Demonstrators in Kabul protest the outcome of the Afghan parliamentary… (Massoud Hossaini / AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — In a move likely to anger members of Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, election officials Wednesday upheld a sweep by a rival group in a Pashtun-dominated province in September's parliamentary election.
The discord over the election outcome in Ghazni, a strategic province south of Kabul, was only one of a number of quarrels that remain unresolved more than two months after balloting that was intended as a showpiece of democracy.
Thousands of fraud complaints are still pending, and Afghanistan's attorney general is threatening more arrests in connection with the vote. Some Western diplomats are concerned that President Hamid Karzai might seek to alter the supposedly final results that were announced last month.
Wednesday's decision ratifies the victories of 11 candidates in Ghazni who are members of the minority Hazara ethnic group. Pashtun candidates and their supporters said the result was dictated by the danger in the province, where many people were unable to vote because they were afraid to leave their homes or because polling centers did not open.
The Taliban insurgency is strongest in Pashtun-dominated areas, and insurgents had warned people not to cast ballots.
The international community, however, aimed to keep the focus on the fact that the election had taken place at all. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan issued a statement praising electoral authorities for "completing the process in extremely challenging circumstances."
Meanwhile, violence flared for the second time this week in a volatile eastern province. Taliban fighters ambushed and kidnapped 16 Afghan members of a team working to remove land mines. Nine were later released, their organization said, but seven were still being held late Wednesday.
The abduction took place near a main border crossing into Pakistan in Nangarhar province, where an Afghan border policeman fatally shot six U.S. troops Monday during a training exercise.
That incident remained under investigation, though the Taliban said the man was a sleeper agent. Police officials said the assailant had served on the force for the last three years, and described him as a loyal member.
The West sees training of the Afghan police and army as a key element of its exit strategy and hopes to turn over most security responsibilities to those forces within the next three years.