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Afghan parliamentary election, 2005

Afghanistan held parliamentary and provincial council elections on 18 September 2005. The first results were declared on 9 October, with final results being delayed by accusations of fraud, and were finally announced on 12 November. Former warlords and their followers gained the majority of seats in both the lower house and the provincial council (which elects the members of the upper house). Women won 28% of the seats in the lower house, six more than the 25% guaranteed in the 2004 constitution. Turnout was estimated at about 50%, substantially lower than at the presidential election in October 2004. This is blamed on the lack of identifiable party lists as a result of Afghanistan's new electoral law, which left voters in many cases unclear on who they were voting for. Voting irregularities During the 2009 Afghan elections, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann recalled that the "indelible" ink used in the 2005 election to prevent people from voting more than once had turned out to be washable after all.[1] The same problem had also occurred in the 2004 presidential elections, and was repeated again in the 2009 elections. Electoral system Approximately twelve million voters were eligible to vote for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, and 34 provincial councils. The 2,707 parliamentary candidates (328 female, 2,379 male) are all independent; parties are not recognized by law and lists do not exist. This has been the subject of criticism: relatively unknown people could win a seat as easily as very popular candidates. It has also made it considerably difficult for the population to decide who to vote for, even though some candidates may be a member of or (financially) backed by a political party. Another source of criticism is the use of the single, non-transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, particularly in the absence of party lists. In other words, each province elects a number of members, but each voter can vote for only one candidate. This runs the risk of fragmenting the vote to the point where candidates can be elected virtually by chance. Early returns confirmed this fear. For example, in Farah Province, one of the first provinces to declare its results, 46 candidates competed for five seats. No candidate polled more than 11%, and four of the five elected candidates polled less than 8%. In Kabul, which had 33 seats available, most of the candidates elected received well under 1% while over 30% of the votes cast went to three candidates, with the leading candidate receiving over 25 times the vote of the candidate elected with the lowest vote share, and several elected candidates receiving less than 2000 votes.[3] This creates the risk of a legislature in which the majority of members have little or no legitimacy. An Afghan man casting his ballot at a polling station at Lashkar Gah, which is the capital of Helmand province. Because a sizable percentage of the Afghan population is unable to read and write, all candidates had an icon as well. Those icons were included on the lists. These included, but were not limited to, pictures of footballs, cars or different sorts of flowers. Because there were not enough different icons, some candidates had multiple icons as their symbol: two or three footballs behind each other, like Gulallay

Habib (page 16 of the Kabul parliament candidate list). For example, the candidate list for the Nuristan section of the parliament looked like this. Candidates were not able to choose the icons themselves: instead, the electoral committee chose them. Forty-five candidates were refused because of connections with armed groups or for not giving up their government jobs. People vote for a candidate in their own province. Each province has a number of representatives in parliament, depending on the population. The largest province by population, Kabul, has 33 seats (390 candidates, 50 female, 340 male), whereas the small ones like Nuristan, Nimruz and Panjshir, have only two. The total number of candidates for the provincial councils was 3,025. Each province, except Oruzgan, had women running for seats in the provincial council. Female candidates ran for parliament in all districts. District council elections, originally also scheduled for the same date, were not held in 2005 (district numbers, boundaries and population figures had to be determined first). These were the first parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in 33 years: after communist rule, civil war and Taliban rule, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime and after the presidential elections in 2004, parliamentary elections were organized in 2005. Originally, according to the 2001 Bonn agreement, the elections were to be held in June 2004. However, due to the security situation, Hamid Karzai (then interim President, now President of Afghanistan) moved the elections more than a year to the later date. Security was still an issue, as Taliban and others threatened to disrupt the elections violently. Several candidates were killed before polling. A quarter of the seats - 68 seats - in the parliament are reserved for women, as well as 10 seats for the Kuchi community. Those are minimum numbers: there is no maximum for the number of seats for those groups. The 102 members of the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house, are indirectly elected by the provincial councils.

Coalition combat operations in Afghanistan in 2006

In January 2006, NATO's focus in southern Afghanistan was to form Provincial Reconstruction Teams with the British leading in Helmand Province and the Netherlands and Canada would lead similar deployments in Orzgn Province and Kandahar Province respectively. The Americans with 2,200 troops stayed in control of Zabul Province. Local Taliban figures voiced opposition to the incoming force and pledged to resist it. NATO expands in southern Afghanistan From January 2006, a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) force started to replace U.S troops in southern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force in Southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,500 Canadian, 1,963 from the Netherlands, 280 from Denmark, 240 from Australia, and 150 from Estonia. Air support was provided by US, British, Dutch, Norwegian and French combat aircraft and helicopters. Southern Afghanistan has faced in 2006 the deadliest spate in violence in the country since the ousting of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in 2001, as the newly deployed NATO troops have battled resurgent militants. Operation Mountain Thrust was launched on May 17, 2006 with the purposes of rooting out Taliban forces. Canadians were one of the leading combatants and the first fighting when the Battle of Panjwaii took place. Complex mud-walled compounds made the rural Panjwaii district take on an almost urban style of fighting in some places. Daily firefights, artillery bombardments, and allied airstrikes turned the tides of the battle in favour of the Canadians. On July 3, 2006 it was reported that British Army leaders were warning Prime Minister Tony Blair that victory was not yet certain in Afghanistan, and were calling for more reinforcements. More than 1,100 Taliban fighters were killed and almost 400 captured in the month and a half long operation. In July 2006, command of the international forces in southern Afghanistan was passed to NATO forces under the command of British General David J. Richards. Regional command in the south was led by Canadian General David Fraser. In November, 2006 Dutch Major-General Ton van Loon took over NATO Regional Command South in Afghanistan for a six months period from the Canadians. Canadian Forces, which came under NATO command at the end of July, launched Operation Medusa in an attempt to clear the areas of Taliban fighters once and for all. The fighting of Operation Medusa led the way to the second, and most fierce Battle of Panjwaii in which daily gun-battles, ambushes, and mortar/rocket attacks were targeting the Canadian troops. The Taliban had massed with an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 fighters. The Taliban were reluctant to give up the area, and after being surrounded by the Canadian Forces, they dug in and fought a more conventional style battle. After weeks of fighting, the Taliban had been cleared from the Panjwaii area and Canadian reconstruction efforts in the area began. NATO reported it had killed more than 500 suspected Taliban fighters. During Operation Medusa, the Canadians were supported by US, British, Dutch and Danish forces. The PzH 2000 howitzer made its combat debut with the Dutch Army as artillery fire support.

A major NATO offensive called Operation Mountain Fury was launched in September 2006 to clear Taliban rebels from the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. The fighting was intense with a number of coalition casualties and heavy Taliban loses. Along with the Canadians and Dutch, the British have been a major contributor to the expanded NATO mission in southern Afghanistan. Operation Veritas was the codename used for British military operations against the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 2001 , British forces playing a supporting role to the Americans from the start of operations. Since 2006, British forces expanded as part of Operation Herrick. In 2006, around 5,000 British Armed Forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan, particularly the province of Helmand. Sangin District in particular has been the location of heavy fighting involving British forces. NATO forces began reconstruction efforts after major combat operations of Operation Medusa had ceased. But the British and Canadians still encountered fierce fighting. The Canadian involvement in operation Mountain Fury was stepped up when they mounted an operation of their own called Operation Falcon's Summit on December 15, 2006. During Falcon Summit, the Canadians gained control of several key villages and towns that were former Taliban havens, such as Howz-E Madad. During the first week of the operation, massive Canadian artillery and tank barrages were carried out in a successful attempt to clear pockets of Taliban resistance. An analysis of the coalition casualty figures from May 1 to August 12, 2006 by Sheila Bird, vice-president of the UK's Royal Statistical Society, revealed that during the period, an average of five coalition soldiers were killed every week by the Taliban, twice the death rate suffered during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The fighting for NATO forces was intense throughout the second half of 2006. NATO has been successful in achieving tactical victories over the Taliban and denied areas to them, but the Taliban have not been completely defeated and NATO had had to continue operations into 2007.

PakistanUnited States skirmishes 2008

The United States and Pakistan have been engaged in several cross-border military confrontations and skirmishes along the AfghanistanPakistan border. These incidents have involved the U.S. military and NATO-led ISAF forces, who have been present in Afghanistan fighting the War on Terror since 2001, and the Pakistani Armed Forces. Most of the exchanges have been indirect friendly fires, usually started when American-led security forces have intruded into Pakistani territory or airspace Since the beginning of the war on terror in 2001 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda movement, the U.S. has launched several air strikes across into northwest Pakistan to target militants connected with the Afghanistan war who it alleges have fled the country and sought temporary shelter in Pakistan's bordering tribal areas. These strikes have been protested by Pakistan, as a violation of national sovereignty, and have resulted in tense diplomatic relations between the two countries. They have also caused an uproar among Pakistan's civilian population and politicians and have fueled anti-American sentiments. Since June 2004, the United States military has launched dozens of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against presumed Taliban targets, killing hundreds of militants and civilians. These drone strikes have been subject to heavy criticism from Pakistan, which maintains that they are not the best way to fight terror and that they will have the inevitable result of uniting the tribesmen along the border with Taliban and against the U.S. Pakistan has previously coordinated with the U.S. on missile strikes but the U.S. has since conducted strikes without informing Pakistani authorities. Pakistani troops were then ordered to counter act. Several specific actions developed, although no serious diplomatic spats on either side have been reported as of yet. The actions are listed below. Standoff of September 15, 2008 Pakistani troops fired warning shots into the air to deter U.S. troops from entering Pakistan. It occurred on the Afghan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border close to Angoor Ada, some 30 kilometers from Wana, the main town in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Seven US helicopter gunships and two troop-carrying Chinook helicopters landed on the Afghan side of the border, in the Afghan province of Paktika, where US troops then tried to cross the border into Pakistan. As they did so, Pakistani paramilitary soldiers at a checkpoint began firing warning shots into the air and the US troops decided not to continue forward. The firing reportedly lasted for several hours. Local tribesmen also evacuated their homes and took up defensive positions in the mountains after placing women and children out of harm's way. The standoff occurred less than two weeks after the 3 September 2008 Angoor Ada raid, during which U.S. Special Forces conducted a raid inside Pakistani territory. That incident caused much consternation and protests in Pakistan, with claims of Pakistan's sovereignty being violated. Lowara Mandi incident On 21 September 2008 at 10 pm local time, in the Ghulam Khan district of North Waziristan Pakistani soldiers fired on two American helicopter gunships that entered Pakistani airspace with 12.7 mm heavy machine guns. The helicopters stopped and hovered for a while, before returning over the border to

Afghanistan without retaliation. It is unknown if any of the helicopters sustained any damage in this first incident. Thirty minutes later, two gunships attempted to cross the border again at the same place. Pakistani regular and Frontier Corps troops fired warning shots into the air and away from the helicopters, causing the helicopters to turn back without attacking any targets in Pakistan. Tanai incident On 25 September 2008 Pakistani troops fired on two American OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters. U.S. ground troops who the helicopters were supporting returned fire. No one was injured on either side and the helicopters were undamaged. American and NATO officials asserted that the helicopters were flying within Afghan territory to protect an armed patrol. Pakistani officials declared that the helicopters were inside Pakistani territory and were fired upon by "flares" as a warning. Kurram incident On 30 September 2010. U.S. helicopters entered Pakistani airspace after ground troops determined that a mortar attack by militants in Pakistan was imminent, according to the Coalition. Pakistani Frontier Corps troops manning the Mandata Kadaho border post fired warning shots, and the helicopters responded by firing two missiles that destroyed the post. Three soldiers were killed and another three wounded. Pakistan responded by closing a key NATO supply route for eleven days. Datta Khel incident On May 17, 2011, a skirmish between a U.S. helicopter and Pakistani forces took place in the Datta Khel area. According to NATO, an American base along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border took direct and indirect fire from Pakistan. Two U.S. helicopters flew into the area. According to the Pakistani military, the helicopters had breached its airspace. Pakistani forces fired at a helicopter twice, and the helicopter returned fire, injuring two soldiers. Pakistan reportedly deployed two attack helicopters, which arrived after the U.S. helicopters had left.

Operation Strike of the Sword 2009

Operation Strike of the Sword or Operation Khanjar was a US-led offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. About 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as well as 650 Afghan troops were involved, supported by NATO planes. The operation began when units moved into the Helmand River valley in the early hours of July 2, 2009. This operation was the largest Marine offensive since the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. The operation was also the biggest offensive airlift by the Marines since the Vietnam War. The Marines pushed into primarily three significant towns along a 75-mile stretch of the Helmand River valley south of Lashkar Gah. At least two Marine infantry battalions and one Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) battalion spearheaded the operation. In the north, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines (2/8) pushed into Garmsir district. In central Helmand, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5) pushed into Nawa-I-Barakzayi to the south of Lashkar Gah, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd LAR) entered Khanashin in the Khan Neshin district. U.S. restraint Although the operation was meant to eliminate the Taliban threat, the operation's principal focus was to win the locals' confidence and protect them from Taliban threat. To affirm this, Marine units throughout exercised military restraint when encountering enemy insurgents. Although the troops encountered roadside bombs and small-arms attacks, which resulted in the death of one Marine and several others wounded, commanders opted to mute their return fire. In the first 24 hours of the operation, the Marines did not fire artillery or call for fighter planes to drop bombs. Civilian casualties was an issue Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. Forces Afghanistan and ISAF commander, underscored prior to the operation, as it was one sure way of losing the locals' hearts and minds regardless of how many human shields the Taliban would go through on a single day. McChrystal further elaborated the need for constant surveillance to foil Taliban attempts to murder civilians while claiming US collateral damage. Though troops in similar circumstances might have called in airstrikes, Marine commanders practiced what they called "tactical patience" in a conscious effort to further minimize coalition civilian casualties in the face of strict Rules of Engagement. On the first day, July 2, Marines from 1/5 made contact with a group of about 20 militants holed up in a mud-brick compound in Nawa-l-Barakzayi. The Marines refrained from calling in a fixed-wing airstrike and instead used the 20mm guns from their AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter gunships to avoid the risk of civilian casualties. The militants managed to escape. Though fired upon, Marines refrained from destroying many compounds because they could not confirm if civilians were inside. Marine officers distributed handbills explaining their presence and talked to residents with the help of interpreters. Some Marine companies, out of respect as well as to safeguard the locals from Taliban reprisals, bedded down for the night in empty homes "with the permission of the hearts and minds of the people", instead of constructing bases with razor wire and sand-filled barriers. Garmsir district Marines from 2nd Battalion 8th Marines (2/8) met little or no resistance initially.[5] On July 3, Taliban fighters in a walled compound in Garmsir engaged Marines for eight hours until a AV-8B Harrier II attack jet from VMA-214 destroyed the compound with a 500 pound bomb, killing all of the estimated 30-40

Taliban inside. No Marines were reported wounded in the action, although it delayed U.S. plans to meet with village elders and some locals. Marines from 2/8 conducted joint patrols with the Afghan National Army in and around the town of Sorkh-Duz. By July 5, elements of 2/8 were engaged in heavy fighting at Toshtay, 16 miles south of Garmsir Effectiveness On July 7, 2009, Afghan defense officials said that Taliban fighters and their commanders have escaped the big U.S. offensive in Helmand province and simply moved into areas to the west and north, prompting fears that the U.S. effort has just moved the Taliban problem elsewhere. Gen. Zahir Azami, speaking for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said that since the U.S. Marines began their offensive, Taliban fighters have moved to northern Helmand province near Baghran, an area controlled by German forces, and to the eastern edge of Farah province, largely under Italy's control. Brig. Gen. Mahaiddin Ghori, the Afghan army commander in Helmand, estimated that Helmand province had roughly 500 foreign Taliban fighters and another 1,000 Afghan Taliban. Gen. Zahir Azami had no estimates of how many had moved north and west. U.S. and NATO officials acknowledged that the Taliban moved from Helmand ahead of the Marines, and U.S. officials privately said they had seen less fighting during the one-week offensive than they had anticipated.[30] General Ghori lamented the tightening of the RoE allowing up to two companies of Taliban to escape the clutches of the allied forces. The shift of the Taliban into the areas to the west and north has prompted complaints from German and Italian commanders, whose troops shelter there, and have prompted questions about whether the United States has enough troops to pursue the insurgents while at the same time carrying out Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's plan to "clear, hold and build" areas taken from Taliban control and simultaneously support the northern and western areas held by German and Italian forces. Casualties During the operation 14 U.S. Marines were killed. Two Afghan soldiers and one Afghan interpreter working with the Marines were also killed. The U.S. does not officially count the enemy dead so it is almost impossible to get an accurate number of the Taliban who died in the operation. However, based on a few reports released, it can be concluded between July 2 and 4 also August 12 and 15 at least 49-62 Taliban were killed. This also however, is most likely a minimum since there is no official enemy dead count throughout the whole operation and the Taliban have a tendency to bury their dead quickly according to their religion, which makes it hard to get an accurate number of killed.