KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan election authorities have agreed to push back a parliamentary election to September from May, pleasing diplomats who wanted time to prevent a repeat of the rampant fraud that plagued a presidential vote last year.
The announcement on Sunday eases one of the main sources of friction between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, days before a major conference in London aimed at plotting a course for Western countries to begin withdrawing their troops.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan and the international community are set to agree this week a framework for Kabul to take responsibility for its own security at a major conference in London, a draft communique obtained by Reuters showed.
Afghan troops may be managing some provinces as early as 2011, with NATO-led forces in a supporting role, paving the way for the start of a U.S. military draw-down in 18 months.
KABUL (Reuters) – NATO is planning to create a stronger civilian representative post to help lead international efforts in Afghanistan, and the British ambassador in Kabul is a top candidate, a Kabul-based diplomat said on Thursday.
NATO confirmed that it was planning to beef up the post of its civilian representative but did not comment on who was being considered for the job.
KABUL (Reuters) – A video of a Pakistani Taliban leader with the bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan could indicate cross-border links between Afghan, Pakistani and al Qaeda militants, the U.S. regional envoy said on Sunday.
Special Representative Richard Holbrooke told Reuters in an interview in Kabul that “shadowy but unmistakable” links between groups exposed by the video helped explain why the United States and its allies were fighting in Afghanistan.
KABUL (Reuters) – At least five Afghan civilians were wounded when a combined force of Afghan troops and U.S. Marines opened fire on a crowd at the gate to a military base in Helmand, Afghanistan’s most volatile province, NATO said on Friday.
The incident, which took place on Wednesday but was not reported until Friday, was the second demonstration to turn violent in two days in Helmand’s Garmsir district, suggesting mounting civil unrest in a part of the country where U.S. Marines under NATO command made major advances last year.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan officials agreed on Saturday to take over responsibility for the U.S. military’s Bagram prison north of Kabul, a move that could close a chapter in the troubled history of U.S. detentions since 2001.
The jail at Bagram, where U.S. troops beat to death two prisoners in 2002, stands beside Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq as a symbol of harsh treatment of detainees under the administration of ex-President George W. Bush.
KABUL (Reuters) – A defiant Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his record on corruption in an interview broadcast on Friday, saying the issue that has damaged his reputation had been “blown out of proportion” by Western media.
In the interview, with Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, the Afghan leader said he did not depend on the good opinion of Western leaders, who had sent their troops out of self interest.
KABUL (Reuters) – Western officials are cautiously hopeful President Hamid Karzai will keep technocrats in key posts when he names his Afghan cabinet this week, a decisive moment for the newly re-elected leader whose standing has slid in the West.
Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said the government list would most likely be announced on Wednesday. Other palace officials have suggested it could come later in the week.
President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin pulling its troops out Afghanistan in 2011 provides a good opportunity to look back and study history. This will, after all, be the second time Afghans have bid farewell to a superpower, and Nikolai Gvosdev in Foreign Affairs offers an interesting take on what happened the last time, when the Soviets pulled out in 1989.
The man the Soviets left in charge was Mohammad Najibullah, who clung to power for three more years, then sheltered for another four years in the U.N. compound in Kabul, before finally ending up strung up by the Taliban from a Kabul traffic lamp in 1996. Najibullah’s grisly end means his career hardly seems like one that President Hamid Karzai would want to emulate. Yet Gvosdev’s account is a reminder that Najibullah actually held on to power far longer than most in the West expected. His government in fact actually outlasted the Soviet Union itself, which collapsed in 1991.
In Gvosdev’s account, the key to Najibullah’s success lay in part in lavishing funds on tribal and provincial chiefs. That tactic became impossible after the Soviet Union disintegrated and the money dried up. Even so, Najibullah might have still hung on had Pakistan not been given free rein by the West to back the Mujahideen that unseated him.
KABUL (Reuters) – The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan reassured top officials on Thursday that Washington was not planning an early exit, part of a charm offensive to sell President Barack Obama’s new strategy on three continents.
Obama announced on Tuesday that he is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, but also said they would begin to come home by mid-2011.