U.S. envoy smoothes way for Karzai win in Afghan poll
By Simon Cameron-Moore Tuesday October 12, 10:19 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - The flashing smile, the patrician wave of the hand for the cameras as he stepped into his bullet-proof car belonged to a man who had just won Afghanistan's presidential election.
But not for himself.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, nicknamed "the Viceroy" and familiarly known as Zal, had just helped to smoothe the path to almost certain victory for Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai after meeting his chief rival.
The historic election on Saturday was nearly derailed when Karzai's 15 opponents threatened to boycott over suspicion of irregularities, but soon most of his main challengers had fallen into line and promised to respect the result -- thanks to a little word in their ear from the U.S. envoy.
"They came to him asking for advice on ways to save face," said one Western official, describing the urgent consultations Khalilzad held with Yunus Qanuni, the main candidate from the ethnic Tajik minority. That was on Monday evening.
Qanuni later withdrew his boycott, citing national interests.
A day earlier, a visit from Khalilzad was followed by a decision by another key opponent -- Mohammad Mohaqiq from the Shi'ite Muslim Hazara minority -- to take back his threat to refuse to recognise the election.
On Tuesday, presidential contender General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek commander from the north, was to meet the Afghan-born Khalilzad who is the face of President George W. Bush in Kabul.
Most expect Karzai to win Saturday's historic vote, although three weeks of counting only begin on Wednesday.
It's no secret that Washington wants to see Karzai endorsed as president.
Khalilzad was under pressure to move quickly because Bush, on his own campaign trail, was hailing last weekend's election as his foreign policy triumph and could not risk allegations of fraud jeopardising the success story.
Khalilzad, who has a doctorate from the University of Chicago and is a former professor at Columbia and long-time Republican, was appointed special envoy to Afghanistan after U.S. forces toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.
Many Afghans say Khalilzad has been engaged in political horse-trading on Karzai's behalf, possibly carrying offers of ministerial posts or provincial governorships.
"He's put pressure on them and they won't change their position free of charge," said one candidate, who believed the deals could backfire on Karzai.
Khalilzad and Karzai go back a long time -- they studied together at the American University of Beirut in the 1970s.
It was Khalilzad, as a foreign policy adviser to the National Security Council, who lobbied Washington to pick Karzai as head of a transitional government after the Taliban were overthrown.
Khalilzad says he has always been ready to act as a go-between, carrying messages between rival Afghan politicians, but denies direct interference in Afghanistan's domestic affairs.
Afghans fear U.S. impatience for a Karzai win may have resulted in a series of expedient deals and that could result in warlords and drug runners retaining a say in government.
Qanuni, Dostum and Mohaqiq are commanders of ethnic militias that fought the Soviet occupation and the hardline Taliban.
Those same factions now fear they are being squeezed out of Afghanistan's political future as U.S. policy seeks to dissociate itself from warlords.
"It is important that the United States is not seen as pushing for deals that would be perceived by Afghans as maintaining the status quo, but rather for producing positive political change," said Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.
"The legitimacy of the election result rests on who will be in the next cabinet," he said. "Afghans desperately want political change and whoever is elected should bring in new faces, more professional people into government."
Dumping leaders who rely on ethnic loyalties and armed militias is difficult, given the composition of the nation and a far from complete disarmament process. Moreover, the vote will demonstrate they represent constituencies too large to ignore.
Khalilzad studiously avoided endorsing Karzai's candidacy in the run-up to the election.
But few Afghans doubt a Karzai win is what Bush wants to hold up as a triumph of democracy before the Nov. 2 U.S. election.
"Everybody knows who is calling the shots," said Hamidullah Tarzi, a former finance minister from one of the country's best-known political families.
NATO planning for takeover of Afghanistan military operations likely: US
Wednesday October 13, 3:23 AM
POIANA BRASOV, Romania (AFP) - NATO could order the start of military planning for a possible takeover of operations in Afghanistan from US forces as early as next year, the US ambassador to the alliance said.
Nicholas Burns said NATO defense ministers meeting here were likely to instruct the alliance military leadership to report back in February on how to bring NATO and US military operations under a single NATO command.
"That's the direction the alliance has been heading for many months now, and it will likely be the result of tomorrow's discussion," the US ambassador to NATO told reporters in Romania.
He suggested that the two forces could be brought under a NATO command quickly once the plans have been drawn up.
"It could be 2005, it could be 2006, it depends on how things go. It really depends on what the military leaders will tell us: how would you do this, how difficult would it be, on what basis would it be," he said.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will press his colleagues for the planning as well as swifter action on expanding NATO's existing 9,000-strong International Security Assistance (ISAF) peacekeeping force.
NATO recently completed the first phase of an expansion of the force from Kabul to relatively trouble-free areas in northern Iraq, but a second planned one into western Afghanistan has stalled.
"I know the US, Secretary Rumsfeld and others will be pushing for the European allies to put their men, women, materials, assets into the west to establish these provincial reconstruction teams," he said.
ISAF has four small so-called provincial reconstruction teams that are designed to extend the reach of the Afghan central government beyond Kabul.
The United States has nearly 20,000 of its own troops in Afghanistan. They are still pacifying the country's southeastern border regions three years after the fall of the Taliban regime in a US-led invasion.
Rumsfeld first floated the idea of having NATO taking over all military operations in Afghanistan in December, but until now it has remained in the background while NATO struggled to expand its Afghan peacekeeping effort.
If NATO were to take the lead role in Afghanistan it would relieve the stress on US forces, which are tied down by a stubborn insurgency in Iraq.
It also would mark a further expansion of NATO commitment's outside of its European treaty area.
The US push comes just days after presidential elections in Afghanistan. NATO deployed extra troops from its rapid response force to help protect the elections.
Burns cautioned that the issue of merging the two forces was "enormously complex" and no decisions would be taken at the informal meeting of defense ministers at this ski resort in the Carpathian Mountains.
"But I think there will be a number of people who will support, and we will support maybe a direction to the military leaders of the alliance to go and look at this question, and decide how we can best do that," He said.
"Give us the sense of how you can put together these two missions over the course of the next year. Give us the options and we will come back at the next meeting, which is in Nice (in southern France), the first week of February 2005," he said.
Burns said a "lot of thinking" had been done on the issue, and the NATO military has undertaken some informal planning already.
Helicopter Crash Delays Afghan Vote Count
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A U.N. helicopter sent to retrieve ballots crash-landed Tuesday in the snowy mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, electoral officials said. Nobody was injured and no ballot boxes were on board, but the accident was the latest snag holding up the massive task of recovering votes in the country's first presidential election.
The helicopter went down at high altitude in an area of rugged Badakhshan province known as the Wakhan corridor, which borders China, Tajikistan and Pakistan, said David Avery, chief of operations for the Joint Electoral Management Body.
The plane had yet to pick up any ballot boxes, but its loss will slow the recovery of ballots in the landmark presidential vote that took place Saturday, Avery said. The province has about 360,000 registered voters. "We don't think we'll be able to recover the helicopter," Avery said.
The U.S. military was air-dropping warm clothes and food to help eight survivors from the crash survive the freezing night before a planned rescue operation on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said. He said the helicopters suffered an engine failure.
The tally of votes from Saturday's election was to begin Wednesday at the earliest, and final results were not expected until late October. Chances for a conclusive result improved Monday after interim President Hamid Karzai's main challenger, ethnic Tajik candidate Yunus Qanooni, backed away from a boycott of the vote, indicating he'd accept an independent commission to investigate vote-fraud allegations.
Karzai is the clear favorite to win, but his ability to consolidate his rule would be undermined if the opposition refuses to acknowledge the vote results. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the first foreign leader to visit since the election, all but declared Karzai the winner on Monday.
In addition, an exit poll conducted by an American group closely tied to the Republican Party projected Karzai would win with the outright majority needed to avoid a second round. The survey by the International Republican Institute said Karzai would finish ahead of Qanooni by an overwhelming 43 percentage points. The group did not release a full breakdown of its data.
Qanooni said he would accept an investigation by an independent panel of election experts into opposition complaints that the supposedly indelible ink used to mark voters' thumbs in some polling stations could be rubbed off, allowing some to vote more than once.
"I don't want to be against the election and I appreciate the good will of the people of Afghanistan," Qanooni said. "I want to prove to the people of Afghanistan that the national interest is my highest interest."
He said he made his decision after a meeting with U.N. representative Jean Arnault and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The announcement followed similar statements Sunday by Massooda Jalal, the only female presidential hopeful and ethnic Hazara candidate Mohammed Mohaqeq.
There were indications another rival, ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, might be considering backing down as well. Dostum traveled to Kabul Tuesday from his home in the north, and his spokesman said he was considering accepting a compromise. Electoral officials say the candidates have until Tuesday afternoon to submit formal protests, and the officials were waiting to receive them before they began the count.
Election organizers agreed to set up the panel Sunday in hopes it would end the crisis that emerged when all 15 opposition candidates declared the boycott while voting was under way Saturday. The election has been hailed as a success by U.N. officials, Bush and other world leaders. International electoral observers have said the attempt to nullify the vote was unjustified.
Schroeder said the poll "was a great step toward democracy and stability" and predicted a Karzai win. "It is my opinion that he will do it, and in the first round," he said. A high voter turnout in Afghanistan, which never before has tasted democracy, and a failure of Taliban rebels to launch a massive attack have also been held up as proof of success.
In the latest in a series of minor attacks, five rockets slammed into Kabul not far from the U.S. Embassy on Monday, killing a 16-year-old Afghan and damaging a house, officials and witnesses said.
Afghan complaint deadline expires
Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK BBC News
The UN deadline for written complaints of irregularities in Afghanistan's presidential election has expired.
A three-member panel will now scrutinise the objections, which follow a row on voting day over alleged fraud.
Meanwhile ballot boxes are piling up in centres around the country for the count, set for Wednesday or Thursday.
In the north-east, a UN helicopter sent to collect votes has crash-landed in mountains, leaving the eight crew and officials on board stranded but unhurt.
All set for the count
The United Nations inquiry was set up after a boycott call on election day from most candidates opposing the favourite, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun who has led the US-backed administration in Kabul since the overthrow of the Taleban three years ago.
Indelible ink to prevent multiple voting had failed to work in many areas, and voting was briefly suspended in certain polling stations although monitors later called the vote a success.
Since Saturday several main candidates have vowed to accept the results of the election and abide by the inquiry findings.
Principle among them is Yunus Qanuni, regarded as Mr Karzai's closest challenger.
He has promised to "respect the will of millions of Afghans" and work for unity.
There is also still a degree of confusion over the make-up of the UN inquiry team. The names of two of its members were given on Monday. A third has still to be announced.
The panel will look into all allegations of irregularities, not just problems with the ink.
At some polling stations agents for certain candidates were said to be telling people who to vote for.
Vote organisers say ballots from areas where there are complaints will be isolated for checking by the UN panel while the rest of the vote is counted.
"There are counting papers piling up and they are ready to be counted. We are just waiting for the green light," David Avery, the election commission's chief of operations, told the AFP news agency.
He said he expected counting to begin in the next day or two. Full results are not expected for two to three weeks.
The helicopter crash in the Wakhan corridor area of Badakshan province near the borders with China, Tajikistan and Pakistan is the latest problem to hit the collection and counting of votes.
The Russian-made Mi-8 suffered engine failure, Mr Avery told the Associated Press.
The helicopter had not yet picked up any ballot boxes when it crash-landed in a snow-field.
The US military is air-dropping warm clothes and food to help the crew and officials survive freezing temperatures overnight and will attempt to rescue them on Wednesday.
Mr Avery conceded the incident would slow the recovery of ballots from the area.
More than 10 million people were registered to vote in Afghanistan's first mass democratic poll, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.
BBC correspondents reported huge enthusiasm for the vote across Afghanistan.
Threats by the Taleban to disrupt the election failed to materialise.
Afghanistan's hard-line former rulers said on Tuesday they had refrained from attacks to avoid Muslim bloodshed.
'We held off vote-day attacks to avoid killing Muslims': Taliban
October 12, 2004
KABUL (AFP) - The Taliban did not attack polling sites in Afghanistan's historic presidential elections to avoid killing ordinary Muslims, Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said.
"In order to avoid bloodshed of innocent Muslims we did not target the polling stations," he told AFP Tuesday by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.
Militants from the ousted Taliban regime spent months making fiery threats of attacks on election day but even in Afghanistan's insurgency hit south and southeast voter turnout was unexpectedly high.
"We had operations, but not in places where the nations were gathering," he said.
"There were large swathes where they could not hold elections. In Zabul province excluding the capital, they could not hold elections in any of the districts," Hakimi said.
Electoral officials in southern Kandahar said that in Zabul's Deh Chopan district voter turnout was low because of Taliban threats but polling sites across the province remained open.
Eight policemen and three civilians were killed in landmine attacks in Kandahar on election day and the days before and after but there were no major attacks on polling sites.
Officials said the Taliban's failure to violently disrupt the election could demoralise the militia and impact its efforts to attract new followers.
"They are not destroyed, but we hope the successful election will demoralize them. I am talking about the small groups, the underdogs," Kandahar Governor Mohammed Yusuf Pashtun said.
"I think the Taliban have lost popular support and the Afghan people have spoken," said Colonel Dick Pedersen, commander of US-led forces in southern Afghanistan.
Hakimi however denied the Taliban had been weakened.
"In all mountainous areas it is still the rule of the Islamic Imarat. The Taliban are organized and are getting more organized every day. There is no split in Taliban as they claim," he said.
"We will continue our jihad and elections are not going to stop us."
The hardline Islamic regime was ousted by a US-led military campaign in 2001 and has been waging a guerrilla campaign in south and eastern Afghan provinces.
US wants Indian role in rebuilding Afghanistan
TIMES NEWS NETWORK WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2004 THE TIMES OF INDIA
KABUL: The United States wants a greater Indian role in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, but does not see any security role for New Delhi in the fractured nation, US Ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Kabul.
Khalilzad said Indian military or police presence or of any other regional players in Afghanistan could lead to a situation where the Asian neighbours could start to compete in the country which had already paid a heavy price by becoming a theatre of Cold War politics.
Although the ambassador did not name Pakistan, it was clear that he meant giving New Delhi any military role in Afghanistan would upset Pakistan, which remains Washington’s key ally in the battle against terrorism.
Khalilzad, who was appointed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks that triggered the US-led invasion and the overthrow of the Taliban, said India could help more positively as it was doing in creating a strong civil service for Afghanistan.
"New Delhi could help the new Afghan regime in setting up dams, schools, hospitals and much needed power projects and more importantly help set up a civil service,"he told a group of visiting Indian reporters.
Khalilzad specially requisitioned Indian help for the Salma Dam in Herat which is a key project in power-starved Afghanistan and the exploration of gas fields in Shibergan, a province in northwestern Afghanistan, bordering Uzbekistan.
Indian power generation companies are already involved in building high-tension transmission lines from Saripul, a region north of the Salang Pass to Kabul. But Khalilzad said Indians could help set up a new pipeline that could bring natural gas into Afghanistan and Kabul from the rich fields in Turkmenistan.
In the wide-ranging chat with reporters, Kabul’s most important international figure who virtually controls the security forces around the capital, said, Washington’s role in Kabul won’t change in the foreseeable future even if democracy gets a toehold in the country.
At least two rockets slam into Afghan capital near U.S. embassy
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) At least two rockets slammed into the capital Kabul on Monday, injuring one person and damaging the roof of a mud-brick house, police and witnesses said. An official at the nearby U.S. Embassy said its staff had gone into bunkers as a precaution, though there was no indication the rockets hit embassy grounds.
The first rocket came down in a field near an apartment block in the Macrorayan district of the city, about one kilometer (half a mile) from the embassy, said local district police chief Gen. Ikram. Like many Afghans, he uses only one name.
Ikram said there was no damage. Witnesses said a man was wounded in the attack and taken to a hospital. Another rocket hit a mud-brick home not far away, damaging the roof. Sher Dil, the owner of the house, told The Associated Press that nobody was injured.
Several witnesses said they heard a third rocket come down in the area, but there was no immediate confirmation and it was not clear where it landed.
Beth Lee, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, said staff had gone into an underground bunker, just as they did early Friday, the last time rockets were launched into the city
Ex-Afghan Governor Has Guantanamo Hearing
Wednesday October 13, 10:19 AM AP
The former governor of an Afghanistan province has gone before a U.S. military panel to determine whether he should remain held as an enemy combatant, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.
A 37-year-old who was the governor of western Herat province from 1999 to 2001 appeared before the panel Monday, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
The military does not identify individual prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
However, the governor of Herat from 1999 until the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 was Khairullah Khaikhwa. He was arrested in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border in 2002. Borgquist said the prisoner who appeared Monday had been at Guantanamo for about two years.
Borgquist said the prisoner had control over police and military operations in Herat, including the Taliban's two largest military divisions, which apparently made him an enemy combatant.
No media members attended his hearing, and details of his testimony were not released.
The review tribunals considered the cases of six prisoners Tuesday, though four refused to attend their hearings, said Navy Capt. Beci Brenton, a Pentagon spokeswoman. One other prisoner boycotted his hearing Monday. Their nationalities were not provided.
One detainee to appear Tuesday was a 47-year-old accused of belonging to a terrorist network called Dawa Wa Irhad, Borgquist said. He was accused of traveling to Afghanistan and supporting the Taliban.
A 24-year-old alleged Taliban fighter also appeared Tuesday. Borgquist said he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 and allegedly received 10 days of weapons training before fighting against U.S. coalition forces, eventually surrendering to them.
The four who boycotted on Tuesday included three prisoners accused of ties to the Taliban and one allegedly linked to both the Taliban and al-Qaida, Brenton said.
The prisoner who boycotted on Monday was a 34-year-old arrested by Bosnian authorities on Oct. 18, 2002, on suspicion of being involved in a plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. He allegedly belonged to the Armed Islamic Group, an extremist organization with ties to al-Qaida, Borgquist said.
The review tribunals are meant to determine whether some 550 men at Guantanamo should be freed or are held properly as enemy combatants, a classification that affords fewer legal protections than prisoners of war.
So far, the review tribunals have heard some 157 cases. The panels have decided against releasing 88 prisoners, including 10 who were ordered to remain in custody Monday, Borgquist said.
Only one prisoner has been freed as a result of the reviews, a man from Pakistan. Sixty-three have boycotted the proceedings.
India denies biscuits for Afghanistan rotting in Pak
Sify News - Monday Oct 11 9:33 PM SGT
New Delhi: India dismissed as "entirely inaccurate" a news report that biscuits sent by India to Afghanistan as part of its humanitarian assistance were rotting in Pakistan.
"None of the biscuits packets were sent through Pakistan. In fact, the biscuits are being utilised in Afghanistan. The Indian gesture has been widely appreciated in Afghanistan," an External Affairs Ministry spokesman told reporters.
Afghanistan: EU upbeat as presidential rivals drop poll protest
KABUL, 12 October (IRIN) - Saturday's presidential poll in Afghanistan went very well and was freer than expected, a European Union (EU) official told IRIN, as rival presidential candidates dropped their opposition to vote counting.
Francesc Vendrell, the EU special representative for Afghanistan, said that despite some irregularities, reports from international observers, including members of the EU Democracy and Elections Support Mission, indicated that the Afghan people had overwhelmingly been able to cast their votes freely and without intimidation or violence.
"On the basis of Saturday's voting, up to now we have the impression that this election has gone surprisingly well, [and] that [it] has been successful for the Afghan people," Vendrell said.
The envoy referred to the issue of faulty indelible ink, allowing some people to vote more than once, as the most unfortunate problem. "But we don't think this was enough to impact in a huge negative way on the outcome of this elections," he said.
President Hamid Karzai's chief rival, Yunus Qanuni, said on Monday that he and several other candidates had decided to withdraw the call to boycott Saturday's landmark election 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."
The Afghan-UN Joint Election Management Body (JEMB) will decide which ballots are suspicious and how to deal with them before the actual count begins on Wednesday, election officials said.
"In order to improve the transparency and legitimacy of the election, the JEMB decided to request the United Nations to identify an impartial panel of international electoral experts to fully investigate these protests and present recommendations to the JEMB," JEMB spokesman Sultan Mohammad Baheen told IRIN.
According to Baheen, the presidential candidates have been asked to submit their detailed complaints by 6 pm on Tuesday. "The experts will immediately and carefully review these complaints."
Vendrell supported the JEMB decision to fully investigate the irregularities that might have adversely affected the vote. "We encourage all the candidates to submit formally their complaints within the time frame provided in the Electoral Law."
An exit poll conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, a US think tank associated with President 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.
Briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Spokesman for the Special Representative of the Secretary General
843,000 Cast Their Votes in Iran and Pakistan
An estimated 843,000 Afghans living in Pakistan and Iran voted yesterday. Of these 583,000 turned out to vote in Pakistan. That represents approximately 79% of those who had registered as voters. In Iran an estimated 260,000 Afghans voted. All ballot boxes are being collected and they will be transported to Kabul where the ballots will be counted in the Kabul Ballot Counting Centre.
As you know the registration and voting in Pakistan and the voting in Iran was organized by the International Organization for Migration on behalf of the Joint Electoral Management Body and UNAMA.
Ballot Boxes Moving to Counting Centres
I would like to confirm that ballot boxes are being transported to the eight ballot counting centres in the eight regions of Afghanistan. They are being transported by air and road using trucks, helicopters, airplanes and even the now famous donkeys and horses. All of this movement is organized by the Electoral Secretariat with the support and protection of the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army, ISAF, NATO and the Coalition Forces.
Observers and candidate and political party agents are observing the process, tracking the boxes, checking that the boxes are properly sealed.
I understand that some of you have been to the ballot counting centre in Kabul, your colleagues in the regions are visiting the other ballot counting centres and TV Afghanistan has been showing scenes of the eight ballot counting centres to the entire country as part of its Witness project.
Before ballots are counted there are two steps in this process. They are called Check-in and Reconciliation. During the Check-in the ballot boxes and other materials such as for example the Polling Centre General Return, which is a list that includes the number of voters, the number of unused ballots and the number of spoiled ballots are checked. The review of the list with the number of voters will enable the Secretariat to confirm the number of voters who actually turned out on voting day.
During the Reconciliation Phase the ballot boxes are opened, the ballot papers are unfolded, stacked face down and then counted to confirm the number of ballot papers matches the number of voters as indicated in the Polling Centre General List that I just mentioned. This is a time-consuming process and only after that can ballot counting begin. This is why I took the time to explain the process in order for you to understand why the final result will take two to three weeks.
This is all I have for you this evening. I will now take your questions. After the Q & A we will have the briefing on security by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.
Questions and Answers
Question: We expected a statement from the JEMB to be read at this press briefing and that’s why the press briefing was postponed to 7 o’clock. Why was that cancelled?
Spokesman: Because it’s not ready. The JEMB has been meeting and they are working on the mechanisms related to the investigation they referred to in their statement yesterday. And as you can well imagine that requires consultation, because they want to have it comprehensive and transparent in order to have the credibility that is necessary. So that is what they are doing.
Question: (inaudible) made a statement that an independent commission will be set up to review the complaint from the 15 candidates. Can you confirm this?
Spokesman: I don’t think I am in a position to talk much about that because it is exactly what the Electoral Authority is discussing. But I believe that the intention is to have a mechanism that expands on what is already put in place by the JEMB in order to review all the complaints and have the transparency and the credibility that is required; some element of independence as you mentioned, I’m sure is being looked into. But also acknowledging that there is the Electoral Law in this country that determines and mandates the Joint Electoral Management Body and gives the Body the responsibility to ensure the credibility of the electoral process and of course that authority and that mandate remains with the electoral authority.
Question: You explained there are two phases to the counting process. When can we expect the actual counting of the votes to begin?
Spokesman: I think it would be fair to imagine something like three or four days. Not before that. I think we have to be a little bit patient. After all Afghanistan has waited for so many years to have an election. Wait just a few more days to start seeing the beginning of the counting results.
Question: The result of the election is not yet known. If one of the 14 candidates will boycott the election, what would be your position?
Spokesman: I don’t think anyone boycotted because everyone voted. And voting is not compulsory. Are you talking about the voters? They came in large numbers. The result is representative of the will of the nation through the vote of so many million Afghans who voted on Saturday.
Question: Is the JEMB also in dialogue with the candidates who have protested to certain irregularities. And also is the JEMB looking at voting as a result of bad weather.
Spokesman: I don’t speak for the JEMB, but I can tell you that from the United Nations side, yes, the Special Representative has been in contact, as he always is with all parties that play an important role in any process of the Afghan transition. On your second question it is my understanding that indeed the JEMB is looking in detail at the voting patterns of yesterday including the question of weather conditions and determining what access was available to all those who wanted to vote.
Question: Tomorrow German Chancellor Schroeder will be meeting with Mr. Karzai, do you think that might be perceived as preferring one candidate?
Spokesman: I don’t know what that means, all I can tell you is, if it is what you are saying it is a little late for that purpose, because elections have already happened.
Question: Reports from Jalalabad that the ballot box has arrived and counting has begun, your opinion on this, has this started?
Spokesman: May I ask Julian Type, member of the electoral secretariat, key electoral expert so that he may answer that question better than I could.
Julian Type: I would expect that what is happening in Jalalabad is exactly one of the phases that Manoel [de Almeida e Silva, Spokesman for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General]
described earlier, that is the reconciliation of the ballots within the ballot box. Clearly they have checked in quite a quantity of their materials now and have moved to the second phase of the count, which is reconciliation. At this stage the seals on the ballot boxes are checked to the Polling Centre General Return, the ballot papers are unfolded and they are placed upside down and then counted. They are placed upside down, because at this stage of the process no one is looking at the voters’ preferences, simply recording that the numbers of ballot papers in the ballot boxes are correct according to the polling centre General Return. I would expect that is the process of which you have reports in Jalalabad.
Question: You are always speaking of a commission which will deal with the complaints of the candidates. Is it acceptable to the candidates or not? And second question is, you committed so many mistakes during the electoral process, what guarantee is that the same kind of mistakes are not repeated by members of this commission?
Spokesman: Of course I cannot give any guarantees on that, other than the fact, that is why it is taking sometime to make sure that it is a mechanism that has the support of all those who need to support it, including the candidates, also the choice of the individuals that come with the expertise required, with the experience necessary in order to command the respect and credibility that the investigation will require.
Question: Right now there is a mechanism that is provided by the election law of the country, why didn’t the start of the investigation begin right away?
Spokesman: Though there is a mechanism in place which is clearly spelled out in the regulations of the JEMB, of course there was this big issue yesterday, and it is necessary that the JEMB being responsive to it, and acknowledging the importance of the candidates who along with the voters are the main players in an electoral process, that their concerns are addressed in the best possible way, so they are reviewing what is in place and what further can be done in order to address all the concerns of the candidates, but above all, to be a process that is transparent and credible. You see it is the first time that Afghans are voting for a president in an election of this dimension. All of us, everyone has a great responsibility to ensure that this first experience remains something that Afghans, and not only Afghans, can be proud of. That they will trust the results, certainly improve it and use it as a good reference for future elections.
Question: Regarding this commission, do you think the candidates or their representatives will be part of the commission?
Spokesman: I really do not have the competence to answer that question at this point, this and other aspects are still under discussion by the JEMB.
Question: When are we going to get the figures of the voter turnout?
Spokesman: I do not know if you were here, but earlier in the briefing I mentioned the process that happens once the ballots arrive at the ballot counting centre. As part of the check-in, the ballot counting official will be looking at the Polling Centre General Return which includes a list with a number of voters in the polling station. At that time, we will be able to collect the data in order to have an idea about turnout
Thank you very much. May I now invite General Azimi to initiate the briefing on security.
Afghanistan to gain peace, stability: FM
BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Afghanistan will finally gain its "everlasting peace and stability" with the common efforts the Afghan people, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue here Tuesday.
Zhang made the remark at a routine news conference when asked to comment on the ongoing presidential election in Afghanistan.
"We noticed that the election, a key link in Afghanistan's peace process, has gone smoothly," said Zhang. "We hope and believe that the everlasting peace and stability in Afghanistan will finally be achieved with the Afghan people's efforts.
Experts gather for UN meeting to tackle flow of heroin from Afghanistan
Source: UN News Service12 Oct 2004
United Nations officials and senior policy-makers from around the world are meeting today in Vienna to discuss how to halt or reduce the rising flood of heroin being exported from Afghanistan.
The meeting, which has been organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will examine proposed border control and law enforcement measures in countries along some of the major drug trafficking routes out of Afghanistan.
UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said the production in Afghanistan of opium, which is used to make heroin "has become a national security threat to the country" and to its neighbours.
"Heroin is sold locally, causing major addiction and the spread of HIV/AIDS," Mr. Costa added, calling on all countries to strengthen their measures against the scourge.
Last year opium production in Afghanistan reached an estimated 3,600 tons, an increase of 6 per cent over the previous year sales and generated $1 billion for farmers and $1.3 billion for drug traffickers – or the equivalent of 52 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).
At a meeting hosted by the French Government in May last year, 55 States and organizations launched the Paris Pact to encourage greater cooperation between them on law enforcement and border control so that the trafficking of Afghan heroin through West and Central Asia to Europe could be reduced. Already, several Central Asian countries have introduced new border controls as a result.
Today's meeting is also likely to consider a proposed database that would contain information on anti-drug measures and country requests for assistance around the world.
Funding, Enforcement Key to Battling Afghan Opium Production
Michael Kitchen Kabul 12 Oct 2004 VOA
Afghan officials agree that opium poppy cultivation is among the biggest problems facing the country, but many differ on how to tackle it. The World Bank says solving the problem will take both development aid and better policing.
If there is anything all the candidates in Afghanistan's recent presidential election can agree on, it is the need to stamp out opium production.
In addition to being a social menace - contributing to crime and problems with drug addiction - the opium trade helps support semi-independent militia commanders seeking to undermine the central government.
But senior World Bank advisor William Byrd, the lead author of a recent report on the Afghan economy, says opium cultivation will be one of the most difficult issues for the country to solve.
"The poppy economy in Afghanistan is unique, in that it accounts for about a third of the total national economic activity," said Mr. Byrd. "No other country that I'm aware of is at even more than 10 percent."
Some success in the opium war came during the previous Taleban regime. The strict Islamic government used tough enforcement practices to bring poppy cultivation down to almost zero in the areas of the country it controlled.
But Mr. Byrd says the Taleban's emphasis on enforcement would not have solved the problem forever. He notes that poor tenant farmers would likely have returned to growing opium to pay off debts to their drug-trafficking sponsors.
"Pressures were building up enormously," he said. "I mean, let's not forget the Taleban banned production, [but] they did not ban the trade and they did not ban the opium debts."
The post-Taleban transitional government tried to pay off these farmers in exchange for destroying their opium crops, but Mr. Byrd says this approach failed, too. "The signal it sends is that, well, if you grow poppy, your field is destroyed but you're going to get compensated," he said.
A successful campaign against the opium economy, he says, will need to combine strong law enforcement with relief for indebted farmers to be truly effective and lasting.
Doing one without the other, he says, will only offer a temporary solution.
Karzai may invite Taliban for parliamentary election
By Hamid Mir The News International, Pakistan
KABUL: President Hamid Karzai is planning to invite Taliban and other anti-US resistance groups in Afghanistan to participate in the coming parliamentary elections expected to be held in April 2005.
Sources in Kabul admitted that many Taliban leaders were in touch with some close associates of the Afghan president and those Taliban leaders played an important but silent role in minimising violence during October 9 presidential election. Some Taliban leaders in southern and eastern Afghanistan not only allowed their followers to participate in the election but they themselves cast their votes in support of Karzai.
Prominent among those Taliban leaders who cast their votes for Karzai is Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, who spent two years in Guantanamo Bay and was released some months ago. Rocketi kidnapped Chinese engineers from Balochistan in 1995 to bargain for the release of his brother who was arrested by the Pakistani authorities for the recovery of stinger missiles.
After a tense standoff for several weeks he agreed to release Chinese engineers following a deal brokered by Afghan leader Abdul Rab Rasool Sayaf. Rocketi cast his vote in favour of Karzai on October 9 in a polling station of Zabul in eastern Afghanistan.
Ismail Gillani, a close friend of Karzai, played an important role in convincing Rocketi to help a "Pushtun" against Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara candidates in the presidential election.
Rocketi agreed to support a "lesser evil" against some of the candidates who were rightly or wrongly "bigger evils" than Karzai, according to the views of some Taliban leaders.
Sources also confided that some other important Taliban leaders were also engaged by close associates of Karzai and they were told that violence in Pushtun area on October 9 would help Northern Alliance leader Younas Qanooni because he will get votes from the areas where Taliban have no influence.
There was an attack just two days before the election on a pro-Karzai rally in Badakhshan, which is a strong base of the Northern Alliance. The attack convinced many Taliban leaders that Karzai was really facing problems from those who took away Kabul and other cities from Taliban just three years ago with the help of US.
Prominent Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai met some Taliban leaders in the eastern Paktia province, who admitted that they voted for Karzai because he was a "good enemy than those who defeated us with the help of US but now they are criticising US just to get the votes of Pushtuns". Reliable sources revealed that some "hardliner Taliban" and groups like Jamiat Jaish-ul-Muslameen and the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbadin Hekmatyar tried their best to disrupt the elections but circumstances forced the common Pushtuns to chose between the bigger and the lesser evil.
Big participation of the Pushtuns was a surprise for many western observers in Kabul. Now many of them are supporting the idea to invite Islamic hardliners for participating in the coming parliamentary elections. They are of the view that if Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi can invite Muqtada al Sadar for participating in elections, Karzai should also take a bold step and invite Taliban for elections.
Fifteen presidential candidates boycotted the election and raised some rigging charges but some western diplomats in Kabul met them and made clear that if they are not going to change their stance they would be disqualified from the coming parliamentary elections. They were also told that majority of Afghans have rejected their boycott and new leaders may replace them in April 2005.
This soft threat worked and Younas Qanooni along with Masooda Jalal and Ustad Muhaqiq changed their stance. Former Afghan president and a new ally of Kazai, Prof Burhanudin Rabbani said both Pakistani and Afghan tribal areas needs "reconciliation" and there is no harm in encouraging them to participate in the elections but this approach cannot be adopted for the people like Mullah Omar and Gulabadin Hekmatyar.
Pakistan assured of US arms supply
ISLAMABAD, Oct 12: A visiting US defence delegation on Tuesday informed Pakistani officials that arms and equipment requested by the country for its three armed forces were in the pipeline, an official statement said.
The delegation led by Deputy Director of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Millies told senior officials of the Defence Ministry and Defence Production some of the equipment had already been given while the remaining would be delivered "at the appropriate time".
The US officials also promised to "favourably consider" Pakistan's request of training requirements of its armed forces, according to a statement by the Defence Ministry issued after the meeting in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.
The Sub Group level talks were held to discuss avenues of defence cooperation between the two countries for the Defence Consultative Group (DCG) meeting scheduled for December this year.
A key war-on-terror ally of the United States, Pakistan had to face a host of American sanctions before and after it carried out its nuclear tests in May, 1998.
These sanctions were eventually lifted in return for Pakistan's critical intelligence and logistic support to the US-led military coalition that overthrew the radical Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001, accused of sheltering Osma bin Laden, chief suspect of Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.
The United States has also written off about 1.7 billion of the total three billion dollars Pakistan owed to it. A three-billion dollar economic and military assistance package for Pakistan also awaits the US Congressional approval. The Pakistani shopping list include F-16, P-C Orion surveillance naval aircraft and six C-130 military transport aircraft. -dpa
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