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THE INDEX — October 19, 2009

The Electoral Complaints Commission has concluded that Afghan President Hamid Karzai failed to win a majority 50% of votes in the August 20 Afghan presidential election. Karzai was declared the winner in a preliminary judgment issued several days after the election. The ECC, supported by the UN and composed of both Afghan and foreign officials, assessed allegations of widespread voter fraud and, after invalidating fraudulent ballots, has reportedly determined Karzai earned just 48% of all votes, triggering a second round of voting. The runoff, against his principal rival Abdullah Abdullah, is controversial. Karzai himself has announced he will reject any decision that does not confirm his outright victory, believing fraud allegations are a western conspiracy to depose him. The approach of the harsh winter, as well as Afghan disaffection with the political process amid continuing Taliban threats, may dramatically lower voter turnout in a second round. Still, some analysts believe the second round is necessary to legitimize the election. President Obama is not likely to make a decision on American policy in Afghanistan until the election is finalized. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN on Sunday, “I think it would be irresponsible and...reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop levels if, in fact, you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether in fact there's an Afghan partner ready to fill that space.” President Obama’s national security team is meeting today for at least the sixth time in recent weeks to continue its strategic review. Iran is vowing to take revenge against the United States and Britain after a suicide bombing killed six Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders over the weekend, and 42 total. The latest tension between Iran and the West comes as both sides are meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency today in Vienna to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. The Guards' commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he has seen documents that show links between Jundullah, a Sunni terrorist organization based in Pakistan, and the United States and Britain. Both countries, including Pakistan, have denied involvement, but Jafari maintained “there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them.” Various reports over the last few years have tied U.S. support to Jundullah as a means of destabilizing the Iranian government, but the United States has denied any direct funding. In order to forestall any problems in ongoing negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, British prime minister Gordon Brown said it is important to mtaintain a diplomatic dialogue with Iran despite the recent bombing. In a gesture to the West, Iran invited Mohamed ElBaradei to Iran, the IAEA chief, to “discuss a number of matters.” Pakistan continued its military offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for a third day, targeting Taliban militants in South Waziristan as both Pakistani army officers and Taliban spokesmen claimed early victories. One of the targets was the hometown of Taliban commander Qari Hussain, whom Pakistani officials believe to be the architect of the Taliban’s ongoing suicide bombing campaign. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator John Kerry is in Islamabad to discuss the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar bill that triples non-military aid to Pakistan. Some Pakistani officials have said the money undermines the country’s national sovereignty by requiring that the U.S. secretary of state verify that the civilian government is exercising control over the military. Some 30,000 Pakistani troops are fighting an estimated 10,000 Taliban militants, who are accused of launching attacks across the country in the last two weeks, including a raid on Pakistan’s army headquarters. More than 175 people have died in these incidents. Some believe that 250,000 refugees could flee from the fighting, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, at which point the onset of winter weather could halt the offensive. Russia is preparing to issue its first international bond since 2000, designed to raise $18 billion in dollar-denominated securities. Russia is seeking the funds for infrastructure development and, while it retains about $400 billion in foreign reserves, it has spent $200 billion since August to support the ruble. One Russian banker noted that the contraction of credit markets offers Russia “the right climate for an international bond.” Russia’s FY09 budget deficit was its first since 1999, and Russia is anticipated to run a deficit for the next three years. Russian officials are expected in London next month to assess the market's future. Russian bonds are expected to be a stable investment as long as oil prices remain steady and Russia avoids any military engagements with Georgia or other neighbors. In a shift in U.S. policy, president Barack Obama has offered Sudan incentives designed to allow the regime to demonstrate a commitment to peace with rebel groups in Darfur. But he threatened “increased pressure” if the two sides failed to make progress. “First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur,” Obama said. “Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and south in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace.” The incentives being discussed include normalization of diplomatic relations and removal from the list of nations considered state sponsors of terrorism, Robert Lawrence, director of policy and government relations of Save Darfur told World Policy Journal. Relief of some or all of Sudan's $36 billion in international debt has also been discussed as a potential incentive, he added. The United States currently has sanctions in place against Khartoum. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that Sudan would be entitled to the incentives if it demonstrated “verifiable changes” to end the conflict in Darfur. “Words alone are not enough,” she added. Secretary Clinton said the United States would closely monitor Sudanese elections scheduled for next year, a provision of the 2005 peace agreement aimed at ending the civil war between the largely Arab government and the black Darfuris. The elections have been postponed twice. The U.S. said it welcomed talks between officials from Sudan and Chad over the weekend, conducted as an attempt to normalize relations between the two neighbors after both countries accused the other of aiding rebel groups.

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