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Vol. 73/No. 43      November 9, 2009

Afghan president
accedes to runoff election
Under pressure from Washington, Afghan president Hamid Karzai agreed to a runoff election with rival presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah. The U.S. rulers view an Afghan government that lacks credibility as an obstacle to winning support for sending more U.S. troops to the war.

An initial tally from the presidential elections in August showed Karzai as the winner with 55 percent of the vote. Karzai and the Afghan election commission refused to recognize a UN commission’s findings of massive fraud. The commission put Karzai’s vote below 50 percent and Abdullah’s at about 28 percent. Washington dispatched Sen. John Kerry to convince Karzai that continued refusal would not be in his best interest.

After four days of discussion, Karzai announced October 20 he would accede to the runoff with Abdullah scheduled for November 7.

Both candidates come from different factions of the rightist Islamist Mujahideen forces that fought the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. In the 1990s both held posts in the unstable government that was cobbled together after the fall of the pro-Moscow regime.

Karzai is from a pro-monarchy Pashtun family, the dominant nationality in Afghanistan. Abdullah was a close advisor to Tajik Mujahideen commander Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Abdullah has said he would be open to a coalition government. According to the Washington Post, Arsala Jamal, a Karzai campaign manager, said Abdullah representatives have raised the idea with Karzai. “I believe [Karzai] will be sitting at the same table as Abdullah,” he said.  
Troop increase
Currently there are 65,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the number is slated to reach 68,000 by the end of the year. With about 124,000 troops in Iraq, the combined force is at an all-time high.

President Barack Obama has approved the deployment of 13,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported October 13. But Obama appears to be delaying a decision on Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 additional troops until after the runoff election.

Former vice president Richard Cheney criticized Obama on a number of foreign policy questions in a speech at the Center for Security Policy October 21. “It’s time for Obama to make good on his promise,” he said. “Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.”

McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, involving greater emphasis on ground troops, is expected to result in higher deaths for the occupying army. As of October 27, 55 U.S. soldiers had been killed, the highest number of U.S. deaths in one month since the war began in 2001.
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Pakistani army starts new assault on Taliban  
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