September 23, 2010 – Afghani Parliamentary elections were held on September 18, 2010 and the turnout figures indicate that many Afghanis went to the polls despite the threats of intimidation and violence. Between 80-90% of polling stations for the Parliamentary elections were open to receive voters and approximately 70% of ballots have been retrieved thus far and tabulated. Despite all the security threats and anxiety, hundreds of Afghans lined up in every polling station all over the country to cast their ballots.
-The Independent Election Commision (IEC) has reported that voter turnout in the election was consistent at about 40% – approximately 3.5 million votes cast out of 9 million eligible voters. Here are the figures for the ballots cast over the various Afghani elections since the US invasion:
2004: 7.4 million votes (first presidential election)
2005: 6.4 million votes (first parliamentary and provincial council election)
2009: 4.8 million votes (presidential, post audit) / 6.0 million votes (provincial council)
2010: 3.5 million votes (parliamentary election)
The trend is quite clear that the longer the US and foreign occupiers have remained imposing in Afghanistan, the worse the state of democracy has become and the less representative of the Afghani people the elections have become.
-The Pentagon has confirmed all nine troops killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan this week were Americans. The crash pushed NATO casualties to at least 529 this year, making it the deadliest year for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. As of September 23, 2010 at least 1200 US military have died in Afghanistan as a result of the US invasion in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. According to the US Defense department 8040 US service members have also been wounded over the same time period.
-The US military is planning to maintain a prison at its massive Bagram Air Base even after the Afghan government is handed formal control next year. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the head of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Vice Admiral Robert Harward, said the US will continue to jail people deemed “security threats” as well as prisoners brought into Afghanistan on rendition flights. In response, Clara Gutteridge of the legal charity Reprieve said, “This proposal for a US ‘prison within a prison’…reveals that the operative principle at the heart of Obama’s overseas detention policy is to maintain a clear continuity with the worst practices of the Bush-era.”
-Bob Woodward, the journalist responsible for breaking the Watergate Scandal, will come out with a new book on Monday entitled “Obama`s Wars”. Woodward reports that Afghan paramilitary pursuit teams have been trained and bankrolled by the CIA since the months following the 2002 invasion of the country by US and NATO forces.
Excerpts from the book have already been published in The Washington Post and the New York Times, and they have already sparked some interesting and lively debates and conversations in the media.
Canada’s Role in Afghanistan
-Afghanistan`s security situation is “deteriorating” with a rise in insurgent violence and intimidation of civilians, according to a new report on the occupation by the Harper government.
The latest quarterly report by the government, which covers the period from April 1 to June 30, also reports on the assassination of several Afghani officials and an “early escalation of the fighting season”.
Canada is scheduled, for the fourth time, to withdraw from Afghanistan next year, and Ottawa says that it will withdraw all 2800 Canadian soldiers from the Afghani city of Khandahar. However, the US will ask Canada to keep as many as 600 soldiers in Afghanistan after Canada`s military mission ends in December 2011, according to a report in the Globe and Mail. In March of 2008, the Conservatives agreed to provide quarterly reports to Parliament under a motion introduced by the Liberals and approved by the opposition parties.
-The CBC reported on Tuesday that Canada`s defense department secretly began a “major inquiry” into actions and violations by a clandestine Canadian commando unit in 2008. Allegations were raised by one of the unit`s members which seriously implicated colleagues within the unit as well as the entire task force.
The initial probe looked into the mistreatment of detainees by Canadian forces between 2005 and 2008, however no charges were filed. CBC has now reported that there is a follow-up, broader investigation on-going – but the defense department has declined to comment.
In May, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan was relieved of his post after allegations of an inappropriate personal relationship.
The Weekly Update into the Afghanistan Situation and Canada’s Role in Afghanistan are published every Thursday at www.jeeroburkhan.wordpress.com