Wali Karzai brokers Taliban election truce

Aug. 14, 2009 at 5:15 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The Taliban agreed to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan in time for provincial and presidential elections next week, campaign officials say.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the controversial half-brother and campaign manager for incumbent President Hamid Karzai, claims he brokered a deal with individual Taliban commanders to allow the Aug. 20 election to go forward, London's Guardian newspaper reports.

The Taliban agreed to pull back while Afghan national forces secure the 7,000 polling centers in the country. U.S. and NATO officials said they supported "any initiative" that allows Afghans to vote.

Wali Karzai told the Guardian cease-fire announcements in the volatile Helmand and Kandahar provinces were forthcoming.

Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader of the Taliban, has ordered his fighters to disrupt the poll. The campaign chief said it was unclear, however, if commanders would follow those orders.

"It will all depend on the group and who they are connected with. Some Taliban leaders will look the other way, but others will say no, stop them, this is helping the Jew and the Christian in this war," he said.

He also discounted reports in German news magazine stern that claimed British forces had seized tons of opium on his land in July. He said the account was an attempt to discredit his older brother ahead of the Thursday vote.

A poll by the Washington-based International Republic Institute finds the incumbent leading his closest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, by nearly 20 percent, though observers say the election may go to a runoff.

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