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Afghan President Karzai registers for re-election

 Afghan President Hamid Karzai adjusts his hat as he is being photographed at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2...
 Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, sits as he waits at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2009 as Karzai regis...
 Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks to media as his first vice president Mohammad Qasim Fahim, left, and his second vice president Karim Kh...
 Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2009. Karzai has registered as a cand...

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai adjusts his hat as he is being photographed at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2...

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, sits as he waits at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2009 as Karzai regis...

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks to media as his first vice president Mohammad Qasim Fahim, left, and his second vice president Karim Kh...

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2009. Karzai has registered as a cand...

President Hamid Karzai registered as a candidate for Afghanistan's August presidential election Monday, a vote he would appear in a strong position to win given the lack of high-profile candidates he will likely face.
But Karzai's selection of Mohammad Qasim Fahim _ a powerful warlord accused of human rights violations _ as his new vice presidential running mate drew immediate criticism.
Human Rights Watch said Fahim has the blood of Afghans on his hands from the country's 1990's civil war, and that Karzai was "insulting the country" with the choice.
"To see Fahim back in the heart of government would be a terrible step backwards for Afghanistan," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director. "He is widely believed by many Afghans to be still involved in many illegal activities, including running armed militias, as well as giving cover to criminal gangs and drug traffickers."
The U.S. Embassy would not comment on the selection of Fahim, saying it wasn't helpful for the United States to comment on individual candidates. However, a U.S. statement said, "We believe the election is an opportunity for Afghanistan to move forward with leaders who will strengthen national unity."
Immediately after registering, Karzai left for the U.S. for meetings Wednesday with President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Because of that, none of Karzai's spokesmen could be reached for comment on his selection of Fahim.
The three leaders are expected to discuss the increasingly perilous security situation in both countries.
The U.S. has increased its focus on Afghanistan this year as it shifts its resources away from the Iraq conflict. Obama is sending 21,000 additional forces to bolster the record 38,000 U.S. troops already in Afghanistan in hopes of stemming an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency.
The choice of Fahim could be an issue for Western countries invested in Afghanistan's success, said Mohammad Qassim Akhgar, a political columnist and the editor-in-chief of the independent Afghan newspaper 8 a.m.
"Perhaps if Karzai wins the election Western countries are going to use this point as an excuse and limit their assistance to Afghanistan," he said. "This is also a matter of concern for all human rights organizations who are working in Afghanistan and working for transitional justice."
Wearing his trademark green and purple cloak, Karzai told reporters at the election commission headquarters that he wanted to run again "to be at the service of the Afghan people," though he acknowledged there have been "some mistakes" during his five-year term as president.
Karzai's popularity has waned in recent years, as civilian casualties caused by international military forces have increased and charges of government corruption persist. But so far no candidates who could challenge Karzai's hold on power have registered for the Aug. 20 vote. Candidates have until Friday to register.
In selecting Fahim, Karzai kicked First Vice President Ahmad Zia Massood _ the brother of resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massood, who was assassinated by al-Qaida two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks _ off the ticket.
Massood publicly criticized Karzai in recent months for staying on as president after May 21, the date the Afghan constitution says Karzai's term ends. The Supreme Court has ruled Karzai can stay in office until the Aug. 20 vote, which was pushed back from spring because of lingering winter weather, ballot distribution logistics and security concerns.
In a reminder of the country's perilous security, a suicide bombing, a roadside bomb and a militant attack killed 24 people Monday in three separate incidents.
The suicide bomber attacked the mayor of Mehterlam, capital of eastern Laghman province, killing six people, including the mayor and his nephew, the deputy governor said. In Zabul province, a roadside bomb exploded against a family riding on a tractor, killing 12 people, while militants attacked a convoy and killed six security guards, officials said.
Fahim served as Karzai's vice president during the country's interim government that was in place following the ouster of the Taliban in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. During the 2004 election, Karzai dropped Fahim from his ticket in favor of Massood.
Aziz Rafiee, the executive director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum, said Karzai's latest change of heart begged a question.
"If (Fahim) was a good choice, why did (Karzai) remove him" in 2004? Rafiee asked. "And if he was a bad choice, why did he select him again? The people of Afghanistan will answer this question while voting."


Updated : 2021-04-19 22:50 GMT+08:00