Swedish FM visits Afghanistan ahead of vote

-File photo

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt headed to Afghanistan on Friday to join up with US regional envoy Richard Holbrooke for a pre-election assessment trip, the EU said.
Bildt was to meet President Hamid Karzai and his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta during the two-day visit, the European Union’s Swedish presidency said in a statement.
Bildt and Holbrooke were to visit a European provincial reconstruction team, and the Swedish minister was also to meet “EU election observers ahead of the election on 20 August and with representatives of the EU police mission.”
There are about 90,000 foreign troops — mainly US, British and Canadian — deployed in Afghanistan on a mission to stabilise the country as a Taliban insurgency reaches its deadliest heights since the 2001 US-led invasion.
Ahead of next month’s president election, the US military has launched one of its biggest offensives yet in Afghanistan, flying 4,000 Marines in to battle
the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand.
Holbrooke, who arrived in Afghanistan Thursday, said the United States was working to avoid mistakes that allowed the vanquished Taliban to escape into Pakistan after they were toppled.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2009