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KABUL, Afghanistan – Millions of Afghans defied threats Thursday to cast ballots in the country’s second national elections since Taliban rule, but turnout appeared weaker this time because of continuing violence, fear and disenchantment. In much of the Taliban’s southern strongholds, many people did not dare to vote, bolstering the hopes of President Hamid Karzai’s chief rival. At least 26 people were killed in election-related violence, fewer than had been feared.
KABUL – Afghans voted under the shadow of Taliban threats of violence today to choose their next president for a nation plagued by armed insurgency, drugs, corruption and a feeble government nearly eight years after the U.S.-led invasion. Turnout, particularly in the violent south, will be key to the vote’s success – the country’s second direct presidential election. Taliban militants have pledged to disrupt the vote and circulated threats that those who cast ballots will be punished.
KABUL, Afghanistan – Insurgents struck the Afghan capital two days before national elections, firing rockets or mortars at the presidential palace and unleashing a suicide car bomber on a NATO convoy. Alarmed, the government asked news media not to report violence the day of the vote. Eight people died, including a NATO soldier, and 55 were wounded in the two attacks, authorities said. In eastern Afghanistan, two U.S. service members were killed and three wounded in a separate bombing, the U.S. military announced, pushing the death toll this month for the American force to 26.
PHOENIX – President Barack Obama on Monday defended his administration’s new approach to the fierce fighting that rages in Afghanistan, calling it “not only a war worth fighting” but also one that “is fundamental to the defense of our people.” Speaking to the annual gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Obama praised the American troops in Afghanistan who are helping to secure the country ahead of elections there this week.
KABUL, Afghanistan – A notorious Afghan warlord accused of allowing the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and then destroying the evidence returned to Afghanistan Sunday night as part of what appears to be a political deal brokered with President Hamid Karzai. Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum arrived from Turkey just four days before the Afghan presidential elections, in which his support could be key to Karzai’s chances of securing more than 50 percent of the vote – the threshold for avoiding a second round of elections.
KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide car bombing outside the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan’s capital Saturday was the most serious indication yet of the Taliban’s designs to disrupt Thursday’s presidential election through violence. The Islamist militia, which is fighting NATO and Afghan forces for control in wide swaths of the country, has fired rockets into Kabul in recent days, but the attack Saturday was the most brutal in the heart of the capital in six months. At least seven Afghans were killed, and more than 90 people were wounded.
KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai has a wide lead over his opponents in next week’s election, but may not be able to muster enough support to avoid a runoff, a survey suggested Friday. The new poll, conducted by the International Republican Institute, is the second in a week to give a lead of nearly 20 percentage points over his major opponent, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. But the president would need more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright in next Thursday’s balloting, and both surveys point to the likelihood of his falling short of that.
WASHINGTON – An upcoming assessment of Afghanistan by the top U.S. commander there will not include a request for additional U.S. troops, as has been widely expected, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday. But Gates did not rule out the possibility that the commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, may make such a troop request later. The report due after next week’s Afghan national election, however, is intended solely to assess conditions in the country and the effect of a new Obama administration security strategy.
Boeing Co. agreed Thursday to pay the U.S. government $25 million to settle claims the company did defective work on critical military refueling planes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
KABUL, Afghanistan – Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son’s grave, near a headstone that read: “Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans.” His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.
DAHANEH, Afghanistan – Helicopter-borne U.S. Marines backed by Harrier jets stormed into a strategic Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan before dawn today, battling to gain control of the area ahead of next week’s presidential elections. Associated Press journalists traveling with the first wave said Marines were met with small arms, mortar and rocket propelled grenade fire as they flew in helicopters over Taliban lines and dropped into the town.
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – A militant commander who is holding a U.S. soldier abducted in Afghanistan said Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s council is waiting for a response to its demands before deciding the American’s fate. It was the first news of Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, made public since a Taliban video was released July 18.
KABUL – A remote-controlled bomb targeting a police convoy killed 12 people today in western Afghanistan, a day after three American soldiers died in a complex militant ambush in the country’s east. The bomb blast today occurred in the city of Herat. Ten civilians and two police officers were killed. About 20 people were wounded, an official said.
KABUL – A roadside bomb killed four American troops in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, driving the July death toll for U.S. forces to the highest monthly level of the war. The latest deaths brought to at least 30 the number of American service members who have died in Afghanistan this month – two more than the figure for all of June 2008, which had been the deadliest month for the U.S. since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power.
HAILEY, Idaho – Friends and family of an Idaho soldier who was captured in Afghanistan prayed for his safe return Sunday, shaken by the image of the frightened young private in a Taliban video posted online. Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, was serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment earlier this month when he vanished, just five months after arriving in Afghanistan. He was serving at a base near the border with Pakistan in an area known to be a Taliban stronghold.
KABUL – A Russian-owned civilian helicopter crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff at southern Afghanistan’s largest NATO base Sunday, killing 16 civilians in the latest in a string of deadly aircraft crashes in the country. There were no indications that the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter at southern Kandahar Air Field was caused by hostile fire, military officials said. Sixteen people died in the crash, and five were wounded and were treated on the NATO base, said Capt. Glen Parent, a spokesman for the NATO-led force in Kandahar.
HAILEY, Idaho (AP) — A soldier from Idaho who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan has been captured, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday, a day after he was seen in a Taliban video posted online.
WASHINGTON – The prisoners at the largest U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells for at least the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment, according to lawyers and the families of detainees. The prison-wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and family visits were being canceled.
KABUL – A bomb blast killed two U.S. Marines in Afghanistan’s dangerous south, where thousands of American troops have been deployed in a massive operation to oust Taliban fighters from the country’s opium poppy region, officials said Sunday. Some 4,000 Marines moved into Helmand province this month. They have met little head-on resistance but remain vulnerable to guerrilla tactics.