For the first time, Iran sent a representative to a meeting of the U.S. and NATO-dominated International Contact Group on Afghanistan, which convened yesterday in Rome and discussed coalition military and political strategy (NYT, Post, Tel, FT, Tolo, Reuters). The Iranian delegate, Mohammed Ali Qanezadeh, is the director of Asian affairs at Iran’s foreign ministry, and also attended an in-depth PowerPoint briefing by top Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus, on NATO’s strategy for transitioning control to Afghan forces. Bonus read: Behind the Lines on Iran in Afghanistan and Pakistan (FP).
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission is expected to release preliminary results from the September 18 parliamentary contests tomorrow, with final results due in early November (WSJ, LAT). Ballots from around 10 percent of the country’s voting centers have been thrown out because of complaints of fraud, and the number of disqualified ballots could be more than a million. And the Afghan government has reportedly decided to audit all of the country’s private banks, after a corruption scandal nearly brought down the Kabul Bank (AFP).
As coalition forces focus on southern Afghanistan, the Taliban are making inroads in the north, where they have reportedly set up parallel local administrations and courts (WSJ). A NATO spokesman said yesterday that while the coalition is “chok[ing] insurgent supply routes in some parts of Afghanistan,” Taliban fighters have adapted and are seeking to supplement their reduced resources by “expanding illicit taxation” of Afghan villagers (AP). And in Marjah, the southern Afghan town that was the site of a major coalition offensive earlier this year, one soldier described the insurgency by observing, “It’s like fighting ghosts. They’re in and they’re out. They’re quick. They’ve been doing this a long time … (and) they’re good at it” (AP).