With over 95 percent of the paper ballots delivered to the capital and 15 percent counted it appears that no candidate received more than fifty percent so there will be a runoff between the top two candidates. At the moment that would be Abdullah Abdullah (a long time Karzai rival and believed to have lost the 2009 vote because of fraud) with 42 percent and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (a former finance minister and World Bank official) with 38 percent. Karzai, the incumbent, backed Zalmai Rassoul, who received only ten percent. Despite strenuous efforts the Taliban once again failed to keep many people from voting. International observers detected some voting fraud, but far less than in 2009. There were more complaints of fraud than in 2009.
Afghan police said they foiled 65 suicide bomb attacks (and even more non-suicide attacks) and arrested 262 Islamic terrorists since early March and this was the main reason the Taliban terror campaign against the election failed. The police raids also seized over 250 rifles, machine-guns and rocket launchers, lots of ammo, radios, over 3,000 mines, 19 suicide vests and over eight tons of explosives.
Afghan public health officials recently revealed that life-expectancy had increased from 45 years in 2001 to 63 years now. This, plus the rapid economic growth since 2001 means Afghanistan is no longer the poorest country in Eurasia. The increased life expectancy is largely the result to improved sanitation and medical care, especially for newborns and children under five. One reason for the growing hostility towards the Taliban is the continuing efforts of these Islamic radicals to limit the spread of better health care and economic improvements in general. The most obvious example of this is the continuing Taliban opposition to vaccination programs, which the Taliban consider a Western effort to poison Moslem children. Then there is education, which has rapidly increased, despite constant, and often fatal, Taliban resistance. Better educated children are healthier because they learn about how to keep healthy in addition of how to read and count. Taliban insist that education concentrate mainly on religious matters and that girls be excluded. Islamic educators stress the importance of living like the original 7th century Moslems and avoiding modern technology. This is not popular with most Afghans.
The recent Russian aggression against Ukraine has found some interesting supporters. President Karzai of Afghanistan has openly backed Russia over the seizure of Crimea. Karzai sees this support as a prudent move since Russia would be a natural ally if Afghanistan ever sought to settle border disputes it has with Pakistan. While not an enemy of Pakistan, many Russians hold Pakistan responsible for the deaths of Russian soldiers and civilians because of Pakistani support for anti-Russian Afghan rebels during the 1980s and for providing sanctuary for Russian Islamic terrorists ever since. Moreover China is the main foreign ally and arms supplier for Pakistan while Russia has long done the same for India.
India and Afghanistan now want surplus American military equipment in Afghanistan. Pakistan was the first to ask but both Afghanistan and India see Pakistan using surplus American gear against the neighbors as well as internal malcontents. This all began in March when Pakistan proposed that it would be mutually beneficial if the U.S. simply gave Pakistan many of the items U.S. troops used in Afghanistan to deal with the Taliban but would not need in the future and would only transport home and place in storage. It was implied that Pakistan would stop making it very difficult for the United States and NATO to get their equipment into or out of Afghanistan if these goodies were forthcoming. In particular the Pakistanis want the MRAPs (bomb resistant armored trucks). These 7-12 ton beasts cost about a million dollars new (fully equipped) and thousands of them are in Afghanistan with not many hours on them. While some are being given to the Afghans that will still leave over a thousand available because the Afghans have not got the people or infrastructure to operate and maintain many of these vehicles. Pakistan can handle a thousand or more free MRAPS and Pakistani troops would appreciate the lower casualties from the growing number of roadside bombs they are encountering in the tribal territories. A lot of other American equipment (electronics, intelligence analysis software and high-tech items in general) is less likely to be given away to the Pakistanis because ISI (Pakistani military intelligence) would pass on to Islamic terrorists how this gear works and what its vulnerabilities are. India points out that Pakistanis discuss among themselves that the American military aid is actually to be used against foreign, not domestic, enemies. There is evidence of that because Pakistan refuses to go on the offensive against domestic terrorists and continues to maintain a sanctuary for them in North Waziristan. Pakistani political leaders, responding to popular pressure, find that they cannot order the military to go after North Waziristan. Oh, the elected leaders can order such an attack but the generals make excuses and suddenly rumors of another coup start appearing. So the politicians back off and Islamic terrorists continue to survive in North Waziristan. Pakistani politicians don’t trust the Pakistani military and neither does anyone in India or Afghanistan. The U.S. declined to provide Pakistan with any free MRAPs.
Most Afghans blame the Pakistanis for any successes the Taliban have. There is some truth to this as it is no secret that ISI created the Taliban in the early 1990s and Pakistan has been supporting Islamic terrorism since the late 1970s. In the last few years more evidence of this Pakistani perfidy has come to light. Officially Pakistan still denies that they sheltered Osama bin Laden, but it’s no secret that Pakistan still tolerates sanctuaries for all manner of Islamic terrorists who operate inside Afghanistan. One of the biggest complaints Afghans have against the Americans is that the Americans are not more forceful in persuading Pakistan to shut down these sanctuaries. Pakistan insists it is innocent and the civilian government in Pakistan will, at most, admit that it cannot control its own military, which is most responsible for providing support to Islamic terrorists.
American efforts to shut down the Pakistani sanctuaries were made more difficult after 2011, when Americans flew into Pakistan to raid Osama bin Laden's hideout in a military town. Since then the Pakistanis have been even more reluctant to shut down the sanctuaries or even allow American UAVs to find and kill terrorist leaders there. Thus the U.S. has shifted more of the UAV use to the Afghan side of the border. This did several things. It made Afghanistan less useful as a terrorist hideout and many Pakistani Islamic terrorists went back to the North Waziristan sanctuary. But once there they found themselves under a lot of pressure from other Islamic terrorists already there to make attacks in Pakistan. This is what happened and is the major reason Pakistan still tolerates some American UAV attacks in Pakistan. The Islamic terrorist attacks coming out of North Waziristan have become very embarrassing to the Pakistani government and they can’t blame the Americans.
In Afghanistan the increased civilian hostility towards the Taliban and Islamic terrorists in general has forced the Taliban to depend more on bases and support from Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban are particularly dependent on the Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan, where many of the bombs used in Afghanistan are made and many of the suicide bombers are trained. The Afghan security forces have responded by increasing efforts to block Taliban efforts to get bombs, weapons and Islamic terrorists into Afghanistan.
April 13, 2014: U.S. officials went public with a study of Afghan customs tax collections, which currently account for about half of government revenue. American investigators, taking into account known imports, found that nearly half this revenue was being stolen by government officials and the theft is increasing. This is of interest to the United States and other foreign donors because the foreign aid makes up for the shortfall between what the government collects in taxes and fees and spends. Corruption remains the biggest problem in Afghanistan and the main impediment to economic progress.
April 11, 2014: In the south (Helmand province) police foiled a number of suicide attacks when a raid resulted in the seizure of six vehicles (three cars and three motorcycles) rigged with explosives, 40 roadside bombs, over a dozen weapons and five men who apparently were to be suicide bombers. Over the last few years police have been receiving more tips from civilians, even in places like Helmand (where most of the Taliban and heroin comes from) because most of the victims of these suicide attacks are civilians.
In the east (Paktia province) a suicide bomber attacked a pro-government tribal leader in a market, killing the target and wounding three other civilians. Local police also confirmed an incident last week in a religious school that left 16 dead. The cause was a suicide bomb vest that accidentally went off as it was being described to Islamic terrorists who were preparing for attacks to disrupt the April 7th presidential election.
April 5, 2014: The presidential election was held and at least seven million voters (out of 12 million Afghans eligible) participated via more than 28,000 polling stations. Final results will not be available until the end of the month because all the votes are counted manually in the capital. The 2009 elections saw 4.6 million vote, although fraud caused about a quarter of those votes to be discarded.
April 4, 2014: Pakistan closed all its border crossings until the 5th to help reduce Taliban efforts to disrupt the voting.
April 2, 2014: In Kabul the Taliban sought to attack the Interior Ministry compound but were halted at the entrance where a suicide bomber detonated his vest and killed six policemen.
April 1, 2014: For the first time since 2007 there was a month where no American troops were killed in combat. This is way down from August 2011, when 71 U.S. troops died. That was the worst month for American casualties. So far this year 14 American troops have died in combat. This decline is largely due to the fact that there are only 33,000 American military personnel are left in Afghanistan and Afghan security forces have taken over nearly all the combat operations.
March 31, 2014:
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan made it clear that there are no plans to give Pakistan any surplus American military equipment currently in Afghanistan. The U.S. often offers surplus military equipment to allies, who only have to pay for transportation. Without permission from Pakistan to use Pakistani roads surplus MRAPs have to be flown out and this costs over $100,000 per vehicle. Instead many are being dismantled and scrapped at a cost of about $10,000 per vehicle.
March 29, 2014: In Kabul three Taliban disguised as women tried to attack the headquarters of the presidential election organization. The attack failed and the only fatalities were the three attackers.
In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) border guards reported that six mortar shells were fired into the area from Afghanistan. This is the second time this month this has happened. These two mortar attacks are believed related to recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Kabul that were traced to terrorist groups based in North Waziristan.
March 27, 2014: T
he Pakistani Taliban announced that they would only agree to a long-term ceasefire if the Pakistani military halted all operations (especially the use of smart bombs) in North Waziristan. U.S. UAV patrols and missile attacks must also cease completely in North Waziristan and 300 family members of Taliban fighters held by the army must be released. The military opposes these conditions because there are Islamic terrorist groups in North Waziristan that no one, including the Taliban, control and who will not agree to any ceasefire and continue making terror attacks against Pakistanis. The Taliban say they can only control Taliban groups and are not responsible for the others in North Waziristan. The Taliban believe that Nawaz Sharif can actually control the military and force them to meet the Taliban conditions. This will be a hard sell because in the last decade Pakistani Islamic terrorists have killed over 55,000 civilians and security personnel. Some Taliban say they are doing all this to protect Afghan Taliban bases in North Waziristan. All Taliban believe that the Afghanistan Taliban will take control of Afghanistan once the foreign troops leave at the end of the year. Most Afghans do not agree with that but the Taliban are on a Mission From God and not to be argued with.