Update: Taliban in Kunduz in Afghanistan’s north attempted to assassinate warlord Muhammad Qasim Fahim on Sunday, but failed. One of his bodyguards was wounded in the attack. There are few Taliban in the north, but there are some Pashtuns in Kunduz and some of them have been radicalized. The violence underscores how perilous the security situation is in the run-up to the election, as below.
Afghanistan is on edge ahead of the August 20 presidential elections, given the uptick in Taliban violence in the Pashtun areas. On Saturday, a team of 7 Taliban wearing bomb vests attacked a bank and a police station in Khost, near the Pakistan border. Afghan official sources said that all 7 were killed, but the NYT says residents told it that they could still hear gun battles late Saturday in the city.
There was also significant violence last Tuesday. In fact, July seen the most bloodshed in Afghanistan since 2002. A British soldier was killed on Saturday, bringing the UK death statistics for its troops in Afghanistan to 20 so far in July.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai is putting pressure on the some 90,000 US and NATO troops in his country, pledging to seek a formal agreement about when and under what circumstances the foreign troops can deploy violence in Afghanistan.
The US military lacks enough good translators of Pashto into English, and is contracting out the work of finding them, not always with success. You know, if the Bush administration had just started training a few thousand US military personnel in Pashto in 2001 when it was clear that the US was going into Afghanistan, we wouldn’t be in such a bind. But somehow I don’t think the previous administration was all that interested in a resource-poor, petroleum-free region.
The USG Open Source Center translates a discussion on Iranian radio with an Afghan critic of President Karzai, who complained about Karzai’s decision to skip the presidential debate held recently:
‘ Afghan Observer Says TV Debate Lost Attraction Without Karzai
Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran External Service
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Document Type: OSC Translated Text. . .
(Presenter) The first TV debate in history of the newly-born democratic Afghanistan took place on 23 July. The hotly awaited TV debate which was broadcast on the two television stations and one radio station which private Tolo Television owns was supposed to be held among prominent presidential candidates Hamed Karzai, Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. But President Hamed Karzai declined an invitation for the debate and as a result a podium for him was left empty in the centre of the television studio.
Dr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, and Dr Ghani, a former finance minister, two of the leading challengers for the presidency, comfortably answered questions in the two main languages of Afghanistan, Dari and Pashto. It was not serious debate more or less looked like interview and briefings of the candidates on various policies, including national integrity, security, economy, education, foreign policy and social and political structures.
Not only Afghans but the people all around the world who follow up the Afghan situation closely were keen to see Hamed Karzai in front of the two other major candidates who had challenged him. According to Afghan politicians Hamed Karzai did not show up in the debate merely because he could not provide satisfactory responses to all the questions by his rivals. Speaking on the issue, Afghan observer Assil Noori says Karzai’s failure to attend the TV debate was not happy news for millions of Afghans and even his supporter.
(Noori) There is no doubt that the TV debate was supposed to be one of the major events in history of a country like Afghanistan. However, absence of Mr Karzai reduced the value and significance of the debate. In fact, the debate lost its attraction without Mr Karzai and everyone was expecting Mr Karzai to be there to defend his policies and to provide responses to the questions and criticism of his rivals. However, his failure to attend the debate caused a situation of dismay even among his supporters. In general it was a useful and it was a good start for more debates and we hope to see Mr Karzai in the upcoming debates by the mass media.
End/ (Not Continued)