Daily brief: Afghanistan votes
Afghans go to the polls In Afghanistan’s parliamentary election on Saturday, some four million ballots were cast, reflecting only the raw number of paper votes that were filled out, and complaints of widespread fraud — including delayed opening of polling centers, shortages of ballots, ineligible voters voting, ballot stuffing, and indelible ink washing off — ...
Afghans go to the polls
Afghans go to the polls
In Afghanistan’s parliamentary election on Saturday, some four million ballots were cast, reflecting only the raw number of paper votes that were filled out, and complaints of widespread fraud — including delayed opening of polling centers, shortages of ballots, ineligible voters voting, ballot stuffing, and indelible ink washing off — have been reported (FT, AJE, NYT, WSJ, Tolo, CSM, Tel, Independent). The NYT reports that votes could be bought for between $1 and $18, with the average price hovering around $5 (NYT).
461 of the 5,816 polling centers were closed because of security concerns, and at least three election workers were killed, in Balkh (WSJ, Post). At least 11 Afghan civilians were killed in attacks on election day, and Afghan officials said there were 309 "violent incidents" across the country; Pajhwok reports that supporters of a candidate in Kabul assaulted election workers and shredded documents (LAT, Post, McClatchy, Tel, Pajhwok). Votes have reportedly been tallied in 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and final results in the 249 contests are not expected until late October (Pajhwok, WSJ, Post).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said it’s too early to judge the quality of the election, in spite of statements from Afghan officials declaring it a success, and observers urged Karzai to allow an independent investigation of fraud allegations (Reuters, AP).
British troops have officially turned over control of the violent Sangin district in Helmand province to U.S. forces, marking the end of the British mission there, where some one-third of U.K. casualties since 2001 occurred (BBC, Pajhwok, Tel, Times, CNN, AFP, Reuters). The handover had been announced earlier this year, and British defense secretary Liam Fox called it "sound military rationale;" the British have also left Musa Qala and Kajaki.
With some 20,000 coalition forces now in place for operations in Zhari and Panjwayi in Kandahar, military officials have reportedly predicted that the battle for the greenbelt, south of Highway One, is "likely to be the most vicious in the province" (Post). Karen DeYoung reports that the Obama administration is unlikely to make any major changes to its Afghanistan strategy following the December review, once seen as pivotal (Post).
Afghanistan’s Central Bank reportedly did not act on repeated warnings beginning two years ago from Afghan lawmakers and U.S. advisers about financial irregularities at the troubled but politically connected Kabul Bank, and U.S. officials "played a key role in persuading Afghan authorities to finally rein in Kabul Bank at the end of August, a move that many Afghan businessmen viewed as long overdue but which also triggered a run on the bank" (NYT, Post). The Louis Berger Group, a contracting company with reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, has allegedly systematically overbilled the U.S. government for work since the mid 1990s (McClatchy).
A military court in Seattle is expected to detail the alleged premeditated murders of three Afghan civilians in Kandahar by five members of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade from outside Tacoma, Washington, this fall (NYT, Post). The father of one of the accused soldiers said he tried to alert U.S. officials after his son told him via Facebook in February that "some people get away with murder," raising concerns about how the military has handled the cases.
Almost 40 Indian lawmakers from all the country’s major national parties are in Indian-administered Kashmir to meet with separatist leaders: the hardline Syed Ali Geelani, the moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik of the JKLF (AP, NDTV). All three leaders refused to meet with the delegation, calling the visit a "farce" (AFP). Thirty five Kashmiri civilians have reportedly been killed in clashes with Indian security forces in the last week, and more than 100 in the last three months, and curfews remain in effect in towns across the valley (AP, Hindu, NYT, HT, PTI). Protests erupted earlier today in Sopore in response to the death of a 22 year old female bystander who was reportedly shot by Indian forces last night (Dawn/AFP).
The 14th and 15th reported drone strikes this month hit targets in North Waziristan yesterday and today, killing a handful of alleged militants (AP, AFP, ET; AP, AFP). And in an under the radar story, around 140 people from two different tribes have died in clashes over water distribution in the northwest Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram in the last few weeks (ET, AP, Daily Times).
At least 11 people died in targeted killings in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, which is observing a mourning period for MQM founder Imran Farooq, who was stabbed to death last week in London (Geo, ET, Dawn, Dawn, NYT, Samaa). British authorities continue to investigate his murder.
Flood watch: At a meeting of around 25 international ministers yesterday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for an "urgent" global response to Pakistan’s flooding; Britain has doubled its aid to some $200 million, while the U.S. has pledged about $340 million, Iran $100 million, and the EU $315 million (AFP, AFP). Some analysts have suggested reforming Pakistan’s dysfunctional tax system to help pay for flood relief because the country reportedly has one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world, and inflation is now expected to climb as high as 20 percent (AP, LAT). The floods, which inundated a section of Pakistan larger than Florida, continue to sweep new areas, and more than 100,000 Pakistani children who were left homeless are in danger of dying because they lack food (AP). The first model village for flood victims has been set up in the Punjab (ET).
Burger King: Kandahar is back
Earlier this month, the U.S. military lifted a seven month ban on fast food restaurants and retail chains that former top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal said contributed to an "amusement park" atmosphere at some large bases (Stars and Stripes). The McChrystal ban on alcohol at NATO bases remains in effect.
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