Karzai Rival Bows Out; NATO Troops Kill Girl

As President Obama prepares for Wednesday’s tripartite summit between himself, the president of Pakistan (Asaf Ali Zardari) and the president of Afghanistan (Hamid Karzai), he has just gotten some bad news on the Afghan political front.

The Obama administration had clearly hoped to see Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai unseated in the August presidential elections. They view him as bunkered down in Kabul and out of touch with the majority of the country (he only controls about 30 percent of it), at best. At worse, it is possible that he and his family are involved in the debilitating poppies/ heroin trade.

But Obama’s hopes for a change at the top have been dealt a heavy blow with the withdrawal from the presidential race of Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Nangarhar Province and an old time anti-Soviet Mujahid. Karzai appears to have induced Sherzai to stand down with a pledge to throw his support behind him in the next presidential election.

If the problems in Afghanistan really do have to do in some important way with presidential leadership, then the US is likely stuck with the problems for years to come, since it is unlikely that any of the other contenders can unseat Karzai.

The desperation over political gridlock in Kabul is so great that the UN representative has called for the Taliban to contest the elections. Most of them say they oppose Western-style polls, but some may be enticed into running.

Italian troops accidentally killed a 12-year-old girl and wounded two other civilians on Sunday. A Taliban bombing in Helmand killed 4, including 2 children. NATO forces took on guerrillas responsible for 10 deaths late last week in Kunar province killed 19 of them on Saturday and Sunday. Altogether some 40 Afghans were killed in political violence on Sunday.

Aljazeera English reports on Afghanistan’s drug problem, the current attempts at eradication, and the way the drug trade fuels the Taliban insurgency.

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