Daily brief: Karzai, Abdullah claim victory in Afghan election
The morning afterYesterday’s presidential election in Afghanistan was marked by turnout much lower than the 70 percent of who cast votes in 2004, particularly in the south where incumbent president Hamid Karzai expected much of his support, and scattered Taliban attacks that killed at least 30 people (New York Times). Though vote counting could take ...
The morning after
Yesterday’s presidential election in Afghanistan was marked by turnout much lower than the 70 percent of who cast votes in 2004, particularly in the south where incumbent president Hamid Karzai expected much of his support, and scattered Taliban attacks that killed at least 30 people (New York Times). Though vote counting could take as long as two weeks, slowed by security concerns and allegations of fraud, preliminary results are due out tomorrow.
Unofficial reports suggest a close race between Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, and both are claiming a first-round victory, which will likely prolong election season (Pajhwok, Times of London, and VOA). A low turnout and widespread reports of fraud could make the real victors the Taliban, if their campaign of pre-election violence and intimidation is able to “rob the vote of its legitimacy and the new government of its mandate” (Wall Street Journal).
Fear of Taliban reprisal was not the only factor keeping Afghans from the polls yesterday: some said they saw no point in voting because they felt disenchanted with politics as usual (Washington Post). And reports from the ground indicated that the so-called indelible ink used to mark a voter’s finger could be washed off with soap in some cases (The Guardian).
One way corruption and violence was reported in yesterday’s election is a system in which anyone can record an incident via text message (BBC). Though the project reportedly cross-checked the content to ensure its authenticity, and unverified texts are marked as such, some areas of the country likely underreported because not everyone uses SMS (Alive in Afghanistan).
American and international officials were quick to hail the election as a success in spite of reports of fraud and violence, with President Obama, Hamid Karzai, and the secretaries general of the U.N. and NATO chiming in (Reuters, BBC, CNN). The Pakistani foreign ministry also sent congratulations to its neighbor (Dawn).
A U.S. drone struck a town just outside of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, killing at least three (Reuters and Geo TV). Darpa Khel is a stronghold of Afghan Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin, seen as key links between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, though it’s unknown whether either was in the town at the time of the strike (AP and New York Times). It is the 32nd attack this year.
The organization formerly known as Blackwater has assumed a role in the drone strikes program: Blackwater contractors assigned to the Predator bases can load Hellfire missiles and laser-guided smart bombs on the drones before they take off (New York Times). Most of the drone strikes are now reportedly operated out of a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, which was opened in part because of the possibility that the Pakistani government, facing internal opposition to the missile strikes, might force the U.S. to close its remote base in Shamsi.
Yesterday, President Obama, giving a stronger confirmation than other U.S. officials had, told an interviewer that “we took out” Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone attack on August 5 (Reuters, CQ). Baitullah has not appeared in any videos since then, and a Taliban commander said earlier this week that he has taken the helm of the umbrella militant organization while Baitullah is “ill” (AP).
Tweeting me softly
Afghans turned to Twitter to express 140 characters’ worth of election day tidbits yesterday, though Ashraf Ghani is the only presidential hopeful to have an account (AP). @Pajhwok Afghan News, an internationally funded news organization, also tweeted regularly on reported fraud, violence, and vote counts, thoroughly ignoring the government’s media ban.
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BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
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