Abdullah Will not Accept Karzai Victory; Ethnic Conflict could Flare; Pentagon using Rendon to Vet Journalists

Things to worry about on a lazy August Sunday:

Abdullah Abdullah, the leading rival to incumbent Hamid Karzai in the Afghanistan presidential elections, told a gathering of hundreds of his campaign workers from the southern provinces that he would not accept an outright victory by Karzai as legitimate. With 35% of the votes counted, Karzai has a little over 46%, with Abdullah trailing at 31%. Karzai needs 50% to avoid a run-off, though the Afghan press thinks that outcome is increasingly unlikely. But if his luck turns up in the remaining ballots, Karzai could find himself facing a major rebellion. Abdullah is favored by the Tajik ethnic group that predominates in the north of the country, which speaks Persian and is largely Sunni. Karzai is most popular among the Pashtuns whence his own small tribe, the Popolzai, derives. Afghanistan is a tinderbox, and a major Iran-style post-election struggle between Tajiks and Pashtuns could completely destabilize the country.

Any such conflagration would embroil US and NATO troops in a new round of fierce fighting.

The US is denying a report that it is pressing Karzai to create a coalition government. The Iranian news agency Farsnews said that the US had pressured Karzai to hold a run-off election (even if he gets 50%?) and also to then form a national unity government by offering cabinet posts to rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. (Presumably a Dari Persian-speaking member of Karzai’s staff leaked this report to the Iranian press). Given the dangers facing the country of ethnic divisions, maybe a government of national unity wouldn’t be such a bad idea, whether the US is pressing for it or not.

Meanwhile, British PM Gordon Brown was in Afghanistan Saturday, where he pledged more troops and more support, according to ITN:

Nearly two-thirds of Britons want UK troops to return from Afghanistan.

Wondering why you don’t hear much genuine news from Afghanistan despite the fact that the US military is fighting a war there? Russia Today covers the Stars and Stripes report that it is having the Rendon Group (a civilian contractor propaganda firm) to vet embedded journalists for how positive they might be in their coverage of Afghanistan. The Rendon group was used by the CIA in the early 1990s to run asset Ahmad Chalabi, who helped fabricate the case for a war on Iraq.

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