News Summary - September 17, 2010

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In today’s news: officials prepare for voting tomorrow amid worries about security and low turnout. Some candidates and voters allege disenfranchisement from closing of polling centers in their areas. The Taliban issue a new statement calling on Afghans to boycott the vote. Afghan police and military officials say they are prepared to secure the vote. Karzai reportedly discusses composition of high council for peace talks during visit with Pakistani leaders. At least one protester killed in Uruzgan outside NATO base.

Afghanistan — Elections

  • One Day to Go: Amid threats of violence and worries of fraud, Afghan voters — how may is unknown — will go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new parliament. The head of the Independent Election Commission told reporters yesterday that “the bad experience of last year must not be repeated. No polling center must be opened where its security is not ensured,” and Judge Johann Kriegler of the Electoral Complaints Commission said that “this election is not about fraud, it is about the Afghan people in extremely difficult circumstances”. Preparations are “miles better than they were last year," according to NATO senior civilian representative Mark Sedwill, although several Afghans interviewed express skepticism about the integrity of the vote; UNAMA representative Staffan de Mistura visited Kandahar and said that “these elections will not be perfect, but I am hopeful that they will be better than last year's election." The WSJ cites international diplomats and observers who project turnout of 3-4.5 million voters, below the 4.6 million (about 30% of the registered electorate) who participated in 2009 or the 6.4 million who voted in the last parliamentary elections in 2005. Candidates and voters tell the Washington Post and Reuters that they have been disenfranchised by what they allege is the selective closing of polling centers; the IEC has said it will not open centers in areas that cannot be secured and has opened additional polling stations in neighboring centers for those who wish to vote. Presidential runner-up Abdullah Abdullah told supporters to get out and vote despite the likelihood of fraud, saying “there are shortcomings in the elections ... but this is the only way forward.” Abdullah tells EurasiaNet that he expects a bloc of “at least 60 MPs” to form under his leadership after the vote, although he is not running for a seat. The BBC and GlobalPost profile female candidates and three female parliamentarians who have opted not to run again, respectively. [NYT] [WSJ] [LAT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [AP] [AJE] [The National] [EurasiaNet] [BBC] [GlobalPost]
  • Election Security: The Taliban issued a new statement to reporters yesterday, calling on Afghans to boycott the elections and saying that they have prepared “certain frustrate this American process and will implement them on the day when the illegitimate process is conducted”. Citing a FEFA report, the BBC notes that there have been at least 19 election-related deaths through the end of August; two IEC workers were reported killed in Balkh yesterday. In Kandahar, the threat of Taliban violence means that few candidates leave their homes to campaign, McClatchy reports. Interior Minister Zemeri Bashary said that “we have taken care of the security” by dispatching about 280,000 Afghan police and soldiers to protect voting centers. [Reuters] [Dawn] [BBC] [McClatchy] [AP] [Taliban Statement]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Military Strategy: Pres. Obama met with his war cabinet on Wednesday; Sec. Gates told reporters after a meeting with the French Defense Minister that "the evidence that General Petraeus is seeing so far” suggests that the war plan is working, “both on the civilian side and the military side." The Asia Times reports a correlation between an increase in Special Forces night raids under Petraeus and his predecessor Gen. McChrystal and a drop-off in reported IEDs from Kandahar residents. [Reuters] [ATOL]
  • Taliban Reconciliation and Reintegration: Pres. Karzai discussed the composition of a High Peace Council with Pakistani leaders during his visit to Islamabad yesterday and agreed for a Pakistani role in any talks, Dawn reports. [Dawn]
  • Quran-Burning Protests: NATO forces shot and may have killed an armed protester in outside Forward Operating Base Mirwais in Uruzgan yesterday after he tried to enter the base, ISAF spokesmen said. There are unconfirmed reports of a second protester killed; Afghan police officials blamed Taliban agitators for fueling the protests; a Taliban commander tells the NYT that the protest was spontaneous but predicts greater protests today. [NYT] [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • KabulBank Directors Were Paid $500K in Bonuses [Reuters]
  • Ministry of Finance Reports 20% Increase in Income [TOLO]
  • Interactive Map: Afghan Polling Center Density and Security [Al Jazeera]
  • Commentary: Gardez Deja Vu - “The question is: Is this the lull before the storm on E-Day or will there be more rumours than actual violence again like in 2009?” [Thomas Ruttiga, AAN]