Taliban vow to attack Afghanistan elections

The US and the Taliban are currently meeting in Doha for an eighth round of talks aimed at striking a peace deal. (AP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Taliban vow to attack Afghanistan elections

  • The latest Taliban warning may hinder the already slow pace of campaigning

KABUL: The Taliban on Tuesday said it will target Afghanistan’s crucial presidential election due on Sept. 28, warning Afghans to “stay away from gatherings and rallies or risk becoming targets.”

The threat of extremist violence follows US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s claims of major progress in talks with the militants.

Security has been regarded as the main obstacle to the poll, which has been delayed twice because of divisions in the government and mismanagement.

The latest Taliban warning may hinder the already slow pace of campaigning, though lack of enthusiasm for the poll has been linked mainly to a possible further postponement because of talks between the Taliban and the US government. 

Militants have targeted elections in the country since their ouster in late 2001. In its latest statement, the Taliban said the poll will have no legitimacy while the country is “under occupation” of US-led troops.

The Taliban threatened to “exert utmost efforts” to halt the election.

“To prevent losses, God forbid, from being incurred by our fellow compatriots, they must stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets,” it warned.

“This election process is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the common people because all understand that ultimate decision-making power lies with those (foreigners) funding and managing this process, and not with the public,” the statement said.

“Negotiations are underway to bring an end to the occupation and arrangements for intra-Afghan understanding are being put into place.”

The Taliban described the Sept. 28 elections as an attempt to “satisfy the ego of a limited number of sham politicians, wasting time, money and resources.”

Fazel Fazly, an adviser for President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted on Tuesday: “Like previous elections, we are confident millions of Afghans will line up at the polling stations on Sept. 28 despite threats issued by Taliban.”

On Monday, a rally for one of the 18 candidates was canceled on the outskirts of Kabul after government warnings of a possible attack.

After the launch of the election campaign last week, the Kabul office of Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh, was attacked, leaving 20 people, including some of Saleh’s bodyguards, dead.

Saleh, a former spy chief and leading critic of the Taliban, blamed the militants for the attack.

The presidential palace has yet to comment on the latest Taliban warning, but a spokesman for the interior ministry said the government will use all its “resources for the protection of the candidates and the election process.”

Amnesty International criticized the militants, saying: “The Taliban’s threats to attack campaign rallies demonstrates a chilling disregard for human life. The targeting of civilians is a war crime.”

Zakia Wardak, a politician and women’s rights activist, said that the warning showed that the “Taliban have not changed.”

“Just because the US engages with them does not mean they will alter their actions,” she said.

While some Afghan and US officials have spoken out against the hasty departure of US troops, Taliban delegates in talks in Qatar have insisted on a timetable for the withdrawal of troops before the group takes part in direct talks with Ghani’s government.

Ahead of his visit to India to build a regional consensus on Afghan peace, Khalilzad spoke about progress in talks with the Taliban.

“I’ve spent the past few days in Doha focused on the remaining issues in completing a potential deal with the Taliban that would allow for a conditions-based troop withdrawal. We have made excellent progress,” he said in a tweet.

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 12 min 42 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.