17 August 2009

For some, election violence is improvement

KABUL, Afghanistan—Seven people were killed and 91 wounded Saturday in a suicide strike in the city center just days before the Afghan national election. “The suicide car bomb struck just outside the NATO force’s headquarters and the Ministry of Transportation, a block from the American Embassy,” reported The New York Times.

Perhaps the most heavily fortified section of the city can not be protected from attacks by the Taliban, which quickly assumed responsibility in a telephone statement.

“It was much worse during the Soviet occupation,” said a colleague, part of the Afghan diaspora who recently returned from western Europe. “The Soviets had to fight several armies, including Tajiks in the north, Ismail Kahn in Herat, (Gulbuddin) Hekmatayar, the Hazara, Dostum the communist and the Uzbeks. The U.S. and the west only have the Taliban, maybe only 15-20 thousand. Oh yes, much worse.”

Where I saw chaos, he saw relative improvement over the last two decades.

Sunday afternoon Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum returned from exile in Turkey in an apparent move to throw his support behind the re-election bid of Pres. Hamid Karzai. He was greeted at Kabul International Airport by hundreds of members of his Jumbish party. Dostum, who was infamous for switching sides during the civil war following the Soviet defeat, is “accused of allowing the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and then destroying the evidence,” according to McClatchy Newspapers. His alleged victims were upwards of 2,000 mostly Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in late 2001. At the time, Dostum worked closely with U.S. special forces and intelligence teams in northern Afghanistan.

The start of the fall semester at AUAF was delayed a week, in part, to avoid the increased violence tied to Thursday’s election, and the campus will be locked down Aug. 18-20.

“Despite popular discontent with the government, it is widely believed that Karzai will garner the greatest number of votes, but not the 51 per cent required for a victory in the first round. This means that there will probably be a run-off at a later date,” reported Al-Jazerra.net.

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