June 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Afghanistan: USA Today: RPCV Thomas Gouttierre says Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Special Report: Afghanistan Expert RPCV Thomas Gouttierre: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Thomas Gouttierre (Afghanistan) : June 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Afghanistan: USA Today: RPCV Thomas Gouttierre says Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly

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RPCV Thomas Gouttierre says Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly

RPCV Thomas Gouttierre says Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly

Much of the fighting has been along Afghanistan's rugged border with Pakistan, including the battle that downed the helicopter Tuesday. The area is home to anti-American terrorists and drug traffickers who want the Afghan government to fail, said Thomas Gouttierre, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Drug traffickers and insurgents have joined forces, Gouttierre said, "because they recognize that a stabilized Afghanistan is not in their interest."

RPCV Thomas Gouttierre says Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly

U.S. sees fighting rekindled in Afghanistan
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON The United States has stepped up military activity in Afghanistan, spurred by a resilient insurgency that includes al-Qaeda terrorists and rebels associated with the former Taliban government, according to Afghan officials, Pentagon leaders and Afghanistan experts.

The renewed fighting led to the downing Tuesday of a U.S. Chinook helicopter carrying 17 troops, many of them members of the Navy's elite SEAL commando unit. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.

[Excerpt]

Much of the fighting has been along Afghanistan's rugged border with Pakistan, including the battle that downed the helicopter Tuesday. The area is home to anti-American terrorists and drug traffickers who want the Afghan government to fail, said Thomas Gouttierre, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Drug traffickers and insurgents have joined forces, Gouttierre said, "because they recognize that a stabilized Afghanistan is not in their interest."

Many of the militants in the border areas, Afghan and U.S. officials said, are foreign fighters who hide out in the remote mountain passes. They remain in the border areas because of their historic ties with some officials in Pakistan, said Frederick Starr of Johns Hopkins University's Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington.

Although the site of the latest fighting is farther north than most previous battles, Gouttierre said, the insurgency is not gaining popularity within Afghanistan.

"The fear we might withdraw or lessen our support is much greater than any feelings that the presence of the United States is not desirable," he said. "Right now, Afghanistan is at a critical juncture, but it's also one that augurs more favorably for a successful conclusion than does the situation in Iraq."

The renewed fighting, which has gained strength in the past three months, comes as the nation prepares for parliamentary elections in September.

Gouttierre and Starr said Afghan militants may be desperate to interfere with the upcoming elections because they know they could not hope to win any seats in the national assembly. One such figure, they said, is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan government minister and warlord who has switched his allegiance to the Taliban.

On Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai used a twin-rotored Chinook helicopter to fly to Gardez, capital of the southeastern province of Paktia, which borders Pakistan. There he told local elders, "Voting is power, a power that you can use to elect a delegate of your choice and deny power to a government that fails to serve you."

In October, Karzai abandoned a trip to Gardez because insurgents had fired a rocket over his helicopter.

Contributing: Steven Komarow and wire reports





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Story Source: USA Today

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