- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban rejected Afghanistan’s elections as a U.S. drama and vowed yesterday to intensify their war, calling into question President Hamid Karzai’s contention that the need for military force had diminished.

U.N. vote organizers say that about half the 12 million registered Afghans voted in national assembly and provincial elections Sunday hailed by Kabul’s allies as a step forward for democracy.

Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said 4 million had voted, less than 15 percent of a population he put at 30 million.

“The Taliban are thankful to the Afghan people for rejecting the U.S. drama,” he said, adding that the parliament would not represent Afghans and would be subordinate to the United States.

“Our jihad [holy war] will continue until the withdrawal of foreign infidel troops, and our attacks will be expedited. The Taliban will become more organized and strong,” Mr. Hakimi said.

The Taliban had vowed to derail the elections but failed despite a wave of violence in the months leading up to the vote in which more than 1,000 people died, most of them insurgents.

The Taliban launched dozens of attacks early Sunday in which 14 persons died, but election organizers said voting took place at all but a few of the 6,200 polling centers.

Mr. Karzai declared on Tuesday that a democratic Afghanistan was no longer a source of terrorism and he did not think there was a major need for military action.

The president argued that the focus now should be on tackling militants in their bases, where they receive training, and on shutting off resources and funding.

He stopped short of pointing the finger at neighboring Pakistan, which Afghan officials have accused of providing sanctuary to the Taliban. Islamabad denies the charge.

In comments that appeared aimed at wooing support in the Taliban’s and his own ethnic Pashtun heartland, he questioned the use of U.S. air strikes and invasive searches by U.S. forces.

Civilian deaths in U.S. strikes and what have been perceived as heavy-handed searches have long angered people in the conservative south where the Taliban draw most support.

Mr. Karzai has been trying without much success to coax Taliban fighters to defect.

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appeared to agree on the efficacy of air strikes.

“Obviously, air strikes, when you don’t have a massed army on the ground or large puddles of enemies, then air strikes are less effective than when you do have that type of a situation,” he told a Pentagon press conference.

Earlier Tuesday, the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, said his force would stay on the offensive this autumn and winter.

He said the insurgency could not be defeated by military means alone and stressed the need for Mr. Karzai’s government to focus on security, governance, justice and postwar reconstruction to build a society that Afghans would support.

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