70 Killed in Taliban / Bhittani Clashes in Pakistan; US Soldier Killed in Afghanistan; Abdullah Pledges Negotiations with Militants

Pakistani Taliban loyal to slain leader Baitullah Mahsud attacked the forces of Baitullah’s former supporter turned enemy, Turkistan Bhittani in the frontier region of Jandola. Some 70 fighters perished in the battles, and 33 homes were torched by the Baitullah faction, which had earlier been expelled from Jandola and the city of Tank. Bhittani, who is now pro-government, is playing the sort of role in Pakistan’s northwest that the Awakening Council members did in Sunni Arab parts of Iraq.

On the Afghanistan side of the border, a US soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand province on Wednesday. The US, NATO and the Afghan army are involved in a large military operation to defeat the Pashtun insurgency in that province, just west of Qandahar.

A roadside bomb killed 14 civilians in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, including 3 children.

Some Afghans are afraid that if the presidential election results in Afghanistan are close, their country could witness post-electoral demonstrations and even violence beyond anything seen recently in Iran.

Campaigning in the southern Pashtun city of Qandahar, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah pledged before a crowd of 3,000 to seek national reconciliation with the Taliban and other militants if elected. He criticized incumbent Hamid Karzai for what he called a half-hearted reconciliation process. He said, “Over the last eight years, President Karzai has miserably failed capitalise on opportunities available to him to promote the core national interests. And thus he allowed Afghanistan’s problems to multiply. . .”

Aljazeera English asks what will happen in Afghanistan if incumbent Hamid Karzai does not win on the first round.

Facts and figures on Afghanistan’s presidential contest.

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