News Summary, Oct 21

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Update: local media react (or don’t) to the preliminary Wolesi Jirga results. More talk of talks, this time focusing on the possible role of Saudi Arabia.

DI is grateful to Colin Cookman of the Center for American Progress for contributing significantly to our summaries. Colin was a senior member of our Kabul-based media team during the election. To receive the Center for American Progress' full daily summary of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and related news, please subscribe here.

Afghanistan – Election

  • Elections: As noted yesterday, the IEC nullified nearly a quarter of ballots recorded in the parliamentary elections, a move that some observers praised as a sign that the election body was fulfilling its mandate; UNAMA head Staffan di Mistura said that the IEC “has shown significant improvements in the management of the post-polling-day process.” There are still no comprehensive analyses of the preliminary winners, but the WSJ notes that only about 90 of the 249 seats were won by incumbents. [NYT] [WSJ] [AP]

Local media coverage: 8 AM, a Dari language daily, dedicated space to the IEC announcement of preliminary results, while Mandegar, which has been critical of the IEC (see its editorial on October 19, summarized here). Here’s a summary of the 8 AM pieces, which sound a cautiously optimistic note,  both about the (provisional) composition of the new Wolesi Jirga, and about respecting the procedures the ECC and IEC must go through to finalize the results:

  • Massive Change in Parliament: 163 New Faces only 86 old Faces 8 am, Dari daily, Oct 21, 2010
    The announcement of preliminary results indicate that people have chosen new faces as their representatives. Only 35 percent of the old faces have managed to get re-elected. The IEC officials have declared the election process a success. They also say that the security situation had a direct affect on electoral irregularities: In insecure regions there has a been higher level of electoral irregularities.
  • What do the Preliminary Results Tell us? Editorial 8 am, Dari daily, Oct 21, 2010
    We should expect that given the huge size of electoral complaints at the hands of the ECC it will take a while for the results to be finalized. The process will be time-consuming. However, the electoral officials should deal with all complaints properly in order to have a healthy and effective parliament.
  • The Future of Parliament: New Faces, Better Productivity? 8 am, Dari daily, Oct 21, 2010
    The announcement of the preliminary results indicate that 65 percent of the parliamentarians will be new faces. This might herald a new and better era of parliamentary democracy. In the old parliament we witnessed that politics and parliamentary business were in hands of old, mujahidin political leaders. However, this time around with the entry of new faces we might witness a new kind of political environment—although we should not forget that the old leaders are still there. Also this new parliament has heralded a huge positive step towards strengthening the role of women in politics. We have seen that the two seats in Nimroz province have gone to two women candidates. This is a good news for those who believe in women’s rights and in a bigger role for women in politics of this country. This also carries the message that the people of this country do not accept the anti-women politics of the Taliban and its other ideological siblings. In short this is a negative answer to Taliban’s political alternative.

Afghanistan – Security

  • Taliban Talks: Administration officials brief Pres. Obama on talks with the Taliban yesterday, the Post reports; Obama is quoted by the AP as pressing Pakistan to take stronger military action against militant groups within its borders, and also support the peace the peace talks. Pakistani officials complain to the LA Times that they are “out of the loop” on recent discussions. A Taliban delegation is said to have traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this month and Taliban representatives are said to have sought a meeting in Kandahar. A Congressional staffer tells the paper that despite portrayal of talks taking place with high-level Taliban members, “U.S. intelligence is wary of who some of these commanders are and whether they have the ability to actually influence the course of the conflict”. Maulvi Kabir, a senior Taliban leader denies to the Daily Beast that any high-level talks have taken place and says that for talks even to be considered “the foreign occupying forces would have to announce ceasefire, and leave Afghanistan.” A spokesman for the High Peace Council says they want Saudi Arabia to help broker talks and said they would listen to “legitimate demands” from the Taliban. [WAPO] [LAT] [Daily Beast] [AP] [Pajhwok] [AP]
  • Southern Operations: NATO commanders tell the NYT that they are “routing” the Taliban in much of Kandahar province and say they are making “deliberate progress”. Officials also report a “crisis in command” within the insurgency as field commander resist orders to directly confront NATO pushes into the Panjwai district west of the provincial capital. Ahmed Wali Karzai tells the AP that “there’s no single Taliban base in Kandahar province right now”. [NYT] [AP]
  • Attacks: At least 22 people were killed and twenty injured in two separate incidents when two vehicles, one a school bus and another a van carrying a wedding party, hit roadside IEDs in Nimroz yesterday. [CNN] [Reuters]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai: In a speech at the presidential palace, Pres. Karzai said that “we don’t need anyone; rather the international community needs us” but said that negotiations were ongoing for a strategic agreement on continuing counterterrorism operations. Karzai said that the ban on private security contractors stood and that “we hope that our foreign allies will not put pressure on us in this regard …these companies are closed — that is it." [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [AP]

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Relative Calm in Kabul Amid Security Crackdown [McClatchy]
  • Germany Donates $30.6M for Kunduz-Balkh Road [Pajhwok]
  • 60% of Britons Oppose UK Military Mission in Afghanistan [Angus Reid]
  • The Return of Lakhdar Brahimi [FP]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Kidnapping Problem Gets Worse – “$200,000. It's what a Westerner goes for in Kandahar Province.” [Matthieu Aikins, AfPak Channel]