Thousands of angry protesters rallied in West Kabul on Wednesday, chanting “Death to America,” “Death to Christians,” and “Death to Karzai,” burning tires, and blocking a road going south. Police fired in the air, killing one protester and wounding 5 others. Some reports say that 35 police officers and 10 protesters were injured. Reuters reports that one of the demonstrators died from gunshot wounds. Some of the protesters raised white flags, a Taliban symbol. They were ostensibly protesting plans of fundamentalist Christians in the United States to burn copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in commemoration of 9/11. But in all likelihood their actual grievance was about the large numbers of foreign troops in their country.
The US military advanced into some new villages in the vicinity of Qandahar on Friday. This was not, as some American outlets breathlessly reported, the beginning of the long-delayed Qandahar campaign or really anything out of the ordinary except insofar as US troops were penetrating slightly further into the territory. Their bases to the west of Qandahar have been taking fire from insurgents, and US troops are attempting to put a stop to that harassment before it grows in seriousness.
In other news, the BBC reports that Da Kabul Bank, among the country’s biggest such institutions, has been taken over by the Afghanistan government in the face of a persistent run on it by frightened depositors. The bank has huge debts and has been being run like a private fief. The central bank had earlier denied that it would take over the troubled Kabul Bank. But the government pays government and military salaries through it, and could not easily lose it, or risk that its failure would lead to a collapse of the country’s entire financial sector, with massive runs on other banks. The central bank’s takeover makes it most likely that American taxpayers will bail out the Kabul Bank, which had been used by a clique around Karzai to buy up real estate (some of it now worthless) in Dubai.
Among the threats to the integrity of the parliamentary elections to be held on September 18 are the alleged printing in Pakistan of large numbers of phony ballots, thousands of which were discovered in the country this past weekend.
Aljazeera English has video:
Stephen Walt on the Afghan Study Group report (to which I am a signatory) and its critics.