It is hot, humid and sunny this morning in Jalalabad with a pleasant light wind blowing out of the Northeast. The traffic is light, people calm and as we sit here on the Baba deck monitoring the election we are receiving a report about every 10 minutes of mischief and mayhem. I bet less than 50% of them are true. For example, there is a report out of Kunar that the Taliban is shooting “an RPG” off near a polling station “every hour.” We are getting a steady stream of SMS messages out of Kabul where most of the international community is currently located due to potential instability and they say there are several gunfights and a few bombs in the capitol. As most of the security companies are on complete lock-down it is impossible to verify the reporting. Good security companies and good operatives report as fact only those things they have verified themselves – everything else is suspect. So when we hear there is a “gun fight between political parties in Zone 9 of Kabul” we don’t necessarily believe it.
I still believe the Taliban do not view the election as a significant event although it is clear some actors do. Around the city of Kunduz there were 24 election stations burned down on Tuesday night which indicates Hekmatyar’s group HiG is sending a message about the election. HiG reportedly conducted their own version of a RIP (relief in place) by replacing all the commanders in Kunduz last winter and ordering them to fight. They have been battling with the Germans all summer up in the previously very quiet and safe north and it will be interesting to see if the German’s step up their game and rediscover the art of small unit infantry warfare like the French have done outside of Kabul.
We will be out and about later in the day to get some food and ice – the staff is off today and we are forced to fend for ourselves. The extra tight ring of steel securitynever showed in Jalalabad and folded in Gardez the troops folded up their checkpoints at around 2000 local which does not bode well. There is also a ban on reporting of security incidents put on the media from on high according to this article from McClatchy. At the Taj we are tracking the incident levels in real time with software, programming and super tech geek support from Ken and Mullah Todd. The press has picked up on our low budget highly efficient efforts – here is the BBC’s report. Here is the link to Alive Afghanistan and Mullah Todd’s tracking map….it is smoking right now with live reporting from Afghan’s across the country via SMS text messaging.
Although quiet in the city the election day produced some 80+ security incidents in the Eastern Region. Most of them appear to be minor – only two civilian deaths were reported – in Paktia Province and they were civilians caught in a cross fire between the ANP and villains of unknown affiliation. It is clear that in many places in both the south, southeast and east the vote did not go well. The entire Province of Nimroz did not participate according to reporting on the Afghan Alive election tracker. In most of the north the vote went as planned.
It is hard to predict how today’s vote will turn out. We received a report around 1500 today that females and children were moving in mass from the Panjshir section of Kabul but that is unconfirmed. If true it would be a troubling signal but a dumb move by the Northern Alliance party. They are still well positioned to get a seat at the table and I would doubt they are serious about clearing the decks for action in Kabul.
In Gardez the ANP detected a suicide bomber on a motorcycle and opened fire on him. He withdrew about 500 meters away from the checkpoint and detonated his vest. It would appear that at the price of 2 civilians and open hapless suicide bomber the collective entities operating under the Taliban flag did a sufficient job of disrupting things today. Accomplishing this without a high body count is pretty impressive and probably proves me wrong on my prediction above that the various Taliban Shura’s did not view the election as a significant event. I’m not adding the three idiot bank robbers in Kabul yesterday to the Taliban ledger – seizing a bank which is empty of money is too stupid even for them. The countrywide death toll for today is in at 26 which is pretty low yesterday we saw 101 dead and 563 wounded in a Baghdad bombing and it seems to me that Iraq is more important to us strategically than Afghanistan.
My buddy Gaz sends the following from Kandahar; “at 1915 we have counted 37 explosions in the city.” That is a lot of rocket fire and one has to wonder how that happens given the counter battery radar, aircraft and other sensors ringing the city. Here are some pics from some of the closer strikes:
I’m glad I live in Jalalabad – this level of excitement is bad on the digestion.