Afghanistan: Killing continues during elections

Photo: Isafmedia/Flickr

On September 18, elections were held in Afghanistan amid killings of civilians. The Taliban had said it would disrupt the vote by killing those taking part, but the elections’ sponsors — the US-led occupation forces — also killed civilians on polling day.

Afghan and international media reported election day deaths from Taliban attacks, US air strikes, and fighting between foreign troops and insurgents, as well as between supporters of rival candidates.

The candidates in the election were drawn from the fractious coalition of warlords, gangsters and Islamic fundamentalists who have been the Western occupiers local allies since the 2001 invasion.

The next day, eight children were killed playing with an unexploded rocket in Kunduz province, Reuters reported on September 19.

In contrast to previous elections in occupied Afghanistan, reporting by the Western media was low key. Triumphant declarations of a milestone on Afghanistan’s path to democracy were largely absent.

In part, this stems from the widely-acknowledged rigging of the August 2009 presidential elections, and public spat between Western military and political leaders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

More broadly, it is a sign that the Western occupiers are at an impasse — unable to impose a stable client regime in Afghanistan but unwilling to withdraw without having done so.

Divisions have developed between the Obama administration and elements of the US military on when and how to get out.

A more significant milestone was reached three days after the poll. On September 21, the number of occupying soldiers killed this year reached 529 — making the death toll for 2010 already higher then any year since the occupation began in 2001.

The next highest toll was for 2009, when 521 foreign soldiers were killed.

The civilian death toll in Afghanistan is not counted. The majority of civilian casualties are from the indirect causes of war such as disease and malnutrition.

The AFP reported on September 21 on problems with the vote. “The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said 1,388 complaints had been received specifically about election day irregularities.”

McClatchy Newspapers reported that day: “Internal reports from Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission … provide new evidence of serious fraud in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, including turnouts that exceeded 100% …

“One district in Paktika province recorded 626% voter turnout.”

The September 20 Australian reported widespread vote buying and violent intimidation by candidates. Even the “indelible” ink used to mark voters hands to stop multiple voting easily washed off, the BBC said on September 18.

The September 27 release of the book Obama’s Wars by veteran US journalist Bob Woodward shone further light on the divisions and confusion about the purpose of the war in Afghanistan in the government of US President Barack Obama, who inherited the war from his predecessor.

The book exposes divisions among the US establishment between those, mainly in the military, wanting to continue to increase soldier numbers and with an open-ended timetable, and those wanting an earlier withdrawal.

There are also competing justifications for the war. There are those for whom the purpose of the war is to eliminate al Qaeda, and those for whom it is an exercise in “nation building”.

With mounting casualties of both civilians and occupation soldiers, the failure to create a cohesive Afghan client state, a resentful population, a resurgent Taliban, and anti-Western Islamists recruiting worldwide on the basis of the occupation force’s atrocities, the war is clearly achieving neither purpose.

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