Report card day
NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal yesterday submitted his much-anticipated strategy review of the Afghan war to the head of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, who immediately endorsed it and sent it on to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will review it before sending it to the White House (New York Times). While the report itself remains classified with no date set for a public release, it has reportedly laid the groundwork for the Pentagon to request more resources for the Afghan theater "in the coming weeks" (AFP).
General McChrystal's 20 plus page review reportedly concludes that the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is stronger than previously realized, and calls for a greater "unity of effort" among the NATO-led force in the country and faster training for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police (Washington Post). General McChrystal said that the situation is "serious, but success is achievable" (CNN).
The strategy assessment comes at a politically dangerous time for the Obama administration, as the deadliest month yet for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan drew to a close yesterday (AP). Forty-seven American servicemen and women were killed last month, and 2009 has been the deadliest year since 2001 for the Western alliance (Wall Street Journal).
General McChrystal might ask for as many as 40,000 more troops to defeat the insurgency and protect the Afghan population, even as the the dramatic increase in the number of American civilian experts that U.S. President Barack Obama called for five months ago has not materialized as quickly as needed (Wall Street Journal and AP). Fewer than one quarter of the extra civilians expected to provide expertise in agriculture, law, and engineering are in place, though special envoy to the region Richard Holbrooke pointed out the reason last month: "You can't have civilians go out (into the field) unless there's security."
The fraud squad
Results from the August 20 Afghan presidential election are still being tallied, and with nearly 50 percent of the vote counted, incumbent president Hamid Karzai has 45.8 percent of the vote, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah 33.2 percent, and longshot Ramazan Bashardost 12.5 percent (IEC). Karzai is still short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff against Abdullah, and final election results may not be certified until mid-September.
Investigating the close to 5,000 reports and counting of electoral fraud filed during the campaign period and on election day is a group of 300 people working seven days a week for the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), an independent organization with a budget of 13 million dollars (AFP). Nearly 700 of the complaints are serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote.
Payback is a...
More than 30 bodies of suspected militants were found yesterday in the Swat Valley with gunshot wounds believed to be inflicted by Pakistani police or residents as retribution for extremist attacks (BBC and Dawn). Two hundred fifty one people have been found dead in similar circumstances since July, according to Pakistani officials (AFP).
Conflict between the Pakistani military and Taliban militants continues, with government forces reportedly killing 45 militants in the last five days and destroying three militant bases in the volatile northwestern region of Khyber (Dawn and AP).
Hands off my bombs
The U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament hit a roadblock yesterday as Pakistan said its security interests had not been respected, fearing that the conference's approach to a treaty banning the production of fissile material would not take into account existing stockpiles, thus putting newer nuclear powers -- like Pakistan -- at a disadvantage relative to older ones (Reuters).
Rain, rain go away
A downpour caused residents of Karachi to get stuck in traffic for hours as a flood caused a main road in the city to be closed (The News). Mysteriously, traffic police were nowhere to be found in most of the city.
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