News Summary, Oct 30

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Update: Karzai accuses NATO of abusing Afghanistan's sovereignty with its drug raid in collaboration with Russia; Iran is playing a double game, says Petraeus, as Newsweek says that Iranian payments to the Afghan government go far beyond the president's office. Holbrooke plays down talks with the Taliban, but talks up a recent trade agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a "political breakthrough."

On an administrative note, we'll be ending these daily news summaries from Nov 1. We will, however, be updating the Afghan2010 website with new material from time to time and will be sending occasional email updates when appropriate. Media enquiries are still very welcome, but please send them to me by email and I'll make sure we'll get back to you promptly. Thanks for all your support, comments and contributions in the past couple of months, and DI looks forward to resuming the conversation soon. Don't forget you can subscribe to the Center for American Progress' full daily summary of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and related news here.

Jeremy Wagstaff
Democracy International
[email protected]

Afghanistan – Election

  • NDI NDI's latest newsletter highlights some interesting points about the preliminary results: In two provinces—Nuristan and Paktika--less than half the planned polling stations reported results, against a nationwide total of 77%. It explores the controversy over whether the ECC should consider ballots excluded by the IEC (at present it isn't). And it notes that 75 potential members of the new Wolesi Jirga will be affiliated with a political party. Nearly two thirds of all votes, the NDI said, were cast for losing candidates. [NDI] (pdf)

Afghanistan – Security

  • Drug raid President Hamid Karzai had demanded an explanation from NATO for carrying out  the raid on Afghan soil without his government’s permission: "No organisation or institution has the right to carry out such military operations inside the territory of our country without permission and agreement from the Islamic Government of Afghanistan," a statement from his office said. "Afghanistan condemns this act by NATO and announces that such unilateral operations are a clear violation of Afghan sovereignty as well as international law, and any repetition will be met by the required reaction from our side." It was a historic and unprecedented collaboration on the part of U.S. and Russia, a sting that included 70 men, including U.S. and Afghan troops and four Russian drug control agents. [Examiner] [Reuters] [Pajhwok]
  • Attack Eighty insurgents were killed in clashes with NATO and Afghan forces when the Taliban launched an attack on an outpost in Paktika province, according to a spokesman for the province's governor said Saturday. Authorities said no NATO or Afghan troops, or civilians were killed in the clashes, which began at midnight Friday and continued into Saturday morning. [CNN] [Reuters]
  • Iran Iran is playing both sides in Afghanistan by supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban fighters who are trying to oust it, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said. He accused the Iranian government of having a "conflicted" stance on the Afghanistan imbroglio. Newsweek says Iran's payments go much further than to Karzai's office. "In fact, Iranians almost routinely give cash to Afghan officials, parliamentarians, politicians, and religious leaders to promote Tehran’s agenda." [Pajhwok] [Newsweek]
  • Women UN Resolution 1325 calls on women to be given an equal role in peace negotiations in areas of conflict. But this is far from the case in Afghanistan, where many women are pushing for more participation. [DW]
  • Pakistan The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooe, said that a Transit Trade Agreement signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan was more than a business deal, but a political breakthrough. The deal, Holbrooke said, was an important step in improving the relationship between Kabul and Islamabad. "It is more than a trade agreement; it is a political breakthrough as well, and it represents a move in the direction of one of the most critical goals that we have in that region, which is a closer relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, between Kabul and Islamabad," he said. [Pajhwok] [PTI]
  • Talks Holbrooke again played down the talks supposedly ongoing between Karzai and the Taliban. "A lot of these groups, if you know the history of Afghanistan, you will know were not hard-core ideological Taliban," the envoy told reporters at a press briefing at the U.S. State Department. " They're independent groups who defend their local valley and move back and forth. And they're feeling the pressure."
    "There's less here than meets the eye," he stressed. A piece by Yaroslav Trofimov in The Wall Street Journal highlights some of the problems raised when insurgents switch sides. "The reintegrated fighters' leader, Commander Sher, is now dead, possibly killed by a U.S. bomb last month. His militia is in disarray. And, to other potential defectors, the fate of these men serves as a vivid warning about the perils of picking the American side in this war.' [] [Xinhua] [AP] [WSJ]
  • Security firms Holbrooke said he supported President Karzai’s move of banning all private security firms, and that Karzai would announce new rules for private security firms on November 15. "This will outline the process by which there will be a transition from the current situation, which is intolerable and untenable, to a point where private security companies do not exist or exist only under conditions that the government is comfortable with and that everything is in accordance with Decree Number 62, issued by the government," Holbrooke told reporters at a news conference here. Holbrooke said that the international community including the US initially did not take the decree on private security companies very seriously. "It’s that the international community, including our own government, did not pay enough attention to the Afghan Government’s repeated statements that they were serious," he said. The Scotsman Friday reported that 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.  [Pajhwok] [Scotsman]