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Foreign Media Reaction

September 21, 2005

AFGHANISTAN ELECTIONS:  AN 'HISTORIC' EVENT

KEY FINDINGS

**  Afghan dailies term elections a success, hail citizens' "strong determination" to participate.

**  Voting despite Taliban threats is "a powerful assertion" of Afghans' desire for democracy.

**  Afghanistan will continue to need foreign assistance "for a long time."

**  Pakistani outlets doubt if "democracy alone" can solve the country's "innumerable" problems.

MAJOR THEMES

'A memorable day'--  Afghan papers concluded the nation's parliamenty elections came off "without any serious problem" in spite of "some shortcomings."  Independent Arman-e Melli noted that the poll took place "in a rather peaceful atmosphere."  The paper was disappointed by "lack of interest and low turnout" but said the vote still "opened a new chapter" in the country's history.  State-run daily Hewad touted election day as "a day of great success" and stated Afghans "were not impressed by the propaganda threats made by the enemies of peace and stability."  Independent Erada thanked "Afghan and foreign" forces for providing security.

Voters showed 'courage'--  Foreign writers also highlighted the courage of citizens voting despite Taliban threats of violence, showing that "people in the Islamic world will embace democracy if given the chance."  Afghans "declared themselves...the real victors in yet another small step" towards democratic rule.  "The democracy machine has started to work in Afghanistan," said a Spanish daily, and "it won't stop."  Speaking for many outlets praising the courage of the "large number" of women voters, India's left-of-center Maharashtra Times called the participation of women in the poll "indeed commendable," though President Hamid Karzai has "not been able to deliver" on his promises to them.

Afghanistan still 'needs everything'--  Noting that "the establishment of a democratic political system in Afghanistan is a long-term process," editorialists counseled that Afghans are still far from being able to "sustain their new state without foreign support."   Citing "violent resistance against the new order of the country", Germany's center-rght Frankfurter Allegemeine judged that Kabul "will continue to require foreign assistance for a long time"; Denmark's left-wing Information insisted donor countries must "increase their efforts on all levels."  Morever, the election left unanswered questions such as whether "traditional warlords" will forgo violence, whether elected officials will "crystallize into ethnic and linguistic blocs" that thwart the formation of broad-based political parties, and whether the new national assembly can "work with Karzai and consolidate the political and social gains already achieved."

Pakistani papers:  Afghans 'despondent'--  Many Pakistani papers, in contrast, were cool to the elections, doubting "democracy alone [is] the solution" to the country's "innumerable problems."  Writers said candidates were likely to be elected along "tribal" lines, "which will eventually cause a tug-of-war between the Pashtuns and the Persian-speakers."  Leading Urdu-language Jang claimed the elections marked "a return towards the old days of civil war."  Saying the election had seemingly given "new confidence" to Karzai, Pakistani outlets backed his "just demand" to control the operations of foreign military troops in the country.

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on xx reports from xx countries September 16-22, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

AFGHANISTAN:  "A New Chapter In Our History"

Independent Arman-e Melli editorialized (9/19):  "The elections were held without any serious problem in a rather peaceful atmosphere and opened a new chapter in the history of our country....  But the lack of interest and low turnout can be considered one shortcoming.  The fact that the ink used in some polling stations could be easily removed is another that has raised concerns about the possibility of fraud....  But despite all this, 18 September will be recorded as a memorable day in the history of Afghanistan."

"Congratulations To The Afghan People"

Independent Cheragh commented (9/19):  "Congratulations to the Muslim people of Afghanistan on their wholehearted and confident participation in the elections....  The brave women of Afghanistan, along with men, celebrated the elections as a national festival and overcame another political challenge in their country....  There were some cases of the abuse of power by candidates trying to put pressure on people, but our people filed complaints against them."

"A Day Of Great Success"

State-run daily Hewad concluded (9/19):  "The process of parliamentary and provincial council election was successfully completed....  The people were not impressed by the propaganda threats made by the enemies of peace and stability.  They came out of their houses with a strong determination to take part....  There is no doubt that 18 September will be remembered as a day of great success and achievement for democracy in the history of the nation."

"Low Turnout Shows People Are Disillusioned"

Independent Rah-e Nejat held (9/19):  "Although the enemies of the government threatened to sabotage the election process, on the whole security was satisfactory....  Some shortcomings were also observed at the polling stations....  People with two or three voting cards were able to vote twice or three times....  The turnout was lower compared to the presidential polls which shows that people are disillusioned, because at the presidential election candidates made pledges that were empty promises."

"Enemies Could Not Disrupt Election"

Independent Erada judged (9/19):  "The people's participation showed they have the capability to determine their fate with very little political awareness, and to foil the plots of their Afghan and foreign enemies.  The huge turnout of brave Afghan women in the elections proves they have a feeling of responsibility for national issues....  The enemies of Afghanistan could not even disrupt the elections in very remote areas.  We therefore thank the Afghan and foreign security forces for their effective role in ensuring security."

"Security Challenge Met"

State-run daily Anis had this to say (9/19):  "The main issue of concern was security challenge during elections, but the 100,000 Afghan and foreign troops overcome this challenge.  There were some cases of explosions and rocket attacks, but none of them could disrupt the elections.  Even though the public turnout was high, it was not as high as during the presidential election, and the reason could be that some candidates who should have been disqualified were allowed to take part."

INDIA:  "Posters On The Wall"

The centrist Indian Express had this to say (9/20):  "This was the second time in last two years that the Afghans have voted....  The number of posters on the walls, behind cars, on trees and every other little space that is there for taking, in what is now the bustling city of Kabul has been an indication of the excitement preceding the polls....  But in the excitement of all the campaigning, there was also the fear of violence.  Reports that erstwhile Taliban groups were coming together to undermine this 'Western' project was a cause of concern given that American casualties in 2005 were the highest compared to previous years.  This, perhaps, explains the 40-42 percent (sic) turnout on Sunday.  That the polls went off without major incident indicates that perhaps Afghans are willing to give this process a chance.  The challenge for Afghanistan begins now.  The election process has rekindled national pride.  The pressure to emerge from the image of an aid-dependent government to a self-sustaining apparatus will increase.  There will be calls for indigenous security structures, independent policies and governance that does not discriminate against citizens for being Taliban sympathizers.  But then, these are precisely the kind challenges that could strengthen democracy in the days ahead.  For the moment, elections 2005 have created a stake larger than ever before for Afghans in the future of Afghanistan."

"Scope For Hope"

The Mumbai edition of left-of-center, Marathi-language Maharashtra Times editorialized (9/20):  "The establishment of a democratic political system in Afghanistan is a long-term process.  In the current circumstances, one cannot even guarantee the success of democracy in Afghanistan. However, the roughly six million people who voted in Sunday's parliamentary and district council elections, including large numbers of women, offer some reason for being enthusiastic about the future of democracy in Afghanistan....  It is commendable that the common people did not fear the Taliban insurgents and came out to vote despite the risk to their lives....  Interestingly, the ethnic groups which helped the U.S. to uproot the Talibanis also do not espouse the cause of democracy.  In this context, the biggest challenge is to compel these warring groups to carry out their political struggle through a democratic process....  The participation of women in these polls is indeed commendable, despite the fact that the 11-month-old Hamid Karzai government has not been able to deliver on its promises.  The Karzai government boasts of only one woman representative.  Moreover, Afghan women have not been freed from the burkha, nor are they being given educational opportunities....  But these failed expectations have not stopped them from participating in the elections.  It is possible that the participation of Afghanistani women in the elections could be their attempt to articulate themselves."

PAKISTAN:  "Karzai's Just Demand From American Military"

Second largest Urdu-language daily Nawa-e-Waqt judged (9/22):  "Although Hamid Karzai's survival in the government depends on American patronage and he is dependent on American commandoes for his personal security, he is aware of the Afghan temperament.  That is why, after much commotion, he has demanded cessation of coalition troops' operations and house-to-house searches without prior permission from his government....  The Afghan people suffered atrocities by Russians for 10 years, 10 years of atrocities by Mujahideen and four years of oppression by American and coalition troops.  There should be mercy on Afghan people now and air strikes and military operations should stop....  By withdrawing troops America can give peace to Afghan people.  Hamid Karzai should stick to his stand so that the world opinion could support the stand and increase pressure on America."

"Encouraging Statement By Afghan President Hamid Karzai"

The populist Urdu-language daily Khabrain maintained (9/22):  "By taking up U.S. military-led operations in Afghanistan, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has made easy the resolution of the Afghan problem.  If the Afghan government succeeds in stopping the military operations then the severity of the Taliban attacks would diminish gradually.  The Afghan president should also talk about the withdrawal of the American troops, because the troops' presence would cause increase in the Afghan resistance and the Afghan people will have to bear the brunt of all that."

"Peace In Afghanistan"

The center-right Urdu-language daily Pakistan held (9/22):  "Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that the coalition troops should stop action in Afghanistan....  This is regrettable that in response...the coalition forces' commander said that their job is not finished as yet....  The recent elections in Afghanistan seemed to have given a new confidence to President Hamid Karzai....  The president wants to take up the control of the national and governmental affairs.  It is a justified demand and the coalition troops should respect that."

"Return Of The Taliban?"

Hamid Mir opined in the leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang (9/19):  "Is democracy alone the solution of innumerable problems confronting 25 million people of Afghanistan?  One year before, a majority of people in the length and breadth of the country were replying in affirmative to this question, which is why they wholeheartedly participated in the presidential election.  Hamid Karzai got elected with 55 percent of the votes.  He had the support of the U.S., Europe and the entire world.  He was given billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan but regrettably today majority of Afghans seem to be despondent....  The holding of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan is not the beginning of the new era, rather it is a return towards the old days of civil war.  It could only be prevented if Afghanistan gets rid of its warlords and establishes true and genuine democracy.  But in a country where the warlords become the necessity of the U.S. and where true democracy could benefit the Taliban, running fake democracy through the warlords is in the interest of the United States."

"Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Elections

Peshawar-based Urdu-language Mashriq editorialized (9/18):  "Although women are being given the opportunity to participate in the electoral process, but there are dim chances of their success in the traditional Afghan society.  However, the real question is:  would these elections bring peace to Afghanistan and bring in people who can run the country?  In the traditional tribal society of Afghanistan, candidates are more likely to be elected on tribal bonds rather than any manifesto, which will eventually cause a tug-of-war between the Pashtuns and the Persian-speakers for positions and slots.  The elections will be successful only if they succeed in forming a stable an independent government that can take decisions on its own--one where external interference is at a minimum."

"Afghan Elections"

The center-right national English-language Nation had this to say (9/18):  "With the parliament elected and a new government formed, a considerable section of the Afghan elite would become a part of the system and it would be in their interest to sustain it.  The success of the system will depend on the ability of the new government to contain violence and provide security which according to UN Secretary General’s special representative in Afghanistan Jean Arnault 'remains a distant goal.'  It would also have to assert itself against the occupying U.S. forces, which create the impression of a puppet regime.  Backed by a democratic mandate, it should tell the USA that its continued military presence is the main irritant providing justification to the armed resistance, and it should leave."

EUROPE

GERMANY:  "Afghan Truths"

Jochen Buchsteiner commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/19):  "The parliamentary elections were the last act in the play written in Bonn called 'Nation Building In Afghanistan.'  Formally, the Islamic Republic is now a democracy with a constitution, free elections, and a system of checks and balances.  The fact that the elections were hardly disrupted might be seen as a sign that the new forces won the upper hand.  The remark that 130,000 soldiers, of whom a quarter was foreign troops, were required to protect the elections is also part of the Afghan truth.  The violent resistance against the new order of the country rather rose in recent months, and will continue to require foreign assistance for a long time.  A success of the international experiment to establish a democratic Afghanistan requires that the Afghans will soon experience that they can sustain their new state without foreign support."

"First Moves In Afghanistan"

Dietrich Alexander noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (9/17):  "President Karzai will have to arrange himself with a heterogeneous parliament.  At best, it will start a discourse about the well-being of the country.  However, it is more likely that the parliament will become a mirror of individual interests, which would be destructive.  To change this the international community must continue to protect and lead the first Afghan moves.  The international community must rather gear up its efforts for Afghanistan's future.  This fight will not just be decided in Kabul, but also in the provinces, where warlords rule and Karzai has no power."

ITALY:  "Fifty Percent Of Afghans Voted"

Alberto Negri commented from Kabul in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (9/20):  "Among the 6,000 candidates for the Wolesi Jirga and provincial councils, the Afghans also found the names of renowned warlords, heads of gangs and drug dealers, as well as former Taliban and Communists....  None of the wolves has repented for their past, but they are willing to be recycled in a parliament that could become a huge laundromat of massacres perpetrated in a quarter of a century of wars and civil conflicts....  The electoral system...will serve as a rudimentary political recycling, wiping away the recent past....  In a certain sense Afghan democracy is working miracles....  The operation was made possible primarily thanks to the presence of foreign troops....  'Afghan-style' democracy for now mainly means this:  replacing the rifle with a vote, violence with stability.  It does not seem like much, but it is already a lot to see, for example, women in Maydan Shar standing in line at the voting stations come forth to talk, to express their opinions, even on the burkha and chador, on the taboos of this conservative society....  Only a hasty and distracted West could dismiss Afghanistan as an achieved objective or as one of little interest.  An error that was already committed in the past and for which we paid a high price."

"‘It Would Be A Mistake To Forget Afghanistan Now’"

Alberto Negri opined in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (9/17):  "Obscured by the Iraqi front and without a drop of oil, less strategic than it once was even for its neighbors, Afghanistan has slipped into a gray area:  it is still unstable and threatened by guerrillas, but it is not out of control.  Economic reconstruction is slow but it is not completely unsuccessful and tomorrow, one year after the presidential elections, parliamentary and provincial elections will be held.  Catapulted to the center of world attention by the attacks of September 2001, Afghanistan, which has just emerged from the darkness, seems to have returned to the margins of history and of political interests."

RUSSIA:  "Parliament Is No Problem To Karzai"

Andrey Terekhov said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (9/20):  "How the vote will affect the country weakened by decades of fighting is an open question.  Most likely, the future parliament will be fragmented, and its members, forming different groups, will pursue their own interests.  That way, the legislature will not be a big problem for Karzai.  It is good, human rights activists say, they took care of women:  the fair sex will take a quarter of the 249-seat parliament."

BELGIUM:  "Afghans Are Holding Up Their Heads"

Christophe Lamfalussy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (9/20):  "During the fall of 2001, media and historians were promising another 'Vietnam' to U.S. troops who were hunting down Taliban and al-Qaida members in Afghanistan. Four years later, one must admit that there was no 'Vietnam' in Afghanistan, that...Afghanistan is making progress.  In spite of a rather low participation rate of about 50 percent, Sunday’s legislative elections have demonstrated the Afghan people’s determination to turn the page on years of war and to reconstruct their country....  What is first and foremost striking in Afghanistan is the courage of these women who braved blows and insults and ran at these elections.  What is also striking is how the Afghan people are hardworking and eager to make money....  After a quarter of a century of wars and crises, Afghanistan is holding up its head.  It obviously need international assistance, in terms of security and, first and foremost, of investments."

DENMARK:  "Long-Term Progress In Afghanistan Could Affect Greater Middle East"

Left-wing Information opined (9/20):  "Progress in Afghanistan will only occur if donor countries increase their efforts on all levels.  The military intervention must become less destructive--something that will necessitate the gradual withdrawal of American troops....  The election in Afghanistan will, in the short-term, have little or no effect on efforts to democratize Iraq and the greater Middle East.  But, in the long-term, progress in Afghanistan could pave the way for developments in the Iraq and beyond." 

HUNGARY:  "Tune To Kabul!"

Foreign affairs writer Gyorgy Fodor argued in liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap (9/20):  "It is...true that, in four years, with foreign assistance, Afghanistan has prepared a constitution, elected a president--and now a parliament and local representatives.  Never before had there been this many children--[boys] and girls--in school....  The Afghanistans of the world deserve a little help from their friends.  And those who believe that nothing is changing in Afghanistan, should click on the website of Kabul private radio station Arman, and listen to some music."

SPAIN:  "Afghanistan Loses Its Fear"

Business daily Gaceta de los Negocios maintained (9/19):  "The celebration of democracy, an concept that in Europe sounds cheesy, and for some has little meaning as is shown by how little they vote, has in Afghanistan a new, beautiful, and central importance.  This reflects the liberty recovered.  Despite the 15 deaths, despite the violent incidents at voting places, and despite the presence of Afghan and NATO soldiers in the polling station.  Yesterday turned out to be, after years of obscurity and totalitarian and theocratic oppression, an historic day, a milestone on the way to peace and stability in the country and the region....  The democracy machine has started to work in Afghanistan.  And it won’t stop.  Let’s hope that this freedom recovered will be an advance of stability and progress in the region."

"Afghan Elections"

Centrist La Vanguardia held (9/18):  "Unlike what was unchained in Iraq...the armed intervention against the Taliban regime in 2001...had wide international support and was set up in a relatively clear way, with the one important blemish being the failure to achieve the detention or neutralization of the most wanted man in the world--bin Ladin.  The allied forces, including the Spanish contingent, are still there, but the situation can’t be compared with the Iraqi one."

MIDDLE EAST

SAUDI ARABIA:  "Afghan Milestone"

The pro-government, English-language Arab News judged (Internet version, 9/21):  "With Sunday’s successful elections for both a national assembly and provincial councils, Afghanistan has passed another important milestone on its long road to peace and normality....  Regardless of the candidates they supported, the very act of voting was a powerful assertion by each and every voter that they want an Afghanistan ruled by peace, law and popular will--instead of violence, intimidation and bloodshed....  It is...likely that six months of violence in which some 1,000 people have died, including seven candidates, did frighten some voters into staying at home.  In such circumstances, it is in fact all the more significant that, as in Iraq, so many Afghans decided to run the risk and exercise their right to vote.  Nevertheless, ordinary citizens are probably still wondering if the democratic process will bring all the promised benefits.  Certainly, many countries have failed to deliver on aid pledges made immediately following the fall of the Taliban.  The government’s writ still runs strongest in and around the capital only; however, the traditional warlords appear to be slowly realizing that, by working through the central government, they can increase rather than dilute their regional power bases.  It remains to be seen if, when the last votes have been counted, a national assembly will emerge that can work with Karzai and consolidate the political and social gains already achieved and continue to move forward to build a stable Afghanistan in which the men of violence are firmly isolated.  In time, all but the most extreme elements among the Taliban forces in the southeast of the country may themselves be persuaded to join the political process as some of their former colleagues did on Sunday.  Except for a few diehard elements, the insurgency would then come to an end.  Much will depend on whether elected members of the new national and provincial assemblies will be prepared to behave in a spirit of compromise and unity."

LEBANON:  "Afghans Decide Through Elections"

Sawsan Abu Dahr wrote in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (9/19):  "With these elections, the political process in Afghanistan, which started four years ago, will be completed...however, the road is still long for Afghanistan which needs virtually everything.  The racist...and the sectarian factors were very important during these elections because political parties had no role at all."

UAE:  "Why Is The Passion Running Dry?"

The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News editorialzed (Internet version, 9/20):  "The Afghan President Hamid Karzai can take heart from the fact that the people have voted despite Taliban threats of violence.  But he must ask himself this:  why is there such a contrast between the passion that brought people out of their homes in their tens of thousands when he was a candidate and the sheer ennui that marks this election for a new parliament?  An election which was pegged by the international community as a touchstone for democracy.  Did the size of the seven-page ballot paper there were over 400 photographs of candidates have anything to do with it?  Could it be because candidates were seen as individuals, their political leanings unknown, that voters found it difficult to choose?  The international community must pause to analyze whether they are moving Afghanistan too fast, too soon into the 21st century without providing the basic infrastructure education, jobs and security.  There is one other issue.  In the rush to teach Afghans the rudiments of Western-style democracy, they may have oversold the product.  The root of the disenchantment may lie with the hype and hoopla, the high hopes engineered by the presidential election.  A year has passed and little has changed for the ordinary Afghan.  For Karzai, therefore, the challenge ahead will be to show that together with an active parliament he can govern, he is willing to curb extremist elements and boost his country's fledgling economy to give a better life to his people."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA:  "Another Step On A Long Road"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald stated (9/20):  "Sunday's elections in Afghanistan for a national assembly and provincial councils have offered another piece of evidence to back the belief--strongly held by the Bush administration in Washington--that people in the Islamic world will embrace democracy if given the chance....  U.S. optimism has largely been vindicated.  Given Afghanistan's logistical and security problems, it is a remarkable feat.  Quite apart from the threat of murderous disruption by guerrillas, the country so lacks basic infrastructure that ballot papers had to be transported over terrible terrain by donkey or camel....  And here is the rub.  Preventing mayhem and achieving a decent voter turnout are the easy bit.  The wise will defer judgment on the usefulness of this latest adventure in democracy.  Provisional election results will not be declared until October 10.  Given that candidates are standing as individuals, not as representatives of political parties, it will be some time after that before it is clear how the numbers lie in the new assembly and who, if anyone, controls them."

INDONESIA:  "Election In Afghanistan Far From Celebratory"

Leading independent Kompas observed (9/21):  "A minimal turnout in Afghanistan’s general election, on September 18, was because of fears that remaining Taliban would attack voters and sabotage the election.  Although chaos was averted, nine people died on Election Day.  Despite problems, the holding of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan is considered important and strategic from a democratic standpoint.  The parliamentary and presidential elections are two achievements of the Afghan people amidst miserable conditions.  Some say having a peaceful, honest, and fair general election in Afghanistan is just a dream, since the social, economic, political, and security situation is not conducive for it.  However, it should be appreciated that amidst tough times, Afghanistan has been able to revive a democratic tradition that has been dormant for 30 years.  Last week’s election is expected to strengthen the political process as a significant instrument in boosting change and reform in Afghanistan."

THAILAND:  "Afghanistan Itself The Real Winner"

The independent, English-language Nation editorialized (9/20):  "It may not have been the cleanest, fairest or safest election for that matter, but the fact that at least 50 percent of all eligible voters did turn out was as good a start as any to a struggling democracy.  The people of Afghanistan did not let the world community down, and for that reason alone, we must not let them down in turn."

"Another Step To Afghan Freedom"

The top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post judged (9/20):  "The vastness, the lack of development and the forces of darkness mean that we will not know the final results of last weekend's parliamentary election in Afghanistan for two weeks, maybe more.  But it is already clear who are the winners.  Millions of Afghans, 42% of them women, flocked to the polls on Sunday across the nation.  They declared themselves and their country the real victors in yet another small but important step on the continuing road to democratic rule.  The real opposition to democratic rule--the Taliban and their dwindling number of foreign helpers--lost the election big time."

"Rebirth Of Afghan Politics"

Tanvir Ahmad Khan wrote in the Karachi-based, center-left, independent national English-language Dawn (9/19):  "Electing individuals outside the collective wisdom and coherence of a political party seems to be a regressive step.  There is a cascade of questions demanding answers.  Will elections help overcome armed resistance?  Will elected officials promote national reconstruction or crystallize into ethnic and linguistic blocs that thwart the formation of broad based political parties?  Will these institutions carry out the groundwork for a fairly early departure of foreign troops, a step necessary for the full restoration of Afghan sovereignty?  There are no certain answers at present; only hopes that President Karzai will use the elections to finally grasp the elusive objective of a democratic, representative government acceptable to the diverse nationalities of Afghanistan."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "Afghanistan's Progress"

The leading, centrist Globe and Mail judged (Internet version, 9/20):  "In elections this weekend, hundreds of thousands of them streamed to polling booths from their villages, cities and farms to vote in the first legislative election since 1969.  Despite threats by insurgents to disrupt the poll, there was only a smattering of attacks during election day.  Turnout, though lower than in the presidential vote last year, was strong even in areas where insurgents are active.  Nearly 6,000 candidates ran for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament and seats in 34 provincial councils.  According to reports from the city of Kandahar, large numbers of women came out to vote there--this in a country where, under the Taliban, girls were banned from going to school and women from walking unaccompanied in the street....  In spite of all its troubles, from opium to warlordism to a resurgent Taliban, there is no doubt that Afghanistan is vastly better off than it was under the Taliban, which imposed a medieval form of Islamic rule.  The international community has devoted billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops to rebuilding and stabilizing the country.  Canada has been at the forefront.  Our troops have been there since the beginning, both as peacekeepers and as combat units.  In the past few months, Canadian special forces have been fighting remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida.  This is dangerous but necessary work.  Canadians should be proud that we are taking part."

JAMAICA:  "War On Terror:  Mixed Results"

John Rapley maintained in the left-of-center Daily Gleaner (9/16):  "Four years ago, Afghanistan braced for an American invasion in the wake of 9/11....  Four years on, the results of the American war on terror are mixed.  Certainly, the United States has achieved much more in Afghanistan than it has in Iraq.  The news from Iraq only gets worse....  In Afghanistan, by contrast, a much smaller American force...has enjoyed much greater success in pacifying a war-torn country....  That is not to say that all is well in Afghanistan.  There remains a lot of discontent with the U.S. presence, and U.S. operations have all too often been indiscriminate....  Afghans appear eager to embrace their new democracy, no matter how ineffective their government might be....  It seems safe to say that while these elections will represent a milestone of sorts, nevertheless the low-intensity Afghan conflict will continue."

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