Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bomb kills US service member in Afghanistan

KABUL — An American service member died Tuesday of wounds suffered in a bombing the day before in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. command said.

The death was the first for the U.S. in September and comes after the deadliest month of the eight-year Afghan war for American troops. At least 49 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in August, according to a count by The Associated Press based on official announcements.

Taliban attacks spiked this summer and there are now a record level of American forces in the country — more than 62,000.

But as U.S. military leaders consider asking for more troops to combat the increasing violence, allegations of widespread fraud in Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential contest continue to preoccupy the Afghan government.

New vote tallies released Monday showed the incumbent President Hamid Karzai leading with 45.8 percent of the votes counted, with challenger Abdullah Abdullah trailing with 33.2 percent.

Ballots have been counted from almost half of the country's voting stations. Karzai needs 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff.

Abdullah, who has charged Karzai's supporters with voter intimidation and large-scale ballot-stuffing, said Tuesday he would not strike a deal in order to achieve "power or position" in office.

"I would like to assure you that I will not make any deal over your rights and the trust you have in me, I am not ready for any kind of deal," Abdullah told supporters at a meeting in Kabul.

He also said he was ready to challenge any decision he sees as violating the constitution. "We have legal ways, peaceful ways to struggle to win our rights, and we will not ignore our right," he said.

Although he didn't mention what legal steps he would take, Abdullah appeared to hope election officials will send the election into a second round.

U.S. officials had hoped the presidential election would establish an Afghan government with the legitimacy to combat the Taliban, corruption and the country's huge drug trade.

The vote, however, was clouded by the fraud allegations, as well as threats and intimidation by the Taliban.

President Barack Obama committed 21,000 new American forces to Afghanistan this year, bringing the total U.S. commitment to 68,000 by the end of the year.

A record 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops are stationed in Afghanistan.

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