Daily brief: Car bombs in Kandahar kill at least 41
Milestones A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan on Tuesday, making 2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops since 2001 (AFP and New York Times). Two hundred ninety four were killed in all of 2008, compared with 295 thus far this year (Reuters). One hundred seventy two U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan ...
A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan on Tuesday, making 2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops since 2001 (AFP and New York Times). Two hundred ninety four were killed in all of 2008, compared with 295 thus far this year (Reuters).
One hundred seventy two U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan since January, compared with 155 in all of last year — and these casualties are heightening the debate in Washington between the generals who want more troops and the Democratic base, who is increasingly questioning the president’s Afghanistan strategy (Washington Post).
Yesterday evening, at least 41 people were killed as five car bombs detonated in a single simultaneous blast in Kandahar, a strategically and historically important city for the Taliban (Wall Street Journal). The district where the bombs went off includes an Afghan intelligence office and U.N. facilities, though it appeared that the main target was a Japanese company involved in reconstruction efforts in the city (AP and Pajhwok). It is one of the largest attacks since the Taliban were kicked out of power in 2001, though the militant group has denied responsibility, which they tend to do in cases that result in a lot of civilian casualties (AFP).
And in a move that acknowledges the deterioration of security in Afghanistan’s largest southern city, U.S. and Canadian soldiers will for the first time deploy to the outskirts of Kandahar, a major population center as opposed to the countryside (Wall Street Journal).
Don’t jump to conclusions
Incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his closest presidential competition Abdullah Abdullah are in a statistical dead heat, with Karzai winning 40.6 percent of the vote and Abdullah 38.7 percent (Pajhwok and Independent). Longshots Ramazan Bashardost and Ashraf Ghani each won 9.7 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, but only ten percent of the vote has been counted so far and analysts caution that the results released yesterday are too scattered and geographically unrepresentative to make broader projections (Wall Street Journal and Washington Post).
Most of the votes counted so far came from Kabul, nearby Parwan and Nangarhar provinces, Kunduz and Jowzjan provinces in the north and Ghor province to the west, though 12 of the countries 34 provinces were unrepresented, including some areas where Karzai is expected to get a strong showing (AP). Less than two percent of the votes in Kandahar and no votes in Helmand, both provinces in the Pashtun belt in the south, have been tallied yet.
And allegations of fraud continue to pour in, most of them favoring Karzai, while some election officials themselves are reportedly suspect in stuffing ballot boxes (New York Times). A group of six presidential candidates sent an open letter to news organizations denouncing the widespread fraud and voter intimidation, as election officials, monitors, and Western diplomats ask for patience while official results trickle in (Bloomberg).
Run down the curtain
After weeks of denials, two Pakistani Taliban commanders have finally confirmed that former TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud is in fact dead (BBC and AP). Hakimullah Mehsud, who was recently declared Baitullah’s successor, and Wali ur-Rehman, another Baitullah ally, told the BBC yesterday that Baitullah “was martyred” on Sunday from injuries sustained in a U.S. drone strike on his father in law’s house in South Waziristan.
However, Pakistan’s foreign minister said yesterday that no replacement had been appointed, adding to the rumors that the Pakistani Taliban is riven with rivalry between insurgent commanders (Reuters). And there are rumblings that Hakimullah is actually dead, killed in a shootout several days after the drone strike that hit Baitullah (New York Times).
A Pakistani cricket coach has called for fans not to believe everything they hear in the media about members of the Pakistani team being paid off to throw matches (The News). “It is affecting them a lot,” the coach said yesterday, claiming the morale of the team has suffered.
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MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images
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