Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Situation in Afghanistan looks dire for this month's election
A formerly secret map showing nearly half of Afghanistan under insurgent control or at high risk of attack by the Taliban or other groups earlier this year has raised concerns about security for the presidential election scheduled Aug. 20. The map, produced in April, shows 133 of the country's 356 districts as high-risk with at least 13 under insurgent control, the Reuters international news service reported Wednesday. At-risk areas include regions near Kabul, the capital, according to the map, which bears markings from the country's Interior Ministry and the UN Department of Safety and Security. The Taliban have promised to disrupt the elections as part of recent violence that has escalated to the worst level since 2001, and have asked the population to boycott the polls, Reuters said. Insurgents fired nine missiles into Kabul on Tuesday, the first such attack in years. The UN confirmed the map's authenticity to Reuters but refused further comment. "The map is an Afghan government map," U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique said in Kabul. "It's certainly not for us to speak publicly on it or comment on it or define it." But it bodes poorly for the new aggressive strategy put in place by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year. If violence in the south keeps ordinary Afghanis from the polls, it could threaten the reelection of Hamid Karzai, who has led the pro-Western government in Kabul since 2001 and won a national election in 2004. Karzai's main power base is the Pashtun region in the south, Reuters said. Aghanistan's Ministry of Defense said, however, that it would be able to protect the balloting. "The Afghan National Security Forces and the International Security Assistance Force are ready to secure the upcoming elections and we expect that no major security incident will take place during the elections," said Gen. Zaher Azimy, a ministry spokesman. The government and NATO insist that the Taliban only have strength in the south and east, Reuters said.