25 October 2004, Volume 3, Number 38
KARZAI AWAITS OFFICIAL DECLARATION OF VICTORYBy Amin Tarzi
With over 90 percent of the vote counted, it looks very likely that Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai will become Afghanistan's first directly elected president. According to the latest statistics provided by the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Karzai has secured 55.3 percent of the vote, while his closest challenger, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni stands at about 17 percent, followed by Mohammad Mohaqeq and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, each with 10 percent of the vote (see http://www.afg-electionresults.org). Qanuni conceded defeat on 24 October, joining Dostum's earlier concession.
The JEMB has said that it will not announce a victor in the election until all the votes are counted and the UN panel of experts -- officially known as the Panel of Impartial Electoral Experts -- established to investigate complaints about irregularities during the election process, submits its findings. The final results of the election are expected to be made public by 25 or 26 October.
On 20 October, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the special representative of the secretary-general to Afghanistan, said that the JEMB has received 285 formal complaints. Without providing much detail, the spokesman said that around 180 of the complaints either "did not require action or action has been taken, or action is currently being taken." According to de Almeida e Silva, 45 percent of the complaints are about the application of the indelible ink; he also described 13 percent of the complaints being "of a general nature" about the election process (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 October 2004). The spokesman said that only 5 percent of complaints were about multiple voting or under-age voters. While de Almeida e Silva did not make the connection, the issue of indelible ink and multiple voting are directly related.
It is likely that the allegations of violations will tarnish Karzai's expected victory and the losers will cry foul. However, a genuine desire of the majority of Afghans to move toward a better future, as illustrated by the huge election-day turnout, coupled with the fact that the election process was relatively free of violence, will give the new president legitimacy.
There seems to be a rush on the part of the JEMB and most international organizations dealing with Afghanistan to quickly bring the country's presidential election to an end and to avoid a runoff. A clean winner would indeed be good for Afghanistan -- but to do so, serious time and effort should be used to address all legitimate complaints with transparency and clarity.
Moreover, as long as these voices of dissent refrain from using violence to make their point, they will be an asset for Afghanistan's march towards democracy. Some of the losers of the presidential election will likely try their chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for April 2005 and will build on their experience gained in the presidential election.
Already there are candidates who are predicting the response of the panel of experts to the complaints. Homayun Shah Asefi said recently that the panel will "say that there are some technical mistakes" and "there was some limited fraud," but that "the extent of the fraud did not affect the legitimacy" of the election result.
If the finding of the panel concurs with Asefi's prediction, it ought to demonstrate this clearly. To do otherwise would put Afghanistan on the bumpy path towards a democratic society -- in itself a distant and difficult task given the realities in the country – with a flat tire.
AFGHANS DEBATE FAIRNESS OF ELECTION, LOOK AHEAD TO PARLIAMENTARY VOTEBy Ron Synovitz and Freshta Jalalzai
Ahmad Fardin is a student at Kabul University who was a poll worker for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) during the 9 October presidential election.
Fardin said that what he witnessed leads him to believe that the election was not free and fair: "I saw that people were pressured [by unarmed men] about how they should vote. Also, the ink [used to prevent multiple voting] could be wiped off the fingers of voters very quickly. I saw a person who voted at least three times and saw that this election was illegal."
When questioned further about the man he saw voting three times, Fardin said he did not stop the voter and did not file any formal complaint through the JEMB. He said he felt there was nothing he could do about the situation because the man had an unpunched voter-registration card each time he went through the voting queue, and there was no visible sign of ink on his fingers each time he voted.
Fardin said that as the JEMB prepares for parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in 2005, it should put additional measures in place to avoid multiple voting. He said voter-registration cards should not be given back to voters after having a cancellation hole punched in them. Instead, he suggests that each polling station keep the canceled voter-registration cards.
In that way, he said, poll workers will be able to immediately identify somebody trying to vote more than once at the same polling station. And after the vote, different polling stations could cross-reference the registration cards they have collected to determine if the same person has voted at different polling stations.
Other students at Kabul University disagreed with Fardin about intimidation near polling stations. Among them was Fariha, a 20-year-old woman enrolled in the science faculty who wears a long black skirt, high-heeled shoes, and makeup. Fariha said she thinks there might have been voter intimidation in provincial regions, but not in Kabul.
She said she did not face intimidation when she voted at Kabul University: "We are prepared enough now for the parliamentary election. We didn't have any problems in the presidential vote, and we learned a lot."
"These elections were not as fair as people had thought they would be."
Khalil is a 25-year-old who runs a food shop from inside a small metal cargo container in Kabul. Having seen the way the election was conducted at the Khoshal Khan polling station on the capital's west side, Khalil said he thinks the results should be invalidated and that the vote should be conducted again.
"These elections were not as fair as people had thought they would be," Khalil said. "I saw some people who were campaigning for a candidate at the polling station -- a woman who was telling people to vote for [ethnic Hazara candidate Mohammad] Mohaqeq. And then I saw a woman representative of [Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid] Karzai's campaign. She was telling people not to listen to [Mohaqeq's representative]. These elections were very important because they were presidential elections, and there was fraud. And we believe it will happen again at the parliamentary elections. We are not happy."
Mohammad Isa is a 25-year-old farmer whose land in the Shakardara district north of Kabul was on the front lines between warring factions during much of the 1990s. In an attempt to stop the production of Afghan wine, the Taliban burned Isa's grape vines in the late 1990s. Isa's vineyards are only now beginning to recover. He expressed bitterness toward the militant factions that have waged war across his ravaged land.
"These people are so used to fighting against each other that they don't want Afghanistan to be calm and secure like other countries in the world," Isa said. "They wanted to fight and create security problems during the elections. But fortunately, there was nothing like that, and the elections have been free and fair -- and legal. Everybody voted independently. Nobody was forcing anybody to vote for a particular candidate. I do think that a lot of people were voting for Karzai -- and I don't think that one person could vote two or three times."
Thirty-five-year-old Ariff -- a Pashtun tribesman from Wardak Province, west of Kabul -- also said he didn't see anything illegal in the voting at the polling station where he cast his ballot.
"No, no. There wasn't anyone threatening us. Everybody voted the way they wanted to," Ariff said. "In our area, the election was free and fair. Even women were able to participate in large numbers. Everyone had the independence to vote the way they wanted. I didn't even see the problem with ink rubbing off the fingers at the place where I voted. God willing, the parliamentary elections will be just like this one -- free and fair."
Amina is a poor woman in her 60s with only one eye. From beneath a black veil, she told RFE/RL that she and her three daughters-in-law had been able to vote in eastern Afghanistan's Laghman Province without intimidation.
"I voted for the person I liked," Amina said. "Nobody told me to vote for this or that candidate. And there were a lot of women like me. I am surprised. It was calm. These elections were legal. We want a calm and peaceful Afghanistan. We are happy about the election."
Vote counting finally began today as a probe continues into allegations of fraud. A final result is expected to be announced later this month. Transitional leader Karzai is widely expected to garner more votes than any of the 15 other candidates. If no candidate wins a majority, the Afghan Constitution calls for a two-person runoff.
Meanwhile, the JEMB announced today that it has received the first report and recommendations from a panel of experts established to investigate the allegations of multiple voting.
The panel said ballot boxes from 10 polling centers -- with a total of about 50 polling stations -- should be set aside from the vote count so that the complaints can be investigated. The panel said ballot boxes from another 11 polling stations also should be quarantined as the official investigation continues.
The quarantined ballot boxes are from the Kabul, Wardak, Ghazni, and Logar provinces.
KARZAI'S MAIN CHALLENGER CONCEDES DEFEAT.Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's main rival for the Afghan presidency, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, conceded defeat in Kabul on 24 October. A spokesman for Qanuni said the candidate is accepting the result of the election in the national interest of Afghanistan. The spokesman said Qanuni doesn't want the country to face another crisis. With less than 6 percent of the votes remaining to be counted, Karzai has won majority of the votes. Karzai has not been declared the winner. An expert panel is still reviewing allegations of electoral fraud leveled by other candidates and officials are also still counting the last group of votes.
U.S. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN CALLS FOR REHABILITATION OF LOW-RANKING TALIBAN MEMBERS...Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Washington on 19 October that the time has come for reconciliation with lower-ranking members of the ousted Taliban regime, Reuters reported.
Khalilzad emphasized that while leading Taliban figures should be brought to justice and the U.S.-led coalition should "finish off" the militants who are still fighting in the name of the Taliban, Afghanistan's successful presidential election has created an opportunity to include lower-ranking members of the Taliban into Afghan society. "The Taliban have seen their worth in the eyes of the Afghan people," Khalilzad said. He added that in order to "move forward...there must be accountability, but there also must be reconciliation and I think this would be an important agenda postelection item."
Reports about efforts to include some members of the Taliban in Afghanistan's future administration have circulated since October 2003, when the United States reportedly released former Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil who, according to a 17 October report from Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, intends to form a new political party (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July, 18 September, 9, 16, 23, and 30 October 2003; and 4 March and 10 June 2004).
Khalilzad also said on 19 October that U.S. policy toward Afghanistan will not change even if Democratic presidential challenger Senator John Kerry wins the U.S. presidential election in November, AFP reported. "I believe that the requirements of the situation and the security interests of the American people would push any administration to essentially follow the approach that we are implementing in Afghanistan," Khalilzad told reporters in Washington. Khalilzad said he does not see any "good alternative to sustaining the course" that his country is on regarding Afghanistan. Khalilzad said Afghanistan has a "long way to go" before becoming a democratic state. "Warlordism is dying," he added. "If we can kill Talibanism and deal with the narcotics issue Afghanistan will be well on its way to being a successful country." (Amin Tarzi)
...A VIEW ECHOED BY A FORMER TALIBAN COMMANDER.Mullah Abdul Salam ("Raketti") describes himself as a former Taliban military commander in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province. Before that, he was a mujahedin fighter against Soviet occupation forces.
He earned the nickname "Raketti" on the battlefield, because of his proficiency with shoulder-fired rockets.
Now based in the southeastern province of Zabul, Mullah Raketti was interviewed by RFE/RL's Afghan service in the southern city of Kandahar this week. He discussed his view of the country's future following the presidential election.
Mullah Raketti said he was willing to accept any national government picked by the voters and he believes many of his former Taliban colleagues feel similarly. He said the successful conduct of the presidential election in early October provides an opportunity for Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, if he is confirmed as the new leader, to win the support of many Taliban members.
Mullah Raketti told RFE/RL that the election -- which passed relatively peacefully despite Taliban threats to disrupt the poll -- represented what he called a blow for the militia.
"In my opinion, 'yes, [it was a blow].' The Taliban had said they would destroy the election process and that they would not allow the elections to be held. They failed in what they said," Mullah Raketti said.
Nevertheless, he was reluctant to conclude that the militia itself has been defeated -- saying, "About that, I cannot say."
Mullah Raketti said Karzai must now take the initiative and send emissaries to Taliban-dominated regions to open direct talks, offering security guarantees in exchange for support. If he does this, Mullah Raketti predicted the results will be largely positive. He also disputed the contention that most of the Taliban fighters now in the mountains are hardened Al-Qaeda loyalists.
"The [Taliban members] should be assured that they will not be sent to prison, not be beaten or their homes subject to searches," Mullah Raketti said. "If they are convinced that they will not face prison, beatings, or house searches, then I think that 80 percent of these people would sit at home. The people who fled to the mountains have mostly done so for personal reasons and because they are scared [of the government], not because they are Al-Qaeda members or terrorists. The intelligence reports are wrong. Maybe 10 percent of them genuinely are Al-Qaeda or terrorists, but the others took to the hills out of fear."
Mullah Raketti was detained for six months by U.S. forces at the country's Khwaja Rawash air base following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in late 2001. In spite of his imprisonment, he had no harsh words for the Americans.
Mullah Raketti said his captors treated him "as a guest," and he could not personally corroborate reports of U.S. prisoner abuse. Mullah Raketti, who was released without charge in 2003, refused to discuss the content of his conversations with U.S. interrogators.
Mullah Raketti also addressed an appeal to the Pakistani military as well as religious leaders to stop supplying and encouraging Taliban fighters to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
"I have a complaint addressed to our brothers in Pakistan -- and I mean the Pakistani colonels and muftis who prepare our brothers, the Taliban, and give them support to make chaos in Afghanistan," he said. "Above all, I call on my Taliban brothers not to create disorder in our country with their support. We have a country like they do and the people here want to live like they do [in Pakistan]."
The Pakistani military officially denies providing support to Taliban fighters.
(Jeremy Bransten -- RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report, which is based on an interview conducted by Najibullah Achakzai.)
U.S. SUGGESTION FOR NATO TAKEOVER OF AFGHAN MISSION REJECTED BY ALLIES.During an informal meeting of NATO members in Romania on 12 October, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns called on the alliance to consider eventually taking command of an integrated U.S./NATO force in Afghanistan, AFP reported on 13 October (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 October 2004). Burns told reporters on the eve of the 13-14 October talks that NATO defense ministers would likely request that their military leaders study the feasibility of the proposal by the next NATO meeting, which is to be held in France in February 2005. "It could be 2005, it could be 2006, it depends on how things go," Burns said on 12 October. "It really depends on what the military leaders will tell us -- how would you do this, how difficult would it be, on what basis would it be."
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld first suggested the idea of NATO assuming military command in Afghanistan at a NATO meeting in December 2003.
NATO allies France and Germany immediately rejected the idea of merging the international and U.S. military missions in Afghanistan under one command, AP reported on 13 October. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said that NATO's responsibility in Afghanistan is to assist in stabilizing the country, not in fighting international terrorism, as U.S. forces are tasked with doing. "Therefore, we are against a merger of the two mandates," Struck said.
"There may be some interest in synergy between the two operations, but a merger of the forces makes no sense," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said. "It would be counterproductive to have the two missions under a united command." Following the first day of talks on 13 October, Ambassador Burns said that "most countries that spoke today, including our country, said the goal should be one NATO mission," and not separate peacekeeping and combat ones, AP reported. (Kimberly McCloud)
NATO CHIEF DECLINES TO COMMENT ON AFGHANISTAN'S DRUG PROBLEM.Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Bishkek on 19 October that dealing with Afghanistan's narcotics problem is not NATO's "No. 1 responsibility," ITAR-TASS reported. Scheffer said that while NATO provides assistance to the Afghan authorities in securing the country's border to stop drug trafficking, "society in Afghanistan must become the main 'figure' in resolving the issue of drug trafficking" in their country. Since 2001, Afghanistan's production of opium has surged dramatically, but NATO has consistently maintained that dealing with the drug problem is not part of its mandate (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 18 June 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. OFFICIALS DISCUSS AFGHAN SECURITY AND PROMISE HELP.Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak met on 14 October with the coordinator of Afghan affairs for the U.S. State Department, Maureen Copen, according to Afghanistan's daily "Erada" the same day. Copen reportedly praised the role of the Afghan National Army in guaranteeing security throughout the presidential election process and congratulated the Defense Ministry and the country as a whole on the successful elections. In addition, both sides discussed continuing challenges facing Afghanistan, including disarmament issues such as weapons collection and demobilization.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that the United States will work to ensure that the Afghan National Army has 70,000 soldiers within the next five years, according to AFP on 16 October. "The current plan is to get there in five additional years. We could do that at a faster rate. We are looking at that," said Khalilzad. The Afghan army stands at approximately 15,000 personnel currently and the police force at about 30,000. Germany has led efforts to train the Afghan police forces, and Khalilzad reported that these efforts would be boosted as well. "Our preferred approach is to get the Afghans to stand on their own feet as soon as possible," he said.
The United States intends to revive Afghanistan's air force in cooperation with that country's Defense Ministry, Radio Afghanistan reported on 18 October. The primary duty of the air force will be to ensure the safety of the Afghan president during his travels. No details of the strength of the air force or a timetable for its revival was reported. Afghanistan's air force was destroyed during the civil war of the 1990s and the last few remaining aircraft were lost during military operations in 2001. (Kimberly McCloud and Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN PROGRAM SHOWS SUCCESS AS SOLDIERS SURRENDER HEAVY WEAPONS.Approximately 271 Afghan soldiers serving in Division 6 in Kapisa Province surrendered some 31 heavy weapons and joined the Afghan Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program on 17 October, according to state-run Kabul Radio that day. As part of the DDR, the soldiers handed over 13 antiaircraft guns, three 75 mm cannons, two BM-1 rockets, four 82 mm canons, and 72 mm mortar shells. General Sayed Jalal Sa'idi, the official charged with disarmament in Kapisa, thanked the soldiers for joining the DDR program at a ceremony marking the occasion. He emphasized the importance of DDR for "ensuring peace and stability," according to Kabul Radio. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN VOTE COUNT BEGINS...Vote counting for Afghanistan's presidential election began on 14 October in some of the eight counting centers across the country, international media reported. However, JEMB head Faruq Wardak said on 14 October that the vote count had yet to begin in Kabul. The tallying of votes for the 9 October election had been delayed pending the investigation of allegations of voter fraud and multiple voting (see above and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 October 2004), and observers and officials feared that rival candidates to the expected frontrunner, current Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, would continue to reject the vote and declare the results illegal. The JEMB on 13 October extended to the evening of 14 October a deadline for presidential candidates to file official complaints. While three candidates -- Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, Mohammad Mohaqeq, and Gholam Faruq Nejrabi -- originally filed such objections, they withdrew their protests on 13 October so the process could proceed with legitimacy, Reuters and AFP reported. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AS AFGHAN PAPER CRITICIZES 'DEALS' IN POSTELECTION PROCESS.A 13 October editorial featured in the independent Afghan daily "Arman-e Melli" noted that "when opposition candidates voiced complaints about fraud and cheating during the elections, there were heated arguments about whether the Joint Electoral Management Body actions were right." The editorial criticized the JEMB's quick willingness to sit down with opposition candidates to negotiate their protests and concerns about fairness in the 9 October Afghan presidential elections. The fact that they are negotiating with the various candidates "shows that the issues [of fraud] that came under criticism were not small or superficial," the commentary read. "Nor are they minor issues to be laughed off by saying that the marker pens were mixed up." However, the newspaper added, "the focus of the issue is to get opposition candidates to agree to legitimize the results of the elections." Summing up its criticism of this move by the JEMB, the newspaper laments, "This will once again prove that deals and compromises will remain for many years in Afghanistan." (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN ELECTION COMMISSION SEQUESTERS BALLOT BOXES...While the counting of ballots from Logar, Kabul, Ghazni, and Wardak provinces commenced on 14 October to determine the outcome of Afghanistan's 9 October presidential elections, the JEMB ordered that ballot boxes "from 10 polling stations and 11 other ballot boxes from 11 zones" be sequestered until an investigation is completed into allegations of voter fraud, state-run Kabul Radio reported. JEMB spokesman Sultan Ahmad Bahin reportedly told the official Bakhtar News Agency that recommendations issued by the international fact-finding delegation tasked with investigating the allegations have been adopted by the JEMB. These include the sequestering of certain ballot boxes so the delegation can further investigate complaints that were filed after the elections by some presidential candidates. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AS KARZAI COMMENDS AFGHANS FOR ELECTION TURNOUT...Chairman Karzai on 14 October told the nation that "I want to congratulate you today on the successful end of a major historic day and turning point in Afghanistan." "Afghans...took part in a secret, direct, and free election in every part of the country on this day [9 October] to choose their future leader," he added during the speech broadcast on Kabul Radio. "Our people's massive, calm, and dramatic participation in the election has not only surprised and attracted the attention of other countries in the region, but has also surprised those countries and people who have held such elections for several years." Karzai praised the fact that security was ensured throughout the country during the elections proving, he said, that Afghanistan "is a united nation and wants peace." He concluded by saying that "every Afghan voter, be he young or old, woman or girl, proved that their constitution and government had given them the right to determine their fate and choose their future leader through their vote." (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND AFGHAN NEWSPAPERS LAUD ELECTIONS.The "Kabul Weekly" commented on 13 October that by "extensively participating in the presidential election on [9 October]...the Afghan people surprised the world and displayed their great political wisdom...in an unprecedented manner." The weekly continued: "The presidential election was held in a manner that had not been predicted by the international community and the Afghan authorities.... They expected that the government's rivals and the local commanders would seriously disrupt the participation of the people in the voting, and that the process would not end without bloodshed." Regarding the winner of the presidential race, "the real winner in the election is the Afghan people, who have extensively participated in it and frustrated the archrivals of their land and opened up a new peaceful way to determine the political system and the struggle for power.... The Afghan people should now feel proud that they have taken a major step toward development and can live beside other nations with honor," the "Kabul Weekly" concluded. Meanwhile, an editorial in the daily "Erada" on 14 October noted that "everybody feared that the enemies of the peace would once again victimize the nation for their illogical desires on that day." (Kimberly McCloud)
KARZAI LEADS IN PRELIMINARY VOTE COUNT, BUT RIVALS DO NOT CONCEDE AND CRY FOUL.As vote counting continued after the 9 October Afghan presidential elections, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai had captured 60.2 percent of the votes, AP reported on 17 October. Election officials said about 905,887 votes had been tallied by 17 October, constituting approximately 12 percent of the estimated 7-12 million ballots. Seven to 10 days of counting are necessary "before results [show] reliable trends," Reuters reported on 16 October, and final results should be available at the end of the month, AP reported. Candidate Yunos Qanuni, the former Afghan education minister, was in second place with 18.6 percent of the vote, and Abdul Rashid Dostum was in third with 10.1 percent, the Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body reported. Qanuni, an ethnic Tajik, gained about 95 percent of the vote in the northern, largely Tajik Panjsher Province. He stated on 17 October that it was too early to tell who had won the elections, and that a "full count and a proper investigation by a panel of foreign experts on fraud allegations" was necessary. "If they are able to separate the fraud from the wishes of the people, at that time we will see if the election is legitimate," Qanuni told AP. "Anything else is a coup," he warned (see features above).
"According to a survey we expected to get more than 58 percent of the people's vote," AFP on 18 October quoted Qanuni as saying. According to Qanuni, the issue of indelible ink was a minor one compared to dozens of cases of "fraud and irregularities." Qanuni, who dropped his threat to boycott the elections after the UN established a panel to investigate allegations of fraud, said that since an initial meeting "no member of the panel has contacted" his side to discuss the progress of the investigation. Qanuni also complained that while only 10 million Afghans registered to vote, the JEMB printed 20 million ballots -- many of which, he claimed, have disappeared.
Independent presidential candidate Abdul Satar Sirat has complained about irregularities and "widespread fraud" in the Afghan presidential election, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 17 October. Sirat claimed that many foreigners were able to vote in the Afghan election because people without proper identification were issued voter-registration cards. Sirat rejected JEMB's explanation that problems encountered with ink used to mark voters' hands were due to a technical fault. He said that it is "completely obvious that intolerable violations took place in the presidential election." Sirat, who was passed over in favor of Karzai during the Bonn negotiations in December 2001, has so far obtained less than 1 percent of the vote. (Amin Tarzi and Kimberly McCloud)
POSTELECTION VIOLENCE IN AFGHANISTAN AS TWO U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED...The first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan was marred by violence in Afghanistan, where two separate terrorist attacks claimed the lives of seven people, including two U.S. soldiers, according to international news agencies on 16 October. U.S. military officials reported on 16 October that a "homemade bomb" struck a U.S. military vehicle on patrol in the southern Oruzgan Province on 14 October. In addition to the two killed, three others were wounded. A second attack in Konar Province on 15 October claimed the lives of at least three children and one Afghan policeman, when a truck was allegedly set on fire and a bomb was detonated via remote control. Finally, a rocket attack in Kabul, where unknown assailants launched four rockets, injured one woman, according to news reports. Three of the rockets reportedly hit houses close to the Kabul airport.
Afghan leader Karzai condemned the terrorist attacks, describing the perpetrators as "enemies of Islam" and the attack as "inhumane and un-Islamic," according to AP on 16 October. U.S. military spokesman Scott Nelson stated that U.S. troops would "maintain vigilance and maintain security and a high presence" to deter further attacks that might cause instability in the country. Afghan and security experts had warned of potential attacks during last week's election period. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND FIVE TRAVELING IN ELECTORAL VEHICLE KILLED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.Five people traveling in a JEMB jeep were killed in Paktika Province on 18 October, "The New York Times" reported. An election official, his driver, and three civilians were killed in the attack. It has not been established whether the roadside bomb specifically targeted the election overseer, but a man purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan's 9 October presidential election was relatively free of violence, but it did result in the deaths of 14 people, most of them security officers. Later reports indicated that the all five people killed were employees of the JEMB.
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY:19 October 1941 -- Afghanistan agrees to expel German and Italian residents at the demand of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
17 October 1975 -- Iran signs an agreement to provide aid and technical assistance to construct a railroad system in Afghanistan.
19 October 1999 -- A leading U.S. official meets with Taliban representatives to warn them of consequences if they do not conform to the UN demands that included surrendering Osama bin Laden.
Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).