September 09, 2009

Afghan election update

New York Times:

“This was fraud en masse,” the Western diplomat said.

Most of the fraud perpetrated on behalf of Mr. Karzai, officials said, took place in the Pashtun-dominated areas of the east and south where officials said that turnout on Aug. 20 was exceptionally low. That included Mr. Karzai’s home province, Kandahar, where preliminary results indicate that more than 350,000 ballots have been turned in to be counted. But Western officials estimated that only about 25,000 people actually voted there.

But it was still peaceful, right?

As soon as I heard about the 24,000 votes at 45 polling stations in the almost completely abandoned district of Shorabak, I guess I knew this was coming, but still... wow.

Hajji Abdul Majid, 75, the chief of the tribal elders council in Argestan District, in Kandahar Province, said that despite the fact that security forces opened the town’s polling place, no one voted, so any result from his district would be false.

“The people know that the government just took control of the district center for that day of the elections,” he said. “People are very frustrated. They don’t believe in the government.”

He added: “If Karzai is re-elected, people will leave the country or join the Taliban.”

BruceR: During my time in Kandahar Province, no ANSF or Western forces ever transited or operated in Arghestan District. Too dangerous. The area has had no government presence to speak of, other than, apparently on election day.

More evidence of fraud has emerged in the past few days. In Zangabad, about 20 miles west of Kandahar, local residents say no voting took place on Aug. 20. The village’s single polling site, the Sulaiman Mako School, is used by Taliban guerrillas as their headquarters, the residents said. The area around Zangabad is one of the most contested in Afghanistan. Despite the nonexistent turnout, Afghan election records show that nearly 2,000 ballots were collected from the Sulaiman Mako School and sent to Kabul to be counted by election officials.

BruceR: Zangabad village was also non-permissive to government and coalition forces most of the time I was there. A report of 2,000 people peaceably lining up to vote at Sulaiman Mako School, almost all for Karzai, while guarded by the ANP, simply wouldn't have been plausible to us at the time.

The allegations in Zangabad are being echoed throughout the Panjwai District. Official Afghan election records show that 16 polling centers were supposed to be open on Election Day. But according to at least one local leader, only a fraction of that number actually existed.

Haji Agha Lalai is a senior member of the provincial council in Kandahar, where Panjwai is located. As a candidate for re-election, he sent election observers across the area, including to Panjwai. In an interview, Mr. Lalai said that only “five or six” polling centers were open in Panjwai District that day — far fewer than the 16 claimed by the Afghan government.

So far, the Independent Election Commission has released results from seven of Panjwai District’s polling centers. The tally so far: 5,213 votes for Mr. Karzai, 328 for Mr. Abdullah.

BruceR: Sounds like someone in the Karzai camp got a little greedy, or cocky, or both. So... now what?

Posted by BruceR at 02:25 PM

Well, that was predictable

That said, the apparent inability to put eyes on a riverbed 4 km south of the Kunduz Airport base and 6 km south of the Kunduz PRT in any kind of timely fashion has to be a cause for concern. Not only did it contribute to the failure to discriminate civilians from insurgents in this instance, it doesn't bode well should, say, a large number of insurgents ever *really* gather in that vicinity, either. (For all the Germans know, they're there right now...)

--This website, Sept. 7

Just then, people started shouting, “The Taliban are coming!” Across the river, the driver said he saw a group of about 10 militants with Kalashnikovs and machine guns running toward them.

--N.Y. Times, describing the Sept. 5 capture of a Times reporter at the same location.

Posted by BruceR at 09:19 AM