Daily brief: U.N. watchdog invalidates some Afghan ballots
Afghan anger and agony Some Afghan journalists have expressed anger at NATO forces in the aftermath of Wednesday’s commando operation that rescued the abducted New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell but left his Afghan interpreter and fellow journalist Sultan Munadi dead during the firefight (Washington Post). One Afghan producer said that the British troops who ...
Afghan anger and agony
Some Afghan journalists have expressed anger at NATO forces in the aftermath of Wednesday’s commando operation that rescued the abducted New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell but left his Afghan interpreter and fellow journalist Sultan Munadi dead during the firefight (Washington Post). One Afghan producer said that the British troops who rescued Farrell and retrieved the body of a fallen British soldier showed a “double standard between a foreign life and an Afghan life” by leaving Munadi’s body behind (AP).
The raid by British Special Forces and Afghan soldiers, which was approved by foreign and defense ministers in the U.K., reportedly came after Afghan agents learned that the Taliban kidnappers were planning to move the hostages to Pakistan, though negotiators were said to be deep and progressing in talks with the extremists to release the men (AFP, AFP and New York Times). At least one Afghan civilian and dozens of Taliban fighters were apparently killed during the operation.
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices
The U.N.-backed watchdog organization investigating the thousands of claims of fraud in Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 presidential election today issued its first orders to exclude some ballots from the final tally, which could affect the current results giving incumbent President Hamid Karzai 54 percent of the vote with more than 90 percent of ballots counted (AP). Based on the preliminary results, Reuters assesses that more than 400,000 ballots for Karzai would have to be invalidated in order to force a runoff with his primary rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah (Reuters).
Afghanistan’s election confusion comes at a politically sensitive time for leaders in France, the U.K., and Germany, who have called for a high level international conference to take stock of progress in the eight year old war and discuss “timelines” for handing over responsibilities to Afghan security forces (New York Times, Washington Post and Times of London). NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern yesterday that the “public discourse on the effort in Afghanistan has started to go in the wrong direction,” but reiterated NATO support for the Afghan mission (Financial Times and AP).
And yesterday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense approved a $6.6 billion request for funding to support Afghanistan’s security forces for FY 2010 (Washington Post).
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, announced on Wednesday that he is gathering information about claims related to possible war crimes in Afghanistan by both NATO soldiers and Taliban insurgents, but did not say which incidents were being looked at (Reuters and BBC).
What dangers may come
The Pakistan Army said yesterday that one soldier and at least seven militants were killed during a gun battle in the Swat Valley in the ongoing clashes there, while nearly 30 Taliban were taken into custody in searches in the region (Daily Times and AP). In the recently troubled Khyber Agency, security forces arrested 25 extremists and destroyed several Taliban homes and hideouts.
The Guardian‘s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent, Declan Walsh, profiles the ex-leader of Pakistan in his current exile in London, as Gen. Pervez Musharraf is “hounded by the threat of prosecution” back in Pakistan (Guardian). Musharraf’s Edgeware apartment, decorated with mementos of the past, is thought to cost more than $1.6 million but is not large. The former dictator is embarking on a speaking tour in the U.S. next week.
Palm trees for prison walls
Three of the 13 Chinese Muslims imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay have agreed to be resettled in the Pacific island nation of Palau, moving the Obama administration that much closer to its goal of closing the military prison in Cuba (AP). Negotiations continue with the rest of the Uighurs (Times of London).
Save the trees!
Construction activities in Islamabad have been changed to save decades-old pine trees that are located in front of a bank where a construction firm wanted to build drains alongside roads in the capital city (The News). A local environmental NGO said the trees are an “integral part of the natural living heritage” of the capital.
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