The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Karzai 44%, Abdullah 26%, Ghani 6%

Armistice with the armed Some Taliban chiefs have reportedly agreed to allow Afghan army and police forces to secure polling centers for next Thursday’s presidential election, in a secret deal brokered by incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s controversial brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai (The Guardian). It is unknown whether the ceasefires will be in effect near ...

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PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN - JULY 03: Internally displaced young girls from the Swat valley XXXXXXXXXXXX in the Jalozai IDP camp on July 3, 2009 near Peshawar, Pakistan. Approximately 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been created as a result of an on-going military operation against the Taliban. Pakistani forces are battling militants in the Swat valley, Lower Dir and Buner. New camps are sprouting up while others continue to grow as people shift away from the city of Mardan where thousands were living with families and schools as the UNHCR and other aid agencies struggle to deal with the needs of so many. The refugees are facing extremely harsh living conditions in the searing heat in over crowded camps. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Armistice with the armed

Some Taliban chiefs have reportedly agreed to allow Afghan army and police forces to secure polling centers for next Thursday’s presidential election, in a secret deal brokered by incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s controversial brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai (The Guardian). It is unknown whether the ceasefires will be in effect near polling stations where President Karzai’s opponents are popular.

Wali Karzai responded to reports that British forces recently seized tons of opium from his ranch in Kandahar by claiming it was a political attack aimed at hurting his brother before the August 20 election (Reuters).

Ashraf Ghani, one of three primary candidates in the presidential race, seeks to gain on President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah by reaching out to young people, women, and the poor using the internet, student volunteers, and the media (New York Times). Ghani, a former finance minister under Karzai, is still probably an outsider in the race, but he is the most educated and is widely respected by Western diplomats.

Abdullah rising

Polling released today shows that as of mid-July, 44% of respondents would vote for Hamid Karzai if the Afghan presidential election were held today, up from 31% in May (International Republican Institute, 58 pp, pdf). Abdullah Abdullah is up to 26% from 7%, and 6% would vote for Ashraf Ghani, up from 3% in the last poll. Another longshot candidate, the populist reformer Ramazan Bashardost, polled at 10%, up from 3% in May.

If the election were just between Karzai, Ghani, And Abdullah, they would get 49%, 32%, and 11% of the vote, respectively. None of the candidates has reached the 50% mark needed to avoid a runoff election, according to this polling. Profiles of the contenders can be found here (Foreign Policy).

The United States, in preparation for working with Karzai if he wins the election, has floated the idea of a “shadow prime minister” to help with the widespread corruption in Karzai’s government (Washington Post).

Former Afghan president and Abdullah supporter Burhanuddin Rabbani survived a Taliban attack on his convoy in the comparatively calm province of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan (Pajhwok Afghan News). Taliban insurgents claimed it is their goal “to turn Kunduz into another Helmand for foreigners” (Al Jazeera).

An uphill battle

The United States is starting a $300 million effort to give micro-grants to Afghans to persuade them to grow crops other than poppy, the flower that is used to manufacture opium (Wall Street Journal). But it is a challenge: last year, the average poppy farmer in southern Afghanistan made nearly $3,000 more than his licit neighbor.

No troops for you!

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that top American commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s upcoming review of the war effort will not include a request for more troops, as was rumored (Washington Post). Secretary Gates expressed concern that additional boots on the ground could fuel anti-U.S. sentiments in the region, but didn’t rule out the possibility that Gen. McChrystal might request more troops in future assessments (Los Angeles Times).

Can’t buy me love

Seventy percent of Pakistanis view the Taliban unfavorably, up from 33 percent last year, according to polling released yesterday (Pew Global Attitudes Project, 54 pp, pdf). The poll, conducted in mostly urban areas in late May and early June, also found that about a third of Pakistanis see drone strikes like the one last week that reportedly killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, as necessary and only sixteen percent of Pakistanis have a favorable opinion of the U.S.

Happy Birthday Pakistan!

Today is Pakistan’s 62nd Independence Day (Voice of America). To celebrate, President Asif Ali Zardari announced a series of political, judicial, and administrative reforms and lifted a ban on political activity in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Dawn).

Wanted: Huge parking garages

Britain is having troubling finding the extra facilities necessary to transport and park additional helicopters for British troops at NATO bases in Afghanistan (Daily Telegraph). More helicopters may help cut down on troop deaths caused by roadside bombs.

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