Contains selective news articles I select

Archive for the ‘Land of Fallen Empires’ Category

US starts troop pullout, seeks end to Afghan leaders’ feud

March 10, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The United States began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Tuesday, taking a step forward on its peace deal with the Taliban while also praising Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s promise to start releasing Taliban prisoners after he had delayed for over a week.

The U.S.-Taliban deal signed on Feb. 29 was touted as Washington’s effort to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan. The next crucial step was to be intra-Afghan talks in which all factions including the Taliban would negotiate a road map for their country’s future.

But Ghani and his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, were each sworn in as president in separate ceremonies on Monday. Abdallah and the elections complaints commission had charged fraud in last year’s vote. The dueling inaugurations have thrown plans for talks with the Taliban into chaos, although Ghani said Tuesday that he’d start putting together a negotiating team.

The disarray on the Afghan government side is indicative of the uphill task facing Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as he tries to get Afghanistan’s bickering leadership to come together. In an early Tuesday tweet, Khalilzad said he hoped the two leaders can “come to an agreement on an inclusive and broadly accepted government. We will continue to assist.”

U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan Sonny Leggett said in a statement Tuesday that the military had begun its “conditions-based reduction of forces to 8,600 over 135 days.” Currently, the U.S. has about 13,000 soldiers in Afghanistan — 8,000 of whom are involved in training and advising Afghanistan’s National Security Forces, while about 5,000 are involved in anti-terror operations and militarily supporting the Afghan army when they are requested.

Ghani had been dragging his feet on releasing some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, something agreed to in the U.S.-Taliban deal. Ghani promised Monday to announce a decree to free the prisoners, after the U.S. and a number of foreign dignitaries appeared to back his claim to the presidency by sending their representatives to his inauguration.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement Monday saying, “We also welcome President Ghani’s announcement that he will issue a decree March 10 on Taliban prisoner release.” Taliban officials said late Monday that a flurry of biometric identifications were being conducted on Taliban prisoners, hinting at a mass release, according to prisoners currently in lockup. The Taliban officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the media.

Pompeo also said he “strongly opposed” the establishment of a parallel government in Kabul, despite the early signs of one emerging. Abdullah had quickly sent his vice-presidents to occupy the official offices on Monday, ahead of Ghani’s plan to send his vice presidents to their offices Tuesday.

Pompeo warned against “any use of force to resolve political differences.” Both candidates — but particularly Abdullah — are backed by warlords with heavily armed militias, underscoring fears they could use force to back their candidate.

The U.S. has said its partial troop withdrawal over an 18-month period provided for in the deal will be linked to the Taliban keeping their promises to help fight terror in Afghanistan, but not to the success of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

On the weekend, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the insurgent group was committed to their agreement with the United States and called on Washington to do its part to make sure their prisoners were freed.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that took place during Ghani’s inauguration ceremony. IS also claimed a brutal attack last week on a gathering of minority Shiites that killed 32 and injured scores more. The U.S. in reaching its deal with the Taliban said they expected the Taliban, which has been battling Afghanistan’s IS affiliate, to further aid in the effort to defeat IS.

Gannon reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

International court approves Afghanistan investigation

March 05, 2020

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court gave the green light Thursday for prosecutors to open an investigation targeting the Taliban, Afghan forces and U.S. military and CIA personnel for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The decision marked the first time the court’s prosecutor has been authorized to investigate U.S. forces. Washington has long rejected the court’s jurisdiction and refuses to cooperate with it. In 2018, then U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the court established in 2002 to prosecute atrocities throughout the world ” unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests.”

The global court set itself on a collision course with Washington with Thursday’s decision to uphold an appeal by prosecutors against a pretrial chamber’s rejection in April last year of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to open a probe in Afghanistan.

Pretrial judges last year acknowledged that widespread crimes have been committed in Afghanistan, but rejected the investigation saying it wouldn’t be in the interests of justice because the expected lack of cooperation meant convictions would ultimately be unlikely.

That decision drew fierce criticism from human rights organizations who said it neglected the desire of victims to see justice in Afghanistan and effectively rewarded states that refused to cooperate with the Hague-based court.

Even though an investigation has now been authorized, it remains to be seen if any suspects eventually indicted by prosecutors will appear in court in The Hague — both Afghanistan and the United States have strongly opposed the investigation and the U.S. government refuses to cooperate with the global court.

Rights groups, however, applauded the decision. “The ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision to green light an investigation of brutal crimes in Afghanistan despite extreme pressure on the court’s independence reaffirms the court’s essential role for victims when all other doors to justice are closed,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

She added that the decision “also sends a much-needed signal to current and would-be perpetrators of atrocities that justice may one day catch up to them.” At a hearing in December, prosecutors argued that pretrial judges at the global court overstepped their powers in April last year when they refused to authorize an investigation. The appeals judges agreed.

“The Appeals Chamber considers it appropriate to amend the appealed decision to the effect that the prosecutor is authorized to commence an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan since May 1, 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan,” Presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski said.

After a preliminary probe in Afghanistan that lasted more than a decade, Bensouda asked judges in November 2017 to authorize a far-reaching investigation. She said there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents a group of victims of U.S. detention program, said the decision “breathed new life into the mantra that ‘no one is above the law’ and restored some hope that justice can be available—and applied — to all.”

Gallagher represented two men still being held in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Sharqawi Al-Hajj and Guled Duran, and the wife of a third man who has died. Bensouda also said in her request to open an investigation that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have killed more than 17,000 Afghan civilians since 2009, including some 7,000 targeted killings, and that Afghan security forces are suspected of torturing prisoners at government detention centers.

Thursday’s ruling comes days after an ambitious peace deal was signed by the U.S. and the Taliban. At a December hearing, the government of Afghanistan said it objected to the investigation and has set up a special unit to investigate war crimes. The ICC is a court of last resort that only takes on cases if domestic jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to prosecute.

There was no official U.S. delegation at December’s appeal hearing, but President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, appeared on behalf of the European branch of the American Center for Law and Justice and told judges that the U.S. position wouldn’t change.

He told appeals judges that “it is not in the interests of justice to waste the court’s resources while ignoring the reality of principled non-cooperation.” In a speech in 2018 on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Bolton said the U.S. would use “any means necessary” to protect Americans and citizens of allied countries, like Israel, “from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.” The White House said that to the extent permitted by U.S. law, the Trump administration would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system and prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC,” Bolton said, adding that “for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

Afghan presidential polls close amid allegations of fraud

September 28, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s presidential polls closed Saturday amid fears that accusations of fraud and misconduct could overwhelm any election results, while insurgent attacks aimed at disrupting voting in the country’s north and south caused dozens of casualties.

An upsurge in violence in the run-up to the elections, following the collapse of U.S.-Taliban talks to end America’s longest war, had already rattled Afghanistan in the past weeks. Yet on Saturday, many voters expressed equal fear and frustration over relentless government corruption and the widespread chaos at polling stations.

A deeply flawed election and contested result could drive the war-weary country into chaos. Many Afghans found incomplete voters’ lists, unworkable biometric identification systems aimed at curbing fraud, and in some cases hostile election workers.

Ruhollah Nawroz, a representative of the Independent Complaints Commission tasked with monitoring the process, said the problems are countrywide. Nawroz said he arrived at a polling center in the Taimani neighborhood of Kabul, the capital, at 6 a.m. and “hour by hour I was facing problems.”

Polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and closed at 5 p.m. after the Independent Election Commission (IEC) extended polling by one hour. Preliminary results won’t be out until Oct. 17, with a final vote count on Nov. 7. If no candidate wins 51 percent of the vote, a second round will be held between the two leading candidates.

Voter Hajji Faqir Bohman, who was speaking on behalf of disgruntled voters at the Taimani polling center, said the polling was so disorganized and flawed that even if his candidate wins “I will never believe that it was a fair election.”

The leading contenders are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his partner in the five-year-old unity government, Abdullah Abdullah, who already alleges power abuse by his opponent. Cameras crowded both men as they cast their vote earlier in Kabul, with Ghani telling voters they too had a responsibility to call out instances of fraud.

A young woman, Shabnam Rezayee, was attacked by an election worker after insisting on seeing the voter’s list when she was told her name was not on the list. Rezayee said the worker hurled abuses at her, directing her insults at her ethnicity. She then punched and scratched her.

When it ended and the attacker left, Rezayee found her name on the list and voted. “I am very strong,” she said. In Kabul, turnout was sporadic and in the morning hours it was rare to see a crowded polling center. Afghans who had patiently lined up before the voting centers were opened, entered in some locations to find that election officials had yet to arrive by opening time.

Imam Baksh, who works as a security guard, said he wasn’t worried about his safety as he stood waiting to mark his ballot, wondering whom he would vote for. “All of them have been so disappointing for our country,” he said.

The government’s push to hold the vote was in itself controversial. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who still wields heavy influence, warned that the vote could be destabilizing for the country at a time of deep political uncertainty and hinder restarting the peace process with the Taliban.

On Saturday, one of the first reports of violence came from southern Afghanistan, the former spiritual heartland of the Taliban. A bomb attack on a local mosque where a polling station was located wounded 15 people, a doctor at the main hospital in the city of Kandahar said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak with the media.

The wounded included a police officer and several election officials, along with voters. Three were in critical condition. In northern Kunduz, where Taliban have previously threatened the city — even briefly taking control of some areas — insurgents fired mortar rounds into the municipality and attacked Afghan security forces on its outskirts, said Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a council member for the province.

Rabani said the attacks are to “frighten people and force them to stay in their homes and not participate in the election.” He said ongoing fighting has wounded as many as 40 people. Tens of thousands of police, intelligence officials and Afghan National Army personnel were deployed throughout the country to protect the 4,942 election centers. Authorities said 431 polling centers will stay closed because it was impossible to guarantee their security since they were either in areas under Taliban control or where insurgents could threaten nearby villages.

At one polling station in Kabul’s well-to-do Shahr-e-Now neighborhood, election workers struggled with biometric machines as well as finding names on voters’ lists. Ahmad Shah, 32, cast his vote, but said the election worker forgot to ink his finger — which is mandatory to prevent multiple voting by the same person.

“What sort of system is this?” he asked, frustrated that he had risked his safety to vote and expressed fear that fraud will mar the election results. “It’s a mess.” Still, 63-year old Ahmad Khan urged people to vote.

“It is the only way to show the Taliban we are not afraid of them,” he said, though he too worried at the apparent glitches in the process. In Kabul traffic was light, with police and the army scattered throughout the city, stopping cars and looking for anything out of the ordinary. Larger vehicles were not being allowed into the capital on Saturday, which is normally a working day but for the elections was declared a holiday.

Campaigning for Saturday’s elections was subdued and went into high gear barely two weeks ahead of the polls as most of the 18 presidential candidates expected a deal between the United States and the Taliban to delay the vote. But on Sept. 7, President Donald Trump declared a deal that seemed imminent dead after violent attacks in Kabul killed 12 people, including two U.S.-led coalition soldiers, one of whom was American.

While many of the presidential candidates withdrew from the election, none formally did so, leaving all 18 candidates on the ballot. Elections in Afghanistan are notoriously flawed and in the last presidential polls in 2014, allegations of widespread corruption were so massive that the United States intervened to prevent violence. No winner was declared and the U.S. cobbled together the unity government in which Ghani and Abdullah shared equal power — Ghani as president and Abdullah as chief executive, a newly created position.

Constant bickering and infighting within the government frustrated attempts to bring in substantive legislation as security, which has been tenuous, continued to deteriorate, frustrating Afghans and causing many to flee as refugees.

Neighboring Pakistan, routinely accused of aiding insurgents, said it was re-opening its borders with Afghanistan after receiving a request from the Afghan defense minister to allow Afghans to return home to vote. Pakistan had announced the border would be closed Saturday and Sunday.

Associated Press writer Mukhtar Amiri in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

Afghans vote for president amid Taliban threats, fraud fears

September 28, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans headed to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president amid high security and Taliban threats to disrupt the elections, with the rebels warning citizens to stay home or risk being hurt.

Still at some polling stations in the capital voters lined up even before the centers opened, while in others election workers had yet to arrive by poll opening time. Imam Baksh, who works as a security guard, said he wasn’t worried about his safety as he stood waiting to mark his ballot, wondering who he would vote for.

“All of them have been so disappointing for our country,” he said. The leading contenders are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his partner in the 5-year-old unity government, Abdullah Abdullah, who already alleges power abuse by his opponent. Cameras crowded both men as they cast their vote, with Ghani telling voters they too had a responsibility to call out instances of fraud.

Fear and frustration at the relentless corruption that has characterized successive governments ranks high among the concerns of Afghanistan’s 9.6 million eligible voters. Even in the early hours of voting, complaints had begun to be raised such as polling stations in the posh Wazir Akbar region opening late and biometric machines, aimed at curbing fraud, not working.

In the northern Taimani neighborhood of mostly ethnic Hazaras, two-thirds of the voting registration papers had yet to arrive and angry voters were told their names were not on the list. Abdul Ghafoor, who spoke on behalf of dozens of men waiting to cast their ballot, said that of about 3,000 registered voters only 400 appeared on the list that had arrived at the center.

Ghafoor said he was told to return at 2 p.m. and that he would be allowed to vote even if his name was not on the list and without using the biometric machine. “But how can they do this? My vote won’t count if I am not on a list,” he said.

In Khoja Ali Mohfaq Herawi mosque in Kabul’s well-to-do Shahr-e-Now neighborhood, election workers struggled with biometric machines as well as finding names on voters’ lists. Ahmad Shah, 32, cast his vote, but said the election worker forgot to ink his finger — which is mandatory to prevent multiple voting by the same person.

“What sort of system is this?” he asked, frustrated that he had risked his safety to vote and expressed fear that fraud will mar the election results. “It’s a mess.” Still, 63-year old Ahmad Khan urged people to vote.

“It is the only way to show the Taliban we are not afraid of them,” he said, though he too worried at the apparent glitches in the process. Tens of thousands of police, intelligence officials and Afghan National Army personnel have been deployed throughout the country to protect the 4,942 election centers. Authorities said 431 polling centers will stay closed because it was impossible to guarantee their security since they were either in areas under Taliban control or where insurgents could threaten nearby villages.

In Kabul traffic was light, with police and the army scattered throughout the city, stopping cars and looking for anything out of the ordinary. The Taliban said they would take particular aim at Afghanistan’s cities.

Outfitted in bullet-proof vests, their rifles by their side, soldiers slowed traffic to a crawl as they searched vehicles. Larger vehicles were not being allowed into the capital on Saturday, which is a usual working day but for the elections was declared a holiday.

Neighbor Pakistan, routinely accused of aiding insurgents, announced it was closing its borders with Afghanistan Saturday and Sunday to further protect security in the war-weary country. Campaigning for Saturday’s elections was subdued and went into high gear barely two weeks ahead of the polls as most of the 18 presidential candidates expected a deal between the United States and the Taliban to delay the vote. But on Sept. 7, President Donald Trump declared a deal that seemed imminent dead after violent attacks in Kabul killed 12 people, including two U.S.-led coalition soldiers, one of whom was American.

While many of the presidential candidates withdrew from the election, none formally did so, leaving all 18 candidates on the ballot. Elections in Afghanistan are notoriously flawed and in the last presidential polls in 2014, allegations of widespread corruption were so massive that the United States intervened to prevent violence. No winner was declared and the U.S. cobbled together the unity government in which Ghani and Abdullah shared equal power — Ghani as president and Abdullah as chief executive, a newly created position.

Constant bickering and infighting within the government frustrated attempts to bring in substantive legislation as security, which has been tenuous, continued to deteriorate, frustrating Afghans and causing many to flee as refugees.

Associated Press writer Mukhtar Amiri contributed to this report.

Top diplomats at UN meeting offer support for Afghanistan

November 28, 2018

GENEVA (AP) — The Afghan president appealed for support for his reform efforts in a speech to top diplomats and other senior officials gathered at a U.N.-backed conference focusing on development, peace and security in the war-battered country.

Ashraf Ghani also told the conference that he wanted to “specifically recognize the commitment in blood and treasure that the United States has shown since 2001” in Afghanistan. Ghani called the U.S. its “key ally” and praised the Trump administration’s South Asia policy as a “game changer” for Afghanistan.

Foreign ministers from Russia, Germany, Iran and other countries, as well as EU’s foreign policy chief were attending the two-day gathering in Geneva, which opened Tuesday. The meeting aims to take stock of progress of the Afghan government in using billions of dollars in foreign aid for education, health care, humanitarian support and needs since 2016.

Ghani, who faces an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency in recent months — the Taliban now hold sway in nearly half of the country — presented Wednesday his government’s efforts in areas such as security, justice, women’s rights and anti-corruption.

“We have a plan for reform, and we need your support to help implement it,” he told the conference. “Does this mean that we have eliminated corruption? Absolutely not. We want it to happen faster, but meaningful change cannot be rushed.”

“We face multiple challenges on many fronts,” he concluded. Afghanistan is among the most corrupt countries in the world and last year Transparency International ranked it 177th out of 180 countries ranked. The corruption monitoring agency said the Afghan government’s anti-corruption efforts had been insufficient. The country’s overall score was a dismal 15 out of 100.

The United States has spent nearly $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, nearly $800 billion of which was spent on America’s own troops there and also Afghanistan’s National Security Forces. The U.S. has committed roughly $4 billion annually for the next several years toward financing those forces.

Russia has been accused by the U.S. of aiding the Taliban — a militant group that once ruled Afghanistan and that is seen by Moscow as a bulwark against an emerging Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to recruit Afghanistan’s ethnic Uzbeks, posing a threat to Central Asian States and creating a source of instability for Russia.

Also, Iran has been charged with sending Afghan Shiites, most of who live as refugees in Iran, to fight in Syria in an Afghan-only brigade known as the Fatimayoun Brigade. Pakistan is routinely accused by both the U.S. and Afghanistan of harboring the Taliban.

On Tuesday, at the start of the conference, the European Union announced 474 million euros ($535 million) in financial aid for Afghanistan. The European Commission said the new funding would go toward reforms in the public sector, health, justice and migration and displacement issues, with 311 million euros aimed for supporting Afghanistan’s “reform agenda.”

Despite Afghan deaths, slow peace efforts, NATO vows to stay

December 05, 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — Fifteen years after NATO took the lead on international security efforts in Afghanistan, the military alliance’s foreign ministers on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to stay the course despite mounting Afghan casualties and the slow pace of peace efforts.

At talks in Brussels, the ministers underlined their “steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability,” reaffirming that NATO’s mission in the insurgency-wracked country will last as long as conditions demand it.

NATO took the lead of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003. It wound down combat operations in 2014 and began training and advising Afghan security forces so they could handle the country’s security needs. The work is carried out in a combat environment and remains dangerous.

U.S. forces, which entered Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, now number around 15,000 and provide close support to Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations.

The renewed NATO commitment came in a week when the Marine officer nominated to command U.S. forces in the Middle East warned that the fight there is at a stalemate and the number of Afghan troop deaths in the war is not sustainable. Four U.S. soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb, the deadliest attack against U.S. forces this year.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the increase in violence could be a sign that things are about to change. “Sometimes there is an uptick, an increase in violence because different parties try to gain the best possible position at the negotiating table. So it may actually become worse before it becomes better,” he told reporters.

NATO’s top civilian representative in the country, Cornelius Zimmermann, agreed that warlords and factions could be fighting for turf. “We are hopefully at a pre-negotiation stage, and there are some elements trying to improve their bargaining position by trying to make military progress,” he said.

NATO and European leaders for years have expressed optimism about Afghanistan’s future while pouring billions of dollars into the security forces, development support and political and other assistance, yet the military alliance appears little closer to leaving the country than when it arrived.

Zimmermann based his optimism on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unprecedented offer of unconditional peace talks with the Taliban, a recent and unprecedented three-day cease-fire agreed with the insurgents as a sign of goodwill and the changing attitudes of Afghan elders weary of years of conflict.

“This is clearly a qualitative step ahead” of what’s happened in the past, Zimmermann said. Still, in Washington this week Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie warned the Senate Armed Services Committee against an abrupt withdrawal of American forces or change in strategy.

“If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country,” McKenzie said. He said the U.S. and its allies need to keep helping the Afghans recruit and train forces to fight the Taliban’s estimated 60,000 troops.

On Oct. 30, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said more than 1,000 Afghan personnel were killed or wounded during August and September alone. Ghani said in November that over 28,000 of his country’s forces had been killed in the last four years.

The U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, insisted that the Afghans are doing more, running regional training centers and teaching their own special forces. “That’s already more heavily balanced in terms of the Afghans doing their own training. What we try to do is help out where it’s required,” Miller told reporters in Brussels.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani conceded that the security forces are sustaining many casualties, but he said they are increasingly successful in repelling enemy attack. “In any war there are casualties on both sides and of course this is not an exception,” Rabbani said on the sidelines of the NATO meeting. “But as far as the determination and resolve of the Afghan security forces are concerned, I reassure you that they are very resilient.”

Afghan vote enters 2nd day after attacks, technical issues

October 21, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections entered a second day on Sunday following violence and chaos that caused delays and interruptions on the first day of polling. Independent Elections Commission Chairman Abdul Badi Sayat said more than 3 million people out of 8.8 million registered voters cast their ballots on Saturday. The biggest turnout was in Kabul and the lowest in the southern Uruzgan province.

Polling on Sunday continues in 401 voting centers, including 45 in Kabul. Polls close at 4 p.m. (1130 GMT). The results of the polling will not be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until December.

The first parliamentary elections since 2010 are being held against a backdrop of near-daily attacks by the Taliban, who have seized nearly half the country and have repeatedly refused offers to negotiate with the Kabul government. The U.S.-backed government is rife with corruption, and many Afghans have said they do not expect the elections to be fair.

Officials at polling stations struggled with voter registration and a new biometric system that was aimed at stemming fraud but instead created enormous confusion because many of those trained on the system did not show up for work. The biometric machines arrived just a month before polls and there was no time to do field testing.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan praised those who had made an effort to vote despite the technical issues, many of whom waited in long lines for hours as polling stations remained open late. “Those eligible voters who were not able to cast their vote, due to technical issues, deserve the right to vote,” it said in a statement.

The Taliban had vowed to attack the election, and on the first day of polling at least 36 people were killed in nearly 200 attacks, including 27 civilians, according to Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammed Ibrahimi. He said security forces killed 31 insurgents in gun battles.

Tag Cloud