Daily Brief: Rockets at Daybreak in Kabul
Fear and loathing in Afghanistan Fraud and intimidation flavor the run-up to Afghanistan’s presidential election, with election officials admitting that up to 10% of polling places may not be able to open on August 20 because of security concerns (New York Times). The areas where much of the insurgency is concentrated — the south and ...
Fear and loathing in Afghanistan
Fraud and intimidation flavor the run-up to Afghanistan’s presidential election, with election officials admitting that up to 10% of polling places may not be able to open on August 20 because of security concerns (New York Times). The areas where much of the insurgency is concentrated — the south and east — are heavily Pashtun areas, and so analysts warn that Pashtuns “could become even more alienated from the government and the foreign forces backing it.”
The only serious challenger to incumbent president Hamid Karzai is Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who is popular among Tajiks in the north. And violence ahead of the elections has spiked, with rockets peppering residential districts of the capital of Kabul early this morning in the latest round of militant attempts to “disrupt the election process,” said an Afghan government spokeswoman (CNN and Wall Street Journal).
In other election news, another of Afghanistan’s 40 some presidential candidates has stepped aside and endorsed Karzai (Quqnoos).
And demonstrating the importance of the Afghan mission, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made an unannounced trip to Belgium to discuss the war efforts face-to-face with his top NATO commanders there (Voice of America).
A day in the life
Commander of US forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal spends several days a week meeting with local Afghan leaders and hearing their grievances (Los Angeles Times). And unusually, he requested that one of his briefings at Camp Kunduz not include a Powerpoint presentation.
One problem troops on the ground face is the news that some helicopters earmarked to help British soldiers in the Helmand campaign will not be able to fly on combat missions because they are not sufficiently armor-plated (Daily Telegraph). But Britain’s Ministry of Defense denies these claims (BBC).
New kid on the block
The good news is that NATO’s new chief, the Dane Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asserted in his first day on the job yesterday that he wants to increase European troops in Afghanistan to strike a “proper balance” between American and European troops in Afghanistan and “avoid the perception that the mission…[is] predominantly an American operation” (Times Online).
Pakistani authorities blame an al Qaeda-linked Sunni terrorist group for leading this weekend’s attack in the Punjabi city of Gojra that left at least seven dead, burned alive in their homes (The Guardian). Christians in Gojra claim that the Pakistani police are not giving them enough protection (Christian Science Monitor), while Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution unanimously condemning the violence (Dawn).
Conflict between the Pakistani military and insurgents in the Swat Valley continues as well, with Pakistani jets killing at least five militants late yesterday (Dawn).
Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two, said in his latest statement that Osama bin Laden’s offer of a ‘truce’ to President Obama still stands, and praised Mullah Omar and militants in Afghanistan for “daring to challenge” America, saying, “This is an achievement by itself because it stood for its pride, dignity and lands” (Reuters and CNN).
PETA would not approve
Pakistani citizens are not the only ones dealing with suicide attacks and lack of clean water and basic health care-the Lahore Zoo faces corruption, cramped animal quarters and a lack of proper animal care equipment (Los Angeles Times). The Pakistani zoo holds about 1,100 animals on 16-acres, tiny in comparison to the Los Angeles Zoo, which has the same number of animals on more than 100 acres.
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