Afghan Leader Enlists Ex-Warlord As a Running Mate
President Hamid Karzai named a powerful former warlord as one of his two vice-presidential running mates on Monday, a day of scattered insurgent attacks that left as many as 26 people dead.
The vice-presidential candidate, Muhammad Qasim Fahim, was Karzai’s vice president in his early administration, but was pushed aside in 2004 as Karzai tried to move away from traditional power blocs and bring more technocrats into the government. The government in Kabul, however, remains weak and troubled, and Fahim’s return appears to be a sign that Karzai is reaching for strong partners with broad support among former mujahedeen parties.
Over the weekend, a strong rival pulled out of the race, removing one of the main obstacles to Karzai’s re-election. Gul Agha Shirzai, governor of Nangarhar province, announced his withdrawal on Saturday, saying he had met for four hours with Karzai on Friday night, according to Afghan news reports.
Karzai’s second running mate is a current vice president, Muhammad Karim Khalili, officials at the presidential palace said. He is a powerful Shiite leader and also a former mujahedeen commander.
Karzai named his running mates as he officially registered for re-election at the Independent Electoral Commission. The vote is set for Aug. 20.
European Union Will Reach Out to Six Ex-Soviet States
A European Union plan to strengthen its bond with six former Soviet republics, which was once seen as a way to draw countries away from Russia’s sphere of influence, now has a more urgent purpose: to stabilize a volatile region.
A summit meeting intended to embrace the six former Soviet republics — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova — under a plan called the Eastern Partnership is scheduled for Thursday in Prague. The original goal was to present the 27-nation European Union bloc as an alternative to Russia as a regional power center by offering the six nations greater engagement on economic and political issues.
But political instability and deteriorating economies in some of the countries have alarmed Western nations, especially Germany, and have intensified concern that the East-West divide would only deepen if troubled countries fall back into alignment with Russia.
“There are new priorities on the agenda which were not so obvious last year, including the need to stabilize these countries, which are moving from one crisis to another,” said Nicu Popescu, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The focus is less on structural adjustments or institution-building and more on crisis management.”
Air of Relief Lingers Over Meeting of Pro-Israel Group
For the last few days, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s major pro-Israel lobby, has sought to display its political strength, with members expressing relief that the organization is no longer facing legal scrutiny.
Just days ago, the Obama administration said it was seeking the dismissal of charges that two former AIPAC analysts had violated an espionage statute by improperly disseminating national security information. The group’s annual conference has always attracted marquee guests, but this year’s event included a tone of vindication.
The case against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman had raised what many in the pro-Israel community in the United States regard as an unfair, even toxic question about whether the loyalty of some American Jews to Israel matches or exceeds their loyalty to the United States.
Gary Silow, a Philadelphia-area lawyer and AIPAC member at the convention, said he was deeply troubled by the potential for renewed discussion of what he said was the offensive “dual loyalty” issue. In Silow’s view, “the fact that they came after AIPAC was what was really disturbing.”
Like many at the convention, Silow said he was relieved at the move for a dismissal.
U.S. Negotiator Signals Flexibility Toward Moscow in Arms Talks
The top arms control negotiator for the United States said on Monday that the government was willing to agree to count both nuclear warheads and their delivery vehicles when renegotiating the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or Start — addressing one of Russia’s long-standing concerns.
In an interview with the Russian news service Interfax, the negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, also said the United States was open to a Russian proposal to use radar based in Azerbaijan or Southern Russia, rather than Eastern Europe, for the proposed missile defense system.
Officials from the administration of President George W. Bush had not followed up on the idea of relocating the radar from Eastern Europe, where Russia fears it would be part of a missile defense system that would be used against it. U.S. officials have contended that the system is meant as a deterrent to Iran.
“I understood from talking to Russian counterparts that the offer is still on the table,” Gottemoeller was quoted by Interfax as saying. “I think, personally, that it is an offer that the United States should be willing to explore.”
The comments clarified Washington’s position ahead of the first full talks on replacing Start, which are scheduled this month in Moscow, and set aside several problematic issues for later.