News Summary, Oct 29

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Update: More commentary on the discarded votes, and stories suggesting that supply lines between Afghanistan and Pakistan remain insecure, and one from Jerome Starkey that President Karzai is determined to push ahead with the ban on foreign security firms.

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.

Jeremy Wagstaff
Democracy International

Afghanistan – Election

  • Missing votes The controversy over the missing votes continues to attract press attention. Author Ann Jones writes in the Asia Times: "[L]ast week, the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, an oversight body also selected by Karzai, announced that it would throw out as invalid almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast. Until that moment Afghans, who aspire to democracy, had hoped for a more honest election than the charade that returned Karzai to power in 2009. No such luck. The partial results of this one look just as bad as the presidential vote, with roughly the same percentage of ballots invalidated. While dumping fraudulent votes may give the appearance of rigorous oversight, the numbers raise a new mystery: where did those votes come from?" The same piece appears on the CBS News website under the title "Big Men, Big Money, Big Voting Scam." [CBS] [AT]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Tankers torched Trucks plying the routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan are again under fire: Two tankers carrying fuel for NATO-led forces stationed in Afghanistan were set on fire by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan on Friday morning, an official said. [Pajhwok]
  • Taliban Targeting: The Nation reports on the apparent disconnect between U.S. special forces raids on current and former Taliban commanders and efforts by the Afghan government to foster their reintegration, citing the specific case of a Logar commander who was killed despite entering into a government rehabilitation program and conducting outreach to other commanders. [The Nation]
  • Australia Trains with Matiullah Khan: Representatives of powerful Uruzgan commander Matiullah Khan’s militia force visited Australia to train with elite Australian special forces last week; the Dutch, who previously led operations in Uruzgan, had sought to marginalize Khan, who holds no official position but commands the most powerful force in the province and is close to the Karzai government. [The Age] [AJE] [AP] [McClatchy]
  • Kandahar Operations: Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn tells the WSJ that he sees “substantial progress” in southern Afghanistan and believes “we’ve checked [Taliban] momentum”. Regional Command-South commander Maj. Gen. Nick Carter told Pentagon reporters that there were “encouraging signs” but “it won't be until June next year that we'll be sure that the advances we've made during the course of the last few months are genuinely success." [WSJ] [Reuters] [AP] [Stars and Stripes]
  • Russian Counternarcotics: U.S. and Russian drug agents took part in a first-ever joint operation against a narcotics laboratory in Jalalabad yesterday, seizing heroin and opium with a street value of approximately $250 million. "We are ready and we want to send an additional number of our officers for posting to the international information centres functioning in Kabul, Bagram and Kandahar," the Russian drug control agency’s head tells the BBC. [BBC] [AP]
  • Private Intelligence: A Pentagon inquiry found that Michael Furlong, a senior Air Force civilian official, broke Defense Department rules against hiring contractors to work as spies and “deliberately misled” senior generals about the network of operators he established in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which were originally intended to provide “atmospheric” information about the political dynamics of the region, not specific targeting information as is later alleged to have occured. Furlong said he was never interviewed by the inquiry and that his work had been approved at multiple levels. [NYT] [AP]
  • Security firms President Hamid Karzai stormed out of a key meeting last week, snubbing General David Petraeus, commander of US and Nato forces, and a host of top international ambassadors.  Officials familiar with the meeting on Sunday said it had been hoped to show Mr Karzai that the ban risks paralysing reconstruction efforts. The German ambassador, the head of the United Nations in Afghanistan and the deputy Japanese ambassador to Kabul were also present. "The president was adamant that the ban goes ahead," said one official. [Scotsman]

Afghanistan – Economics and Development

  • Trade Agreement Signed: Pakistan and Afghanistan signed the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement yesterday, allowing Afghanistan to export goods to India through Pakistan via its Wagah border and Pakistan to ship goods to Central Asian republics through Afghanistan. India will not be granted a reverse corridor through Pakistan to its neighbor. [ET]

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Marjah Displaced Still Waiting to Return Home [BBC]
  • NATO Secretary General Pledges to Uphold Women’s Rights [Reuters]
  • War Rarely Earns a Mention in 2010 Campaign [NYT]
  • Commentary: Taliban Peace Talks Sound Airy-Fairy – “It will be a tremendous achievement on part of the international troops if they managed to succeed in creating rifts among the Taliban using the prospect of talks as a ploy. However, if otherwise, the trick will alert the Taliban fighters and their leadership who will think twice if invited to peace talks in future.” [Daud Khattak, AfPak Channel]