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Protests in Kabul ahead of much-delayed election results

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:49 am

Afghan election candidates took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday to protest against a polling process they say was corrupt and shameful ahead of the expected announcement of final results from the September 18 vote.


Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said it would announce the winners of 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, or wolesi jirga , after a delay that lasted more than two months due to investigations into fraud complaints.


The credibility of the eventual result will weigh heavily on U.S. President Barack Obama’s review of his Afghan war strategy, due to be released next month, amid rising violence and sagging public support, especially after a fraud-marred presidential election last year.


Consistent allegations of vote fraud in both polls have raised questions about the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government at a time when U.S. and NATO officials have been re-examining their long-term commitment in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

The protesters, mostly candidates who failed to win a seat and their supporters, have organized a string of demonstrations in the capital and warned that failure to address grievances about the poll would only push Afghans toward the insurgency.


Some of the protesters, including a handful of women and turban-wearing men, looked like they had travelled from outside Kabul.


“We have gathered here today to protest against the illegal election,” said lawmaker Noor ul Haq Olomi, from southern Kandahar province, the Taliban’s heartland.


“It doesn’t matter who is winning or losing, we will continue to protest until the officials in the government hear us and the Afghan people learn about the widespread fraud that happened during this election.”


Disgruntled candidates, lawmakers and supporters have in recent weeks called for the September poll to be scrapped and a new election ordered.


A U.N.-backed election watchdog said on Sunday nearly one in 10 winning candidates had been disqualified for fraud.


Sunday’s disqualifications by the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) cleared the way for the Afghan government’s IEC to release the final results.


There were more than 6,000 complaints lodged with ECC and the IEC has already thrown out almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast as invalid. The IEC also is being investigated by the attorney general’s office over election fraud.


Late on Tuesday, Afghan television also reported two election officials had been suspended by the attorney general’s office for “making statements against the national interest”. The attorney general’s office declined immediate comment.

Source: SGGP

NATO targets ceding control of Afghan war to Kabul

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2010 at 3:27 am

Huge blast in Kabul as US military chief visits: witnesses

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm

KABUL, June 26, 2010 (AFP) – A huge blast was heard in the Afghan capital Saturday as a US military chief arrived for meetings to explain the sacking of the US commander of foreign forces in the country, witnesses told AFP.


The blast took place in the centre of the city at 9.55 am (0525 GMT), witnesses said.


A spokesman for the interior ministry, Zemarai Bashery, said he had heard the blast, the cause of which was being investigated.


It seemed to have taken place near the foreign ministry, he said.


The blast happened after US Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Kabul late Friday on a mission to reassure Afghan leaders following the sacking of the top commander in Kabul.


Mullen was set to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the presidential office confirmed, after US General Stanley McChrystal was sacked for insubordination.


During his one-day visit, Mullen was also set to meet US and NATO officials, the US embassy said.


The blast, if confirmed as a bombing by Taliban-linked insurgents, would be the first attack in the capital since a peace conference held on June 2.


Sirens could be heard wailing across the city as emergency services and police rushed to the site, near the presidential palace, where Karzai was set to hold a press conference on drugs.


His meeting with Mullen was set for later in the day, during which Mullen was expected to explain the circumstances leading up to McChrystal’s sacking and reassure Karzai that a change of leadership did not mean a change of tactics.


“My message will be clear. Nothing changes about our strategy. Nothing changes about the mission,” said Mullen at a press conference in Washington before his departure for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday.


General David Petraeus has been appointed as the new commander, a move that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said was the “best possible outcome to an awful situation”.


Speaking at the same press conference as Mullen, Gates said there was progress in the Afghan war — the administration’s latest bid to defend the mission as foreign troop casualties hit record highs.


NATO announced overnight the death of another alliance soldier following an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, bringing to three the number killed on Friday.


June has become the deadliest month of the war since it began in late 2001, with 84 foreign troop deaths, according to an AFP tally based on that kept by icasualties.org.


This year 304 foreign soldiers have been killed — already the second highest annual total in the war — under McChrystal’s strategy to pour tens of thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan to take the fight to the Taliban.


McChrystal won early praise for a drop in civilian casualties as he attempted to win popular trust, at the same time working hard to bring Karzai on board.


His dismissal was met with dismay in Kabul, where Afghans and foreign diplomats praised his efforts to change the course of the war.


There are 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the number set to peak at 150,000 by August, in hopes to force an end to the insurgency with a surge of efforts in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s heartland.


Obama said in Washington that Petraeus, well regarded for his role in turning around the Iraq war, would be able to hit the ground running due to his work on Afghanistan as head of Central Command, which oversees both war zones.


British Prime Minister David Cameron said meanwhile Friday he wanted troops home from Afghanistan before the next British general elections, due by 2015.


“We can’t be there for another five years, having been there for nine years already,” Cameron, who took office last month, told Sky News television, on the sidelines of a Group of Eight summit.

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Source: SGGP

Taliban launch attacks on central Kabul

In World on January 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

A massive explosion shook Kabul on Monday as fighting between Taliban militants and security forces raged in the centre of the Afghan capital, witnesses said.








Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stand guard during a patrol in Panjwayi district, some 30 Kms to the west of Kandahar province, in 2008. (AFP Photo)

The Taliban have launched a wave of gun and bomb attacks on the Afghan capital, saying it had sent in 20 suicide bombers to strike government buildings in the heart of the city.


The attacks have hit at the height of the morning rush hour, but there has been no immediate information about possible casualties.


“It is our work, the targets are the (presidential) palace, the finance, justice and mines ministries, and the central bank,” a purported Taliban spokesman told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.


“Twenty of our suicide bombers have entered the area and fighting is ongoing,” the spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that one militant had detonated a suicide vest at the entrance to the presidential palace complex.


Insurgents also stormed a five-storey shopping mall and were exchanging gunfire with security forces surrounding the building, witnesses said.


Army and police snipers took positions on buildings around Pashtunistan Square in the centre of the capital after attacks, whnich appeared to be well-coordinated and involve a large number of gunmen.


“I heard the blast then we started running, but we happened to be running towards the explosions,” said witness Bahram Sarwary.


“I saw smoke coming from a building near the central bank and the presidential palace and I saw at least one person injured,” he said.


The central business district of the Afghan capital is the nexus of political, business and diplomatic life.


Attacks on the capital are infrequent, thanks say military and government officials to better intelligence, which is supplemented with a surveillance balloon that hovers over the city.


The attacks came a day after the government said President Hamid Karzai was to announce a new plan aimed at forging peace with the Islamist Taliban and other militants fighting to topple his administration.


The plan would be announced ahead of a key international conference on Afghanistan’s security and development due to be held in London on January 28, Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar said.


“The scheme we are proposing this time is taking all those into consideration and learning from the past and trying to come up with a proper programme where we have all the necessary ground to allow those joining the programme to have a peaceful life,” he said.


Karzai has long called for peace talks with the Taliban — even offering government posts to its leaders — but the militia has refused dialogue until the withdrawal of international troops on which Kabul relies for security.


Rockets were also fired into the heavily fortified diplomatic area of Wazir Akbar Khan on Saturday night, coinciding with visits by the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.


The last major attack on the capital was on December 15, when a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle outside the homes of former senior government officials, killing eight people and injuring more than 40.


On October 28, a guesthouse occupied by United Nations employees was overrun by Taliban militants, who murdered six UN workers. The incident prompted the organisation to evacuate most of its Kabul-based staff.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Explosion heard in Kabul: witnesses

In World on November 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

An explosion in a central Kabul neighbourhood on Saturday was caused by a “sound bomb” and appeared to have caused no casualties, an official said.


The blast happened around 10:20 am (0550 GMT) and was immediately followed by the sound of sirens as security forces rushed to the scene.


An official with the interior ministry told AFP that a “sound bomb” had been placed in a garbage skip on a main thoroughfare through the wealthy Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood.


“There are no casualties at all,” spokesman Zamarai Bashary said.


So-called “sound bombs” are aimed at causing noise and confusion, rather than death and injury.


Afghanistan is marking the Eid-al-Adha Muslim festival of sacrifice with a four-day holiday until Tuesday, with most businesses closed and very little traffic on the capital’s usually gridlocked roads.








Afghan police stand guard at a site of a blast in the center of Kabul, on November 28.

Wazir Akbar Khan is the location of the American and British embassies, as well as the residences of their employees. Many foreign firms also have offices in the nighbourhood, which is close to Kabul’s airport.


It is also near the headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the scene of a massive suicide car bomb attack in mid-August that killed at least three people and wounded dozens more.


The area, like the rest of the Afghan capital, was quiet as most people celebrate the holiday at home with family.


An AFP employee on the site said the explosive device had been put in a large rubbish skip on the roadside, and the blast had resulted in garbage being spread across a wide area.


Kabul, the most heavily-fortified part of war-torn Afghanistan, has been attacked by Taliban-linked insurgents at least five times in recent months with around 100 people killed and 300 injured.


Most have been suicide car bomb attacks that the Taliban have claimed responsibility for.


Most recently, on November 13, a suicide car bomber struck near a US military base in Kabul, Camp Phoenix. No one was killed.


Kabul has been on heightened alert since October 28 when Taliban-linked insurgents stormed a guesthouse occupied by staff of the United Nations, most of whom were in the Afghan capital for work associated with the recent presidential election.


The tragedy at the guesthouse resulted in the deaths of at least five UN workers and two Afghans, and saw the United Nations withdraw up to 600 staff from Afghanistan, many of them to be permanently relocated elsewhere.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share