World News Brief, Thursday August 27

Neck and neck in Afghanistan election, vote-rigging alleged; new round of Korean family reunions; Cheney accuses Obama of failing America as probe widens; Iraq and Syria in diplomatic row; and more

Top of the Agenda: Karzai, Abdullah Nearly Tied

Preliminary results from last week's presidential elections in Afghanistan show incumbent President Hamid Karzai and leading opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah nearly tied (Pajhwok). With 10 percent of the votes counted, Karzai had 40.6 percent and Abdullah had 38.7 percent.

Abdullah continues to allege vote rigging in Karzai's favor, and the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission says it has now received more than eight hundred complaints (LAT), about fifty of which could alter the outcome of the elections.

Separately, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, criticized President Barack Obama's strategy of sending more troops to Afghanistan, and called for a timetable for withdrawal (Bloomberg).

The United States and its allies in Afghanistan are planning to bolster Afghan police and army units in the city of Kandahar with U.S. and Canadian troops. U.S. trainers will be embedded with the Afghan security forces (WSJ). Yesterday, a massive car bomb explosion (al-Jazeera) near a wedding hall in Kandahar killed at least forty-three people and injured at least sixty-five, underscoring the deteriorating security condition in the country's south. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack and condemned it. Another bomb killed four U.S. troops (Telegraph) in southern Afghanistan.

Journalist Elizabeth Rubin says after the election results are clear, U.S. officials must become more closely involved in improving Afghan governance.

In a New York Times op-ed, Jean MacKenzie, director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Afghanistan, says the West and the United Nations were quick to hail the Afghan elections a success because the poll was meant to convince Western voters that the war in Afghanistan has been worthwhile.

On Foreign Policy, Eurasia Group analyst Maria Kuusisto says the election results will not change "the ground realities" in Afghanistan without "more robust governance."

A CFR timeline tracks the history of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.


PACIFIC RIM: Korean Family Reunion Talks

A South Korean delegation traveled to North Korea today to organize a new round of reunions of families (Yonhap) separated by the Korean War. The reunion talks, after a nearly two-year hiatus, are the latest indication of thawing relations between the two Koreas.

This CFR Crisis Guide looks at the roots of the conflict in the Korean peninsula.

China: A gas explosion in a coal mine (Xinhua) in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi killed at least fourteen people. At least 3,200 people died in China's coal mines in 2008, making them the world's most dangerous (BBC).



Cheney criticizes detainee treatment investigation.
Syria and Iraq recall ambassadors over dispute.


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