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US Special Envoy Says Afghan Elections Likely 'Flawed'


US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke speaks to reporters in Islamabad on the eve of Afghan parliamentary elections, 17 Sept. 2010

US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke speaks to reporters in Islamabad on the eve of Afghan parliamentary elections, 17 Sept. 2010

U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, says the Afghan parliamentary election is likely be flawed and disputed, but believes the new parliament will hold the key to bring stability to the insurgency-plagued country. The top regional diplomat, who sat down with reporters in Islamabad, has also called militants hiding in Pakistani tribal regions bordering Afghanistan as the greatest threat to world peace.

The U.S. regional envoy, Richard Holbrooke, described Saturday's parliamentary election in Afghanistan as a complicated issue, saying there are ten candidates running for each seat and they are not organized as parties.

"My hope is that we will have an honest and fair election," Holbrooke said. "But I know it is going to be flawed. It is not possible to have a completely fair election in the middle of the war."

Watch Richard Holbrooke Discussing the Problem of Corruption in Afghanistan

Holbrooke said that while the election is not going to be perfect and it will take a few weeks to count the results, stability in Afghanistan will depend on the parliament when it is installed early next year.

The election in Afghanistan is taking place amid a robust Taliban insurgency and U.S. President Barack Obama plans to begin withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in July next year. But Holbrooke reiterated that the international community's goal is to leave Afghanistan after the country is stable and able to take care of its own security.

"But when I say 'leave.' I am talking about combat troops," said Holbrooke. "The United States is not going to stop giving economic development assistance to Afghanistan, they need it."

The special representative also aid the United States believes stamping out corruption in Afghanistan is key to succeeding in the war against the Taliban.

"I want to be clear on this. We are not fighting in Afghanistan to wipe out corruption. We are opposing it because it is necessary to succeed in the war," he said. "It is to help the Afghans create a government, which is responsive to the needs of the people and which the people regard as a friend."

The U.S. diplomat, meanwhile, said that neighboring Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions are harboring militants involved in terrorist attacks in and outside the region.

His statement comes as suspected U.S. unmanned planes have stepped missiles strikes against militant hideouts in the Pakistan border area, particularly, the North Waziristan tribal region. The drones have carried out at least 13 attacks so far this month, killing dozens of suspected militants.

Ambassador Holbrooke refused to directly comment on the drone strikes because the United States does not comment on these operations believed to be supervised by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA.

"There are some things that it is difficult to talk about," he said. "But we face a common threat from militants in the border region. They are killing Americans in Afghanistan. They are killing Pakistanis. They are trying to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. They are trying to stir up international jihad."

Pakistan is a close U.S ally in the anti-terrorism war and has deployed thousands of troops to secure its border region with Afghanistan. But it has yet to mobilize forces in its North Waziristan tribal area where militants linked to al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban are believed to be entrenched for deadly cross-border attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

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