Exit Poll Predicts Karzai As Winner
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press October 11, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan - An exit poll conducted by an American non-profit group found that interim Afghan president Hamid Karzai won Saturday's first-ever presidential election with the outright majority needed to avoid a second round.
The survey by the International Republican Institute, which seeks to promote democracy abroad, found Karzai ahead of second place finisher Yunus Qanooni by 43 percentage points. The group would not give specific vote totals for either man, nor did it release supporting data. But it said that Karzai was well over the 50 percent mark necessary to avoid a runoff.
Western officials had said earlier there would be no exit polling, in part out of concern that Afghans would misinterpret pollsters' questions as intimidation. The survey was kept under wraps until after the vote.
"We want to give a measure of confidence in how this process proceeded, and eventually the result," said Kent Patton, a senior adviser on Afghanistan for the group. IRI, which also sent a 13-member observer team to monitor the election, is closely tied to the Republican Party although it has no direct affiliation with the GOP.
The group based its findings, which organizers called "preliminary," on 10,050 survey responses called in on satellite and cellular phones from its workers in the field. They hope to eventually get some 15,000 responses.
The group said, however, that it believes the results so far to be accurate within 1-2 percentage points of what the official results will be.
The survey was financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
IRI contracted a Boston-based survey research firm, Williams & Associates, to send 200 two-person teams across Afghanistan, including some of the most remote areas in this nation of 25 million people. In all, they sent teams to 26 of the country's 34 provinces.
The poll may offer the only indication for some time of who might have won. Electoral officials say they won't start counting actual ballots for several days and a final result may not be in until Oct. 30.
Organizers did not name the third place candidate, but said he received 5 percent of the vote. Eleven minor candidates each received less than one percent.
There were 18 candidates on the ballot, though two pulled out two days before the election.
The remaining 15 opposition candidates boycotted the vote, saying the ink used to mark people's thumbs and prevent them from voting twice was flawed. Several have since backed down, but the crisis remains unresolved.
International observers and the independent electoral commission have both said the problem was not widespread and did not warrant a boycott. The commission has agreed, however, to form an independent panel to investigate the problems.
Breakthrough in Afghan vote dispute
October 11, 2004
KABUL (AFP) - A breakthrough agreement in Afghanistan's disputed elections was reached when the main rival to President Hamid Karzai said he would accept the result after an independent inquiry into charges of fraud.
Yunus Qanooni, a former cabinet member who has the support of the powerful Northern Alliance, was the only candidate believed to have a chance of beating Karzai.
He had joined with 13 others on Saturday to denounce the election as illegitimate and call for a new vote, but after intense negotiations with Western and UN diplomats moderated his stance.
"To respect the will of millions of Afghans and to go along with our national interests I would accept the results of the election after the investigation," Qanooni said.
Shortly before Qanooni spoke, the joint UN-Afghan electoral management board had announced that the UN would set up a three-person independent panel to investigate the charges of irregularities.
The panel would include a former Canadian diplomat and a Swedish electoral expert, with the third member still to be identified by the European Union, electoral management board vice-chairman Ray Kennedy told a news conference.
Qanooni said he wanted the report of the independent inquiry to be published before the results of the election were announced.
Kennedy announced vote counting had been put on hold in case there was any need to deal with a specific ballot box.
Among other issues in the negotiations is a push by Qanooni for some polling stations to be reopened. He has charged that in areas where he has wide support the stations opened late and closed early.
Qanooni himself boycotted the vote, but if polling stations were reopened he would cast his ballot, he said.
Kennedy said if candidates who boycotted the election on Saturday wanted to cast their votes, their demands would be considered.
All presidential candidates should submit their detailed complaints by 6:00 pm (1330 GMT) Tuesday, he said.
Qanooni was among 14 candidates who on Saturday called for a halt to the election, charging fraud and irregularities after it was discovered that ink meant to stain voters' fingers to prevent multiple ballots was rubbing off.
Most of the candidates stood no chance of winning, and many of them are expected to follow Qanooni's lead, opening the way for the acceptance of the result.
However, the opposition candidates include powerful regional and ethnic leaders -- some of whom have large private militias -- and UN and Western diplomats are working hard to ensure they all accept the result.
Karzai told a news conference Sunday there would be "no horse trading" if he wins the election, but it is widely expected that Qanooni would be offered a senior position if he accepts the outcome.
Some of the other protesting candidates have already softened their initial call for the election to be scrapped and held again, saying they would bow to the findings of an independent inquiry.
Afghanistan's first experience in democracy saw a "massive" attendance at voting booths, the UN said, and the absence of feared attacks by the former Taliban rulers, who have killed hundreds of people including 12 electoral workers this year.
The hardline regime was ousted three years ago by US-led forces for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks.
US President George W. Bush, under pressure ahead of November elections over his 2003 invasion of Iraq, has hailed the election as a success for his foreign policy.
Afghanistan heads for vote count
By Raju Gopalakrishnan Tuesday October 12, 10:48 AM
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan is preparing to count votes after rivals of President Hamid Karzai said they had withdrawn their rejection of the weekend presidential poll.
The Afghan-U.N. Joint Election Management Body will decide which ballots are suspicious and how to deal with them before the actual count begins on Wednesday, election officials said.
President Hamid Karzai's chief rival, Yunus Qanuni, said on Monday he and several other candidates had decided to withdraw the call to boycott Saturday's landmark election issued after suspicions emerged of illegal multiple voting.
"We want unity in this election, not a boycott," he told reporters. "The people want it and we appreciate their feelings."
For the Tajik commander, a hero of the resistance to Soviet occupation and the hardline Taliban regime, to talk of popular sentiment shows how much Afghanistan has changed in recent years.
The impoverished, Islamic nation has been torn by war for over a quarter century and has not held any form of election since the late 1960s. It has never directly chosen a leader.
Karzai, a member of the majority Pashtun community, was picked to head a transitional government after the Taliban militia was ousted by U.S.-led forces for refusing to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in late 2001.
An exit poll conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, a U.S. think tank associated with Bush's Republican Party, showed Karzai heading for a landslide.
With more than 12,000 survey responses recorded, Karzai had over 50 percent of the vote and enough to avoid a run-off with second-placed Qanuni.
The full official count was likely to take about three weeks because of difficulties in taking ballot boxes to counting centres. In the rugged Hindu Kush mountains, the ballots will be brought down by donkey.
The interim government has tenuously held together Afghanistan's patchwork of fiercely independent ethnic groups and often warring tribes, but the militia commanders who helped oust the Taliban wield tremendous influence.
Qanuni is one of them. Another is Hazara chieftain Mohammad Mohaqiq, who has also agreed to accept the election. A third, Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum, arrived in Kabul late on Monday for discussions with intermediaries including Khalilzad.
U.S. President George W. Bush, facing his own election battle next month, has claimed the Afghan vote as a foreign policy success and hopes it can be mirrored in war-torn Iraq.
Western donors have pumped aid into Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban, and the United Nations has been closely involved in reconstruction and the election itself.
"That this election was held without major security incident is a tribute to the determination of the Afghan population," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman said, and called on all candidates to resolve any disputes through lawful means.
Afghan-born U.S. envoy Khalilzad has been involved in negotiations with the candidates, and many Afghans believe his interventions were because Washington wants to avoid a foul-up in these polls ahead of the U.S. election on November 2.
While some deals are being offered to get the candidates on board, the militia commanders could as well be impressed by the large turn-out for the elections, and turning their backs on the vote won't be easy.
No turnout figures have been announced, but by most accounts Afghans eagerly embraced the exercise, despite the overhanging threat of Taliban insurgents to sabotage the vote.
Midway through the poll, all 15 of Karzai's challengers announced a boycott, saying a system to prevent multiple voting had failed. The indelible ink used to mark voters' fingers after casting their ballots could easily be wiped out, meaning that illegal multiple voting was possible.
Many election officials privately say very few votes were fraudulent and would have no material effect on the poll.
Diplomats said the United States would urge European allies to help expand NATO's peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan at a meeting of defence ministers starting on Wednesday.
With the Afghan election broadly free of violence, NATO is anxious to push ahead with an operation whose credibility has been hurt by the reluctance of allies to offer troops and equipment. (Editing by Rahul Sharma; firstname.lastname@example.org; Kabul newsroom: tel +873 763 068 789))
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Tuesday, 12 October 2004 03:39:54 RTRS
Afghan vote count on hold after dispute breakthrough
KABUL, (AFP) - Vote counting in Afghanistan's troubled election is still on hold as opposition candidates backing down from boycott threats awaited an international inquiry into charges of fraud and irregularities.
A breakthrough agreement on Saturday's disputed ballot was reached Monday when Yunus Qanooni, who has the support of the powerful Northern Alliance and is the main rival to US-backed interim President Hamid Karzai, said he would accept the election result after the inquiry.
Several other candidates among a group of 14 who declared in the middle of voting that they would boycott the results have adopted a similar stance.
The dispute tainted an otherwise jubilant day as millions of Afghan men and women flocked to polling stations for their first-ever say in choosing their country's leader, defying threats of violence by the Taliban militia who were ousted three years ago.
The joint UN-Afghan electoral commission announced Monday the UN would set up an independent panel to investigate the charges of irregularities.
The panel will include a former Canadian diplomat and a Swedish electoral expert, and a third member yet to be identified, election commission vice-chairman Ray Kennedy said.
Vote counting meanwhile had been put on hold in case there was any need to deal with a specific ballot box, Kennedy said.
Qanooni is also pushing for some polling stations to be reopened. He has charged that in areas where he has wide support the stations opened late and closed early.
Qanooni, who refused to vote Saturday in protest, said he would cast his ballot if polling stations were reopened.
Kennedy said if candidates who boycotted the election on Saturday wanted to cast their votes, their demands would be considered.
All presidential candidates have been asked to submit their detailed complaints by 6:00 pm (1330 GMT) Tuesday.
One of the main complaints was that ink meant to stain voters' fingers to prevent multiple voting was easily rubbed off.
The opposition candidates include powerful regional and ethnic leaders -- some of whom have large private militias -- and UN and Western diplomats were working hard to ensure they all accept the result.
Vickram Parekh, senior Afghan analyst for the International Crisis Group, told AFP that it was important for Qanooni and the other canidates to accept the result to provide legitimacy for the future government.
If they did not, there would be a danger of military commanders refusing to continue the crucial disarming of their private militias, and failing to recognise appointments by central government, he said.
Karzai has said there would be "no horse trading" if he wins the election, but it was widely expected that Qanooni would be offered a senior position if he accepted the outcome.
Four rockets hit the Afghan capital Kabul overnight, killing a man and injuring a child, signalling that the election has not put an end to violence in this war-weary country.
A regional commander for militants of the ousted Taliban regime, Abdul Samad, telephoned AFP during the night to claim responsibility for the attack.
The hardline regime, driven from power three years ago by a US-led invasion, had pledged to disrupt the election, but apart from scattered attacks the voting day passed relatively peacefully.
Western leaders have hailed the vote.
The European Union's special representative to Afghanistan Francesc Vandrell said Monday: "The Afghan people were overwhelmingly able to cast their votes freely in an environment devoid of intimidation and violence."
Afghanistan election foes backing off
By Maseeh Rahman / THE WASHINGTON TIMES October 11, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan — Opposition candidates began backing away from their fierce rejection of the handling of presidential elections yesterday after winning the promise of an independent commission to examine their complaints.
However, the reversal appeared to be influenced, at least in part, by popular support for Saturday's groundbreaking election, in which millions of first-time voters defied threats of violence to cast ballots.
Final reports yesterday showed that the only voters killed were two farmers in the south, whose tractor was blown up by a land mine while they were returning from a polling station.
Thirteen of the 15 candidates opposing President Hamid Karzai had announced a boycott of the election on Saturday after the discovery that the supposedly indelible ink used to mark the thumbs of voters could be washed off easily.
But Western officials said yesterday that many of the candidates appeared willing to abandon the boycott after election officials announced that there would be a full investigation of that and other complaints.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad played a role in talks that led to the apparent reversals.
"There is going to be an independent commission made to investigate it," electoral director Farooq Wardak was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "There could be mistakes. We are just human beings. My colleagues might have made a mistake."
Officials said vigilant citizens and the newly created Afghan army and police forces, until now considered unreliable and ineffective, played a major role in thwarting Taliban plans to disrupt the voting.
In a 48-hour period ending with the close of polling, citizens across Afghanistan turned in 25 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), authorities said.
The Afghan army and police, meanwhile, were credited with intercepting some dramatic terrorist attempts.
The most sensational was the seizure by the army on the outskirts of Kandahar, once the nerve center of the Taliban, of a truck carrying 10,000 gallons of gasoline wired to rockets, anti-tank mines and other explosives.
"Even the truck's tires were packed with explosives," said Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi. "The truck, with three Pakistanis in it, was heading for the center of Kandahar. It would have been a catastrophic explosion that would have overshadowed everything else."
The Taliban also tried other methods to strike at Afghan cities during voting. In the eastern city of Jalalabad, police caught three women with a coffin packed with IEDs.
"Some of us had doubts about Afghanistan's emerging security forces, but they rose to the occasion and fully supported international forces," a Western official said.
The willingness of Afghans to assist the security forces went hand in hand with enthusiasm for the election, putting pressure on the 13 dissenting candidates to consider backing away from their boycott.
Mohammed Mohaqiq, a presidential candidate and a powerful militia commander of ethnic Hazaras from the central highlands, declared at a mosque meeting in Kabul yesterday that criticism of the election day shortcomings was justified, but a boycott was not.
"The election authorities have agreed to set up a commission of inquiry, and we should wait to see the result," he said.
Even Mr. Karzai's main rival, former Education Minister Younus Qanooni, was said to be reconsidering the boycott after meeting Mr. Khalilzad. So was the northern warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.
"Some candidates now believe they made that statement in too much of a rush," said a senior Western official. "It did not have an impact. People continued to go to the polling stations."
"Afghans haven't reacted well either to the demand for a re-election," the official added. "So now the candidates are looking for a way out, but without losing face altogether. After all, this is Afghanistan."
In order to appear impartial, the promised commission is to have only non-Afghan members, arranged through the International Foundation for Election Systems. However the U.N.-appointed election commission — the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) — ran into difficulties yesterday finding any international expert willing to sit on the panel.
"We are working on it," said a JEMB official, who noted the complexity of inquiring into the conduct of elections in a country such as Afghanistan and possible security worries.
Not all the disgruntled candidates will support the commission. Homayoun Shah Assefy, a brother-in-law of the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, said he considered the malpractice too serious to be remedied by an inquiry.
"I have with me a witness who saw just one person cast 100 votes in Spin Boldak on the Pakistan border," he said. "It was like an election in some African banana republic."
But Kabul taxi driver Mohammed Zaman questioned the sincerity of the objectors.
"All this protest is because they know they are losing," he said. "How can there be unity in Afghanistan with these guys around?"
Indian firm blames Afghan officials for wrong ink
NEW DELHI - A state-run Indian firm that supplied indelible ink markers for Afghanistan's presidential poll blamed Afghan officials on Monday for using the wrong pens to mark voters' fingers, leading to charges of irregularities.
Mysore Paints and Varnish Limited in southern India supplied 50,000 indelible ink markers for the poll in Afghanistan, but some polling stations failed to use the ink intended to prevent voters from voting more than once, officials said.
Instead, some election officials used ordinary marker ink meant for ballot papers which was quickly washed off.
"The problems reported in some polling stations was because election officials used ballot marker pens instead of indelible ink markers on voters' fingers," Harakumar, marketing manager of the Indian firm, told Reuters by telephone from Mysore in Karnataka.
The local government owns the Mysore company.
Several candidates taking on President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan vote have called for a boycott of the election, alleging the system to prevent voting fraud had collapsed.
"The problem was from the side of the Afghanistan election authorities. Our indelible ink markers, which are clearly labelled, worked fine," Harakumar said.
Millions of Afghans participated enthusiastically in their war-ravaged country's first direct presidential poll, ignoring threats from militant Taliban guerrillas.
Mysore Ink and Varnish Ltd, whose turnover in the year ended March 2004 was around 100 million rupees, has supplied indelible ink for elections in a number of countries, including South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria and Cambodia.
Harakumar said the company had not received complaints about its indelible ink markers from any of those countries.
Ismail Khan says polls not fair
Herat - Western Afghanistan's top warlord, Ismail Khan, said Sunday the presidential election in the country the previous day was neither free nor fair and backed opposition calls for annulling the results.
"It's a reality that it was not an essentially free and fair election," he said, referring to the demand by 14 candidates opposing incumbent President, Hamid Karzai, that a fresh election be held.
Ismail Khan, who was removed from his post of Governor of Herat province last month but remains a powerful figure in the region, said he did not vote.
"When I saw serious offences from the beginning hours of the day, I did not want to go to vote," he said.
He referred to one of the main complaints of the opposition, that the special ink which was supposed to stain voters' fingers to prevent them voting twice could be washed off.
Vote proves Afghanistan has defeated terrorism: Karzai
October 11, 2004
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan's interim president Hamid Karzai has hailed landmark elections in his country as proof that terrorism was being defeated there.
"All over the country people braved attack by terrorists and went to the election. This was really a victory of the Afghan people over terrorism," he said in an interview with NBC television's "Today Show" program.
Claims of voting irregularities had dampened the jubilation among voters, but the polls were cheered by Karzai for its strong turnout and lack of violence.
"The numbers and enthusiasm both were very, very great. It was unbelievable really -- a day of celebration really for the Afghan people," he said in an interview beamed to the United States from Kabul.
Karzai said Monday he was confident that the ballot counting would be conducted fairly.
"The ballots are already being secured," he said. "The counting will be done in full view of cameras."
"I'm confident enough that the vote will be counted properly," Karzai said.
He added however that while the election is an encouraging sign, more work remains before the country is fully functional "in terms of the institutions, in terms of the economy, in terms of the laws."
"Afghanistan in terms of its capability to administer itself and to stand on its own feet will take some years to come. For that we will need continued assistance from the world," he said.
Karzai told NBC that the election should also serve as a warning to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and other members of his Al-Qaeda network.
"We are all looking for him. This election the day before yesterday is a strong reminder to him that the people don't want him, that the people want a different life."
"He should be much more afraid today than he was the day before yesterday. We will find him one day, sooner or later," Karzai said.
Schröder's Kabul Visit Sparks Criticism
Deutsche Welle / October 11, 2004
German Chancellor Schröder arrived in Kabul on Monday to, among other things, visit expected presidential election winner Hamid Karzai. But opposition candidates have accused him of favoritism.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder arrived in Afghanistan on Monday amid criticisms that his whistle-stop tour, which will be spent predominantly in the company of Hamid Karzai, the man expected to be named the country's first freely elected president, shows bias.
Schröder landed in Kabul just two days after Afghanistan's first ever democratic elections on Saturday and his itinerary for the six hour tour, apart from visits to schools supported by German charities and institutions and German troops serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is dominated by talks with the US- and Pakistan-blessed interim Afghan President. There are no plans to meet with any other of the nominees or politicians involved in the weekend's historic vote.
It was intended to be a visit to show German support for the democratization and stabilization efforts of a land that has suffered almost 20 years of civil war and the rule of the radical Taliban regime. Instead, Schröder found himself in the firing line of critics which claim his visit was evidence of the favoritism offered to Karzai by western leaders.
Germany has decided winner, says candidate
While Karzai is expected to make history by becoming Afghanistan's first democratically president when the official announcement comes on October 30, one opposition candidate, Mohammad Mahfuz Nedahi, told reporters that Schröder's agenda shows that Germany has already decided how the vote has gone and has shown its true colors. "Germany supports US policy one hundred percent," he said on Sunday night.
Another, Abdul Latif Pedram, echoed Nedahi's complaints saying that Europe should been seen as supporting the democratic process and not a single nominee. A candidate who did not want to be named added that Schröder should not have come to Kabul "in such a sensitive situation." Others have expressed confusion over Schröder's timing as the election is over and his support now can achieve little.
Schröder lauds courageous vote
Despite the criticism, Schröder has said that the peaceful process of voting and the high voter turnout suggests that the people of Afghanistan have shown great courage in pursuing democracy and stability.
As the debate rages over whether irregularities in the election had undermined the process, Afghan election officials agreed on Sunday to create an independent commission to probe opposition charges of fraud in the presidential poll.
Threat of boycott averted by probe
Originally, all 15 challengers announced they would boycott the outcome in the immediate aftermath of revelations that supposedly indelible ink used to mark voters' thumbs in some polling stations could be rubbed off, allowing some people to vote more than once.
However two candidates have since backed off, saying they wanted a commission to rule on whether the voting was fair and indicating they would accept its decision.
"There is going to be an independent commission made to investigate it," electoral director Farooq Wardak said in a statement. "There could be mistakes; we are just human beings. My colleagues might have made a mistake."
An American delegation observing the election showed Karzai with a clear majority of votes and his principal challenger, Yonus Qanooni, a former Cabinet minister, running a distant second. Karzai needs a majority to avoid a runoff vote.
DW staff (nda)
Annan hails Afghan election
12/10/2004 09:26 - (SA) news24.com
United Nations - Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the enthusiastic voter turnout for Afghanistan's first presidential election gave Afghans "a historic opportunity" to establish a democratic nation.
"That this election was held without major security incident is a tribute to the determination of the Afghan population," said a statement read by Annan's associate spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Monday.
"The secretary-general was pleased to learn of the enthusiastic voter turnout in Saturday's poll for Afghanistan's first elected president," the statement said. "It presented the Afghans with a historic opportunity towards the establishment of a stable and democratic state for which they have worked so hard and deserve."
Noting that several presidential candidates have cited electoral irregularities which are being investigated, the statement said "the secretary-general urges the presidential candidates and their supporters to continue to work through lawful measures to resolve such disputes."
The United States introduced a draft statement in the Security Council welcoming the election. Diplomats said it was expected to be adopted on Tuesday after changes to include a reference to the claim of electoral irregularities.
Edited by Andrea Botha
Little Kabul debates Afghan election's worth
Demian Bulwa San Francisco Chronicle Monday, October 11, 2004
A day after Afghanistan's first presidential election, Afghan emigres in the Bay Area expressed mixed feelings Sunday about the meaning and legitimacy of the effort, but all seemed to agree on one point.
"The election here (in the United States) will affect the lives of people in Afghanistan more than the election in Afghanistan," said Jila Kohyar, a 40- year-old pharmaceutical company technician who lives in Fremont.
"Afghanistan is run by the superpowers," said Yama Zodi, a 36-year-old Fremont entrepreneur.
Drinking coffee with friends outside a Starbucks in Fremont's Little Kabul -- the nation's largest Afghan community -- Zodi added, "It doesn't matter as long as there is peace. We just want the people to be happy there, and for it to be safe if we want to travel back there."
Many Afghan Americans in the Bay Area have not been following the election closely, saying the country's economy and long-term stability are more important.
But on Sunday, they claimed a wide range of opinions on the meaning of the election, with some calling it a breakthrough worthy of celebration and others -- bolstered by reports of problems in Saturday's voting -- dismissing it as illegitimate. Still, others called it nothing more than a cosmetic political ploy timed to precede the U.S. election.
Vote-tallying is expected to begin in three or four days and continue for three weeks. On Sunday, Afghan election officials said an independent commission would investigate charges of fraud by all 15 challengers to U.S.- backed interim President Hamid Karzai.
Allegations that some voters were able to easily remove ink from their thumbs, allowing them to vote more than once, were not surprising -- but were still jarring -- for Kohyar. While working at her brother-in-law's tobacco shop in Little Kabul, Kohyar said the voting system appeared to be inadequate.
"Just imagine if this happened here. What would people think?" Kohyar said.
But Kohyar, who fled Afghanistan with her family in 1984 after her father disappeared during the Soviet occupation, echoed the thoughts of many other Afghan emigres when she said the election was necessary.
"We have to do it, no matter what," she said. "What happened yesterday can be a lesson for the next time." She added that educating voters is the most important challenge in a country where 80 percent of the population is illiterate and where women have been subservient to men.
There's a striking range of opinions in Little Kabul -- and that includes whether President Bush or Sen. John Kerry should be in office during an important time for Afghanistan. The mixed feelings are highlighted by Abdul Karimi, 73, and his 36-year-old son, Mohammad Karimi.
Both men, who work at Maiwand Market on Fremont Boulevard and left their homeland in 1988, said Sunday that they want a successful democracy in Afghanistan and consider the election to be a vital step.
But the father backs Karzai, accusing his opponents of trying to reinstall the Taliban. The son, while chopping up a whole lamb at the market, said Karzai is power hungry and has not proved himself. He said he supports former Education Minister Younis Qanooni and called the election a fraud intended to favor Karzai.
Of the disagreement with his father, Mohammad Karimi said, "That's democracy."
Down the street, outside Starbucks, 50-year-old musician Nazir Fazel of Fremont said flatly, "There is no election in Afghanistan." Fazel said the United States cares only to protect its own interests.
But another man at the coffee shop, who declined to give his name, lauded election officials in Afghanistan for using donkeys to take ballots to remote areas.
"It's a transition from tyranny to legitimate government," the man said. "It's a very important step. People have a right to say those things. On the other hand, that was a good process."
The Afghan emigres also said security will be critical when the election results are announced.
"The country is not going to be calm," Kohyar said.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN TO BE FOUND VALID, SAYS FOREIGN MINISTRY
KABUL, October 12. (RIA Novosti's Petr Goncharov) - Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah has acknowledged that there are grounds for some candidates to insist on investigating the violations made during the presidential elections held last Saturday, October 9.
"I do not believe that the presidential elections in Afghanistan have come to a deadlock. Most of Afghan voters came to polling stations and took part in the elections despite the numerous threats from al-Qaeda and Talibs. It is our definite success and the elections should be recognized as valid," he said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
At the same time, serious violations and breaches were made during the vote that should be investigated, he added.
"This is how we should consider demands of the candidates, including Yunus Qanuni [ethnic Tajik, former Education Minister, who was believed to be the main opponent of the incumbent head of the provisional administration Hamid Karzai]. They advocate transparent elections. These were our first democratic elections and we need to learn how to use all the mechanisms that protect elections from being rigged. I believe that the international community should listen to the candidates' demands and launch independent investigation of the violations," the Afghan minister said.
Yunus Qanuni and some other candidates demand that the violations should be investigated or new elections should be held.
As a RIA Novosti correspondent has learned, on Monday Qanuni and other candidates held extensive talks with the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad and head of the UN mission to Afghanistan Jean Arnault and agreed to the investigation to be held by a group of independent experts.
Simultaneously, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged opposition candidates to achieve solution of controversies by "legal means".
Annan believes that the high turn-up of voters and "absence of serious security incidents" testifies to the determination of Afghan people to build "a stable and democratic state", reads a statement of the UN press secretary.
Pointing out that the violations are being investigated, the Secretary General urged Afghans "together, with the support of the international community, to contribute to turning Afghanistan into a peaceful and democratic country".
Earlier on Monday UN representative in Kabul said they were ready to consider information on the violations during the elections and proposed to submit all complaints to the international committee by 2:30 p.m. GMT on Wednesday at the latest. Thus, counting of votes will be resumed only after the deadline. So far Karzai is a definite leader with 50 percent of votes. However, the final results of the vote will be known only after three weeks, according to the country's Central Election Commission.
NATO Considers How to Raise Forces Faster
Tuesday October 12, 2:11 PM AP
Struggling to muster more troops for Afghanistan and to take on an expanded training mission in Iraq, NATO defense ministers will aim this week to advance reforms that would let the alliance mobilize faster for far-flung operations.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to take a lead in urging more speed, particularly to get extra European troops into Afghanistan. He will huddle Wednesday and Thursday with the other ministers for NATO's first meeting in one of the seven eastern European nations that joined the alliance in April.
"NATO, in our view needs to move faster, with a greater degree of commitment and political will to help the Afghan government," Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said ahead of the meeting at alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
After much prodding, NATO allies reinforced their peacekeeping mission from 6,500 troops to over 9,000 for the Afghan elections held at the weekend. Ministers in this Transylvanian resort are expected to express satisfaction with NATO' role in ensuring the election was largely peaceful.
However, despite that temporary deployment, the alliance is slipping behind with plans to expand its longer term peacekeeping operation from its current bases in the capital Kabul, and five northern cities, and into the troubled western provinces.
Ministers will also look at the lessons of the presidential elections, in preparation for a follow-up mission for parliamentary polls scheduled for the early next year.
Washington wants to discuss an eventual integration of the NATO peacekeepers with the larger U.S.-led combat force in Afghanistan, but acknowledges substantive debate on that is likely only next year.
On Iraq, the 26 allies agreed last week on the outline of plans to send about 300 instructors _ and up to 10 times more guards and support staff _ to help train the Iraqi armed forces.
Alliance military experts are aiming to finalize the plans within two weeks, but U.S. officials have already expressed concern that the mission won't be fully up and running by the new year and are pushing for the allies to move faster.
Looking further ahead, the ministers will review plans to the prevent shortfalls and delays that have dogged the Afghan mission in any future operations now that the alliance has shifted its focus well beyond the defense of Europe from Soviet attack.
The buzzword at alliance headquarters is "usability," coined by former NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. He retired in December bemoaning that only around 4 percent of the 2.5 million Europeans in uniform were available for missions beyond their borders.
At a June summit, NATO leaders set usability targets meant to ensure that allies should be able to have at least 8 percent of their forces on mission at any one time, with a total of 40 percent able to deploy.
"These targets sound modest, but if we could achieve them across allied nations it would make a significant difference to out ability to put forces into the field," said John Colston, NATO assistant secretary general for defense planning
One way to ensure there's a bigger pool of ready-and-able troops is the elite NATO Response Force which ministers are to declare operational with a strength of 17,500 _ two years after Rumsfeld suggested the idea to his NATO colleagues.
About 550 Italians from the force have deployed to Afghanistan as part of the election support mission, but the spearhead unit does not solve NATO's problem of finding troops for longer-term peacekeeping missions.
Washington would like to see bigger European defense budgets so allies can shoulder more of the burden of such operations.
Burns pointed out that the U.S. defense budget of $417 billion for the current fiscal year is more than double the combined spending of all the other allies.
"This capabilities gap is very important, it's very wide, it's very worrisome," Burns said Friday. "To have the ability to be an effective peacekeeping organization ... you've got to have trained forces and that does cost money."
Afghan success in the new 'great game'
By Paul Reynolds Monday, 11 October, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK BBC News Online world affairs correspondent
The fact that an election has taken place in Afghanistan has to be counted as a major success in the new "Great Game" which is being played out in parts of Asia.
In places where the British, Russian and other empires once vied for influence, the new "game" seeks to establish stable and reasonably democratic governments in order to provide a long term solution to the threat from Islamic extremism.
The elections are also a huge relief for the Bush administration. After all, Afghanistan was the initial target in the "war on terror" declared by President Bush after 11 September 2001. It was the home not only of the Taleban but of Osama Bin Laden.
For the policy of intervention to work properly, the toppling of the Taleban had to be followed by the installation of a moderate government.
US foreign policy has moved on since the days when Washington did not care that much who ran a country as long as they were not communists. "He's a son of a bitch but he's our son of a bitch" is no longer the basis for supporting a foreign government.
Boost for Bush
These days, the equation is more complex. The neo-conservatives who run American policy have a belief in the power of elections and the re-ordering of society.
Mr Bush himself, despite his former refusal to contemplate "nation-building", now makes numerous references to "freedom" and "liberty" in his campaign speeches. Senator Kerry's language is rarely that vivid.
So the holding of the election will provide Mr Bush with justification in the critical last weeks of a close presidential campaign in which foreign policy has played an unusually prominent role.
He has hailed it as "a really great thing", and can be expected to make much more of it in the days to come.
He will use Afghanistan as an example for Iraq. However bad Iraq looks now, he will argue, it can improve, as Afghanistan has.
But while Afghanistan has gone better than had been feared, Iraq has gone worse than had been hoped.
In Afghanistan, the Taleban, though still active, have not proved to be a national threat. A US general remarked with satisfaction and some scorn that they did not "show" during the election.
The warlords are still around but if they can be changed into peacelords, their threat is diminished. Afghan's other problems, of opium and reconstruction, will have to be tackled.
Elections do not solve such problems, but without elections they probably cannot be solved.
Iraq is different
Iraq is much harder. The insurgent threat is greater and the electoral process is more protracted. Even the elections due in January are for a transitional government only. There is not due to be a fully constitutional government in Iraq until the end of December next year.
President Bush and his supporters will contend that Iraq is not impossible.
In his latest monthly column for the Washington Post, Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace took that view.
"For the past few months it has become common wisdom that the war in Iraq is lost, based on what any historian will tell you is far too little evidence to make such a final judgment," he wrote.
"Now, the United States could conceivably lose in Iraq. But the odds are against it, and it is certainly far too early to make that judgment."
What has happened in Afghanistan will help that argument but it will not by itself ensure that it comes true.
Afghanistan was the starter. Iraq is the main course.
Spain to withdraw troops from Afghanistan
MADRID, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Spain will pull its 500 troops out of Afghanistan after the Afghan elections, Defense Minister Jose Bono told local media on Monday.
Bono said that only a Spanish medical group would stay there tocarry out humanitarian tasks.
Asked whether NATO should keep its troops in Afghanistan after the country's elections on Oct. 9, the minister said Spain opposed extending the deployment in order to show respect for Afghanistan's sovereignty.
Spain has been insisting that all foreign troops should be drawn from Afghanistan after the Afghan elections.
In April, Spain withdrew 1,300 troops from Iraq on the orders of newly-elected Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero.
Al Qaeda preparing followers for a long fight
By Our Correspondent Dawn
WASHINGTON, Oct 11: An Al Qaeda survival kit, available to the media in the United States and obtained also by Dawn, reveals how Osama bin Laden's network and its supporters among the Taliban and other similar groups are preparing to survive the US-led "war against terrorism".
The kit has been printed in several languages and is being distributed secretly among Al Qaeda followers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The instructions aim to prepare the Taliban and Al Qaeda workers and their sympathizers to survive on their own and also on how to communicate with their central leaders without exposing them.
The contents show the groups are well aware of the changes brought about by the "war on terrorism" and realise they can no longer work openly. That's why they seem to be preparing for a long, clandestine war with the United States and its allies.
Decentralization and secrecy are the two key elements of their new strategy, which they hope to prolong also by exploiting religious sentiments of the people they live with.
The point the survival kit emphasizes repeatedly is the need for the Taliban and Al Qaeda workers to "merge with the masses" and thus "become indistinguishable" from the rest of the people.
The copy obtained by Dawn comes complete with the pictures of 18 Al Qaeda leaders who are on the FBI's most-wanted list. The first picture is that of the network's leader Osama bin Laden, followed by his deputy Aiman al Zawahiri and other top operatives. A caption above the pictures declares: "These are Mujahideen, not dangerous religious terrorists".
"Every member will take all necessary precautions in his personal and social life to protect the group and its leadership ... in his personal life, each member shall merge completely with the society he lives in so that he is indistinguishable from other members of the society."
Some of the instructions in the kit for Al Qaeda and Taliban units are: "If you live in an area where people wear Western dresses, you also dress like them ... if the majority in that area has a secular mindset, do not express your religious sentiments."
"Look closely at the ethnic complexion of your neighbourhood ... if the area has a large number of people from ethnic groups that support the government, stay away from them because they often spy for intelligence agencies."
"Don't visit the local mosque regularly. Instead say your prayers at your residence, even the weekly Friday prayer ... while looking for a residence, have a credible, cover story that you will tell the landlord. Always stick to that story."
"Don't roam around with beard and Islamic dress in fashionable neighbourhoods. Always take out the chip of the mobile [phone] while sleeping to avoid being caught. Use mobile [phone] from a crowded place so police don't locate the position. Don't write the original numbers of Mujahideen in a notebook; try to memorize the last three digits.
"If you live in an area where people do not have cars, avoid using vehicles ... if you have to stay inside your residence when other people go to work, be quiet. Do not draw attention."
The kit also contains tips on the use of a cellphone: "Use a cellphone only when you must and an alternative means of communication is not available ... it is better not to use cell phones at all ... if you must use a cell phone, use the one obtained under fake name and address ... never use a phone provided by your 'nazm' for calling a friend or a relative ... if you ask your friends to call you, give them a specific time and keep your phone open only when you are expecting a call."
"Do not receive a phone at your residence, do so at a bazaar or at an open space and shut off the phone and disconnect the battery as soon as you finish the conversation."
How Al Qaeda members must use the Internet: "For using the Internet, you must go to an internet cafe ... never visit a site that can reveal your identity, such as those belonging to FBI, Al Qaeda or the Mujahideen ... when opening an e-mail account, go to an internet cafe, never do it at home ... never use the same internet cafe again and again ... before leaving the cafe, remove all evidence, never leave any trace ... while sending an e-mail, never use the language that could reveal your ideological commitment."
"Write your message in a word processor, compose, cut, paste and send. And then disconnect. Never let your e-mail open to write a message." police interrogation: How to deal with police interrogation: "If unfortunately, a friend is arrested, he should remember two things: do not assume that the police know everything because they do not and always try to protect your friends and colleagues."
"The police may try to make you believe that they already know everything and that if you lie or try to hide information from them, you will unnecessary expose yourself to torture."
"The place you are arrested from is important. If you are arrested from home, you will face a different set of questions than those arrested from a place of operation or from a Mujahideen hideout."
"While being interrogated, try to guess if the interrogator suspects that you are a Mujahid or he knows you are one and vary your responses accordingly ... the investigators are humans like you, so do not let them bully you or enjoy unnecessary influence over you."
"The key point is: you are not guilty unless proven, so do not let your answers (be used) as evidence against you. Do not let your answers lead the interrogators to other friends."
‘More Guantanamo detainees may be freed’
The News International, Pakistan
GUANTANAMO BAY: Dragging shackles to makeshift courtrooms, dozens of terrorism suspects are being considered for possible release from this US military outpost, but freedom appears a long way off. Many prisoners are being transferred to jails in other countries where torture is common, critics say. Set up to extract information from suspected terrorists, the Guantanamo mission has the United States confronting multiplying challenges over the detention of people without trial for nearly three years and questions about what more it can gain from continuing to hold them.
Some 30 per cent of the 550 remaining prisoners are considered to be of high intelligence value now, said Steve Rodriguez, the civilian in charge of interrogations and intelligence. Military trials have been scheduled for only four detainees. About three dozen men already have been freed, while around 160 have been sent to other countries where they are being jailed, watched or interrogated, officials say.
"According to the Department of Defence, prisoners have been removed from Guantanamo to face further detention in Pakistan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia despite the fact that the torture of detainees is common in these countries," said Jumana Musa of Amnesty International. Others can expect to be transferred, said the general in charge of the camp, adding that he would not apologise for holding people who planned on harming Americans or their families.
"We did not bring hundreds of innocent civilians off the battlefield," Army Brig Gen Jay Hood told The AP. "If you listen to every story I think you’ll hear a common drum beat of this person who tells you he was a rug merchant or what not. I think it’s all part of a deliberate effort to mislead and to deceive." All the prisoners are accused of ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network or the ousted Taliban regime that harboured Osama bin Laden and his followers in Afghanistan. Defence lawyers contend those links aren’t strong enough to withstand challenges awaiting in federal courts. ****
The Supreme Court ruled in June that prisoners held at this Navy base on the eastern tip of Cuba have a right to challenge their detentions in US courts. The Defence Department hastily set up review tribunals to evaluate whether they had rightly been detained as enemy combatants, a classification with fewer legal protections than prisoners of war. Among dozens of cases rushed before the tribunals, where lawyers are barred from participating, only one man has been released. As the only independent group allowed to visit prisoners, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross issued a rare public rebuke last year raising concerns over the prolonged detentions. "Certainly some of the steps being taken address issues we’ve raised, and the United States is addressing other areas we brought to its attention,’’ said Geoff Loane, the regional Red Cross representative. "But it will take some time to see what the impact of these tribunals and administrative reviews will have."
There have been 34 suicide attempts at Guantanamo and though there has not been one since January, the prisoners’ mental health continues to be a concern. "I’ve interviewed the people who have been released and they are not balanced people now," said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission.
By Ahmed Rashid
The Wall Street Journal on Monday October 11, 2004.
KABUL—Millions of Afghans voted Saturday in the country’s first presidential elections in a remarkably violence-free environment, as Taliban and al Qaeda extremists failed to fulfill their pledge to disrupt the polls.
The voting was marred by several irregularities, which led 14 of the 15 candidates running against President Hamid Karzai initially to refuse to recognize the results of the polls. On Sunday, however, one of those opposition candidates said he would respect the results of a United Nations investigation into the irregularities, following negotiations between Western diplomats, envoys of Mr. Karzai and the opposition. As negotiations continued, other candidates were expected to follow suit.
Many Afghans reacted angrily to the boycott, saying the opposition candidates were trying to derail the creation of a legitimate government. It was just one sign of the enthusiasm with which voters embraced the election, in which U.N. officials estimated turnout was 70% to 80% of registered voters, based on rough counts from U.N. offices around the country.
“I have lived nearly a century but I have never voted for my leader,” said 93-year-old Abdul Hakim, who arrived on crutches one hour early at a polling station in north Kabul.
Saturday’s relatively peaceful elections marked a major step forward in stabilizing Afghanistan and exposed the lack of public support for the Taliban militia, which has been waging a guerrilla war since U.S.-led attacks ousted the Taliban in 2001. The rebels managed a smattering of deadly assaults around the country on election day, but they took the biggest hit in a clash with U.S. and Afghan forces in the south.
The inability of terrorists to disrupt the polls amid a massive security drive is a major victory for the Karzai government and U.S. forces. Mr. Karzai and Western diplomats said this would encourage efforts underway to bring back several moderate Taliban leaders under an amnesty program from their refuge in Pakistan.
“I am happy,” Mr. Karzai told reporters after the close of voting Saturday. “Afghans have been waiting for this moment of empowerment for years.” Official results aren’t expected for about two weeks because of the difficulties in collecting and counting votes from around a country that still has little infrastructure. But Mr. Karzai, Afghanstan’s interim president since December 2001, was the front-runner, and was widely expected to win more than 51% of the vote, the amount he needs to avoid a runoff with his nearest opponent.
The high voter turnout is also a boost to U.S. President George W. Bush, who has cited free Afghan elections as an example of success in the war against terrorism. The Afghan elections have become even more important to marking progress amid the possibility that deteriorating security in Iraq could force postponement of January elections there.
Should Mr. Karzai be declared the winner, the initial boycott by the opposition candidates could actually strengthen Mr. Karzai’s hands in forming his next cabinet. Western diplomats are taking the lead in pressuring the opposition to back down, which frees Mr. Karzai from having to make deals with them when appointing cabinet posts. Some of his opponents are the leaders of armed factions, or warlords—a group that Mr. Karzai said in an interview last week he wouldn’t allow to set conditions on his agenda.
Since the fall of the Taliban, several warlords—who played a big role in ousting that regime—have aggressively set conditions for their cooperation with Kabul. During the past few months, however, Mr. Karzai has reduced the power of two prominent warlords—Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim and Ismail Khan, the governor of the western province of Herat.
His new cabinet, Mr. Karzai said, would be made up of “technocrats and educated Afghans who can deliver services to the people.” He said his priorities would be dealing with drug trafficking, reforming institutions and spreading the government’s authority and development projects to the country’s 34 provinces.
The opposition boycott was triggered by the fact that at some polling stations officials didn’t use indelible ink to mark voters’ fingers, a process set up to prevent people from voting twice. Instead, they used the ink for stamping ballot papers. At one polling station, officials using the wrong ink changed immediately to the right ink when an international observer pointed out the mistake.
Opposition candidates jumped on the issue to call for a halt to the elections. “Any government that comes into power as a result of today’s election has no credibility, no validity and is illegitimate for us,” said presidential candidate and opposition spokesman Abdul Sitar Serat.
The U.N. and the Afghan government’s Joint Election Management Board said the ink problem had occurred at a few polling stations and had been corrected by midday. The election board refused to cancel the polling.
While the refusal of opposition candidates to accept the vote’s legitimacy could hamper the victor’s ability to govern, such an outcome appeared unlikely Sunday. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.N. Special Representative Jean Arnault and European Union representative Francesc Vendrell worked through the weekend trying to persuade the leading opposition figures to relent. Also on Sunday, electoral director Farooq Wardak said an independent commission would be set up to investigate the irregularities. The commission could call for repolling in some scattered districts.
The investigation offers opposition candidates a way to step back from the boycott. “They’re looking for a way out without losing face,” one Western diplomat said. On Sunday ethnic Hazara candidate Mohammed Mohaqeq said he would accept the result of an investigation into the irregularities. So did the only woman candidate, Massooda Jalal, who hadn’t joined the boycott. Other candidates were expected to follow suit in coming days, including the most prominent opposition candidate, Yunus Qanooni, a former education minister and a Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban.
AHMED RASHID IN KABUL. Daily Telegraph before the elections, On October 9, 2004.
On the eve of the Afghan presidential elections, President Hamid Karzai said that he is confident he will win the elections and if so he will form a representative government that may well include some of his rivals, although he will not allow warlords to dictate conditions to him. Senior aides to Karzai say he expects to win 60 percent of the votes cast.
In a powerful message to the British government, Karzai also said that containing the booming drugs trade will his new government’s top priority. Eighty percent of heroin distributed in Britain comes from Afghanistan and Britain is the lead nation involved in trying to eradicate the drugs menace.
‘’The new government after the elections will be efficient, clean and patriotic like hell,’’ Karzai told the Daily Telegraph in the only interview he gave to the Western print media before today’s polls. ‘’The new government will reflect the whole country and the whole Afghan nation and it will be good for all Afghans,’’
Security was tightened in Kabul after the Taliban fired two rockets at a US military base and the German embassy in Kabul on Thursday night. However fears that the Taliban and Al’Qaeda would mount widespread attacks before the elections have not materialized.
‘’Fortunately there has not been much terrorist activity before the elections. I hope it will remain like this on Saturday also,’’ said Karzai. The majority of the US led coalition of 19000 troops is out in the countryside monitoring Taliban activity, while the 9000 strong NATO led peace keeping forces in Kabul have been heavily deployed around the city.
Up to 80,000 Afghan troops, police and local militias have also been deployed to prevent Taliban attacks today when some 10.5 million Afghans will go to the polls to choose a new President among 16 candidates. Another 1.5 million Afghan refugees will vote in Pakistan and Iran.
On Wednesday, one of Karzai’s running mates, vice presidential candidate Ahmad Zia Masood escaped a bomb set off by militants in northern Afghanistan killing two people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Karzai has focused his short election campaign which took him out of Kabul only a handful of times, on asking people to vote for any candidate rather than asking votes for himself. Karzai needs 51 percent of the vote to avoid a run off election.
In a strong message to Britain and the international community he said he was determined to make the eradication of opium his new government’s top priority. ‘’Drugs are ruining our economy, hurting our agriculture, destroying our legitimate economic activity and hurting Afghanistan’s image. It is helping terrorism and all the bad guys. There is no other way but to fight it,’’ said Karzai .
UN officials say the poppy crop, which has just been harvested is expected to produce some 4000 tons of heroin this year – 400 tons more than last year. The acreage under poppy cultivation has gone up by 20 percent this year, because farmers have received too little international aid to develop alternative crops.
‘’I hope the international community will help us in the fight against drugs and aid will increase many many times and be in real terms geared towards a result,’’ said Karzai. ‘’Alongside there needs to be an alternative economy for the Afghan people, an alternative livelihood for the farmers,’’ he added.
Britain which is the lead nation involved in drugs eradication has come under attack from US Congressmen and some European countries for not moving fast enough on drugs eradication.
The French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told the Washington Post on Tuesday that 90 percent of the heroin arriving in France comes from Afghanistan and ‘’there is little doubt that drug money is funding terrorist activity.’’
British officials welcomed Karzai’s renewed commitment to fight the menace. ‘’Real progress is being made on the ground as a result of efforts by the UK and its international partners,’’ Bill Rammell, junior minister at the Foreign Office and in charge of Afghanistan policy, told the Telegraph from London in an email.
‘’Drug traffickers are being arrested, seizures being made and over 50 tons of opiates have been destroyed by the Afghan Special Anti-narcotics force this year. The targets and plans for next year’s eradication is well in hand and development programs are underway to provide poppy farmers with an alternative income,’’ Rammell added.
Britain has committed Pounds sterling 30 million to the fight against drugs this year and has a multi-dimensional program which includes helping farmers develop new crops, training Afghan anti-narcotic commandos, improving the justice system to prosecute high level traffickers and help Afghans deal with heroin addiction.
In a separate interview Interior Minister Ali Jalali said Karzai’s next cabinet will ‘’be free of anyone tainted with drugs trafficking’’ and that ‘’we will go after the big traffickers after the elections.’’
Karzai who has survived three assassination attempts and is now guarded by American and Afghan bodyguards gave a brave face to the threats. ‘’I don’t feel vulnerable at all. I have been a target many time before when we were fighting the Soviets. Life and death is in the hands of God. He keeps me alive despite what individuals may decide,’’ he said.
He said after voting today he will go back to his government work and then monitor the polling from around the country. ‘’It will be a normal day for me. It’s a public holiday but I don’t have any holiday, I keep working,’’ he said.
However instability could follow the polls if other candidates don’t accept the results. Over the past few days Western ambassadors have been privately urging leading opposition figures not to create instability if they loose or question the validity of the polling.
Karzai also urged his rivals to accept the results. ‘’We all have to accept the results of the elections. Elections are supposed to create winners and the others must accept it. Respect the results, that’s how it is all over the world,’’ said Karzai. ‘’Whoever the President will be, the others must accept him and cooperate with him.’’
Karzai said that the issue of forming coalition governments including the warlords, ‘’has to go away from Afghanistan.’’ After the defeat of the Taliban the international community created a coalition government with warlords headed by Karzai, under the Bonn agreement in December 2001. That agreement has limited Karzai’s ability to initiate reforms.
Despite his determination to do away with warlordism, once elected Karzai will face a difficult task to create a reform orientated cabinet, while at the same time not alienating powerful ethnic and tribal leaders.
In the past few months he has dismissed two powerful warlords from the government – the minister of Defense General Mohammed Fahim and Ismail Khan, the governor of the western province of Herat.
If his main rival, Younoos Qanooni, the former Education Minister and a leader of the Northern Alliance that helped defeat the Taliban does well at the polls, Karzai will have to reach out to him. ‘’Qanooni is not a bad man and I have a good relationship with him,’’ said Karzai.
Karzai also said that Ismael Khan, ‘’was a Mujahid (a fighter for Islam), a good man and I would like him to come and work in the ministries dealing with reconstruction in the country. ’’
Qanooni draws much of his support from the Tajik ethnic group, while two other leading opposition candidates – Mohammed Mohaqiq and General Rashid Dostum base their support on the Hazara and Uzbek ethnic groups. Although Karzai draws enormous support from the majority Pashtun ethnic group, he is the only national leader who can draw votes from all other ethnic and tribal groups.
With Iraq’s polls in January still in doubt, the success of Afghanistan’s election are critical for the Bush administration’s chances to get re-elected on November 2. The hope is that the elections will also usher in an era of peace and stability for a country torn apart by war for 25 years.
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