that they show up and vote for Mugabe."

On ABC, Terry McCarthy (embargoed link) followed 25,000 Iraqi troops into Mosul on their anti-al-Qaeda sweep dubbed Operation Lion's Roar that claimed to have arrested 12,000 militants. It is now "quiet as a graveyard," McCarthy found, even though a downtown carbomb killed two on Tuesday. The "newly confident" Iraqi Army has "pretty much got militias and insurgents on the run."

The secret services in Afghanistan are flexing their public relations muscle. Last week they issued videotape that CBS' Sheila MacVicar narrated from London of a teenager from a Pakistani madrassah whose suicide bomb plot they said they had foiled. Now Martin Fletcher gets to sit down with another failed suicide in the secret service's Kabul jail for NBC's In Depth. Abdul Marruf described being inspired to kill American construction workers when he saw videotape of a GI in Iraq using the Holy Koran as target for shooting practice. Afghan agents arrested Marruf before he even took delivery of his 600lb carbomb.

CBS' Investigation had Armen Keteyian look at the failed opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan. Contractors like DynCorp have been paid $1bn since 2004 to put a stop to the poppy harvest yet production is up "300% in the last six years" and peasants who have had their crop destroyed have switched sympathies to back Taliban guerrillas. Keteyian told us about the Senlis Council, a European activist group that opposes eradication and proposes legalizing opium instead for the manufacture of medicinal morphine.


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