50 Afghan Parliamentarians Oppose Obama’s Troop Surge; US Slams Karzai over Snap Election Plan

Anand Gopal reports for CSM that many Afghans, especially in the Pushtun south, oppose President Obama’s plan to send more US troops to Afghanistan.

Highlights:

‘ Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington’s planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here. “Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don’t send more troops – it will just bring more violence.” . . .

‘ A group of 50 mostly Pashtun members of parliament recently formed a working group aimed at blocking the arrival of new troops and pushing for a bilateral military agreement between Kabul and Washington, which currently does not exist.’ . . .

‘ Many cite civilian casualties and house raids as the main reason for their opposition. Recently in Logar, armed locals blocked the highway into Kabul for hours, in protest of a night raid where US forces killed one and detained three others. According to local reports, the nearly 2,000 protestors burned tires and chanted anti-US slogans.’

29 Americans were killed in the first two months of 2009; in the same period last year, 8 were killed. A third of this year’s deaths were attributed to roadside bombs.

AFP reports that: “A suicide car bomb blew up near US-led soldiers in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, wounding six civilians, authorities said, while other attacks left seven security guards dead in the insurgency-hit south.Meanwhile, nine Taliban-linked insurgents were killed in operations by Afghan and international security forces helping the government to fight a mounting extremist insurgency, they said.”

Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s call for snap elections has been condemned as unfair to his political opponents, and been likened to the sort of move that would take place in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Aljazeera English reports on the controversy over the election date.

The United States government has expressed support for the Aug. 20 date for elections, and rejected Karzai’s attempt to move up the date. (The Obama administration has been critical of Karzai and some observers have suggested that Washington has decided that Karzai’s indecisiveness and closeness to corrupt politicians dirty with drug smuggling, including, allegedly, his own brother, are impediments to social peace in Afghanistan.)

John Dempsey and J. Alexander point out that the mechanisms for adjudicating such disputes do not exist in Afghanistan. Parliament rejects the right of the Supreme Court to decide disputes between the legislature and the executive, and even the legitimacy of Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta is in question. (Parliament fired him, then the Supreme Court reinstated him, but parliament refuses to be bound by any agreements he initials.)

In the 1990s, a dispute between President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Prime Minister Gulbadin Hikmatyar exploded into a civil war between backers of the two, which destroyed much of Kabul and left 70,000 dead in the capital.

Aljazeera English reports on the candidates lining up to challenge Karzai.

Tom Engelhardt discusses the language of American empire, including the Pentagon’s express desire to “put an Afghan face” on the conflict there.

Plus, on the Pakistan side: A ceasefire between Pakistani Taliban and the military in Bajaur, and an alliance of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Muhammad Nazir factions in Waziristan may put more pressure on Islamabad to make a deal.

And, a new moderate Sunni group in Pakistan is combatting fundamentalist Taliban ideology.

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