Taliban warning discourages Afghan election attendance

Voter lack of interest and Taliban threats appear to have disheartened turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential election, raising worries that a vague outcome could drive the war devastated country into additional turmoil. In the last presidential election in 2014, approximately seven million people took part. Past elections have been damaged by hundred of deaths, accusation of voter deception and allegation that the election commission was not independent. In what is observed as a test of the Western-backed government’s ability to safeguard democracy against Taliban attempts to prevent it, those who did rise from the voting booths said they want their options to be respected. Taliban fighters attacked several polling stations across the country but tight security stopped any large scale violence. Technical deficiencies, such as missing voter names and biometric devices not functioning, were also reported. After the last election, the Taliban often attacked those transporting ballot boxes from local centers to larger regional offices for counting. Preliminary results are not anticipated until October 1919. Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib spoke two days after Afghans voted in a presidential election in which many polling centers were not opened because the country could not provide security against the Taliban. The militants control over half the country and cautioned not to go to the polls. In Afghanistan a new generation of leaders has risen up in wartime. The way is far from clear. US-Taliban peace talks failed earlier this month as a deal seemed possible to finish America’s longest war. It began in 2001 as a US to unseat Afghanistan’s then-ruling Taliban for sheltering Al-Qaida leader and 9/11 brain Osama bin Laden. The Afghan government had been sidelined in the talks; the Taliban rejected to talk directly with an administration the rebel sees as a US puppet. For North Korea, two summits with the US haven’t yielded a plan for finishing the North’s nuclear program and the sanctions imposed because of it. Afghan women cast their votes on a day that saw explosion of violence across Afghanistan. About 20 attacks were carried out across the country comprising on polling stations with explosions in the cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. Nevertheless there were no reports of any large scale casualties. Security forces reported on Saturday that 28 insurgents had been killed in operations in the past 24 hours. It was not clear whether the election would take place at all while negotiations were ongoing between the US and the Taliban in Qatar. The talks were ended earlier this month by Donald Trump after an American soldier was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan. The negotiations are anticipated to continue. Mr Trump is in despair to bring troops home in time for his re-election campaign, and boosted for ending the biggest war in American history. The meeting in Doha was to find the path for a final deal that brings the Taliban back into government. A draft agreement presented by Zalmay Khalilzad, the head of the US team, had faced condemnation; this is observed as a probability for the near future.
Abdullah Abdullah, the co-leader of the outgoing government, and the main challenger to president Ashraf Ghani in the election, had stated that provisional powers haring with the Taliban could be the answer to ending the everlasting struggle. After casting his vote at the polling station of Amani High School in Kabul, Mr Ghani lauded the security forces for putting in place stringent measures to prevent attacks and protect the nation. Accompanied by his wife Bibi Gul and running mate Amrullah Saleh, he insisted that a settlement to the conflict remained the priority. The ongoing risk was stressed by the need to station 70,000 soldiers and police officers on the day, with US-led international forces providing air support. Approximately 29,500 polling stations were set up in schools, mosques, hospitals and government buildings.
Victims of a bomb outside a polling station are treated at a hospital in Kandahar. More or less 1,500 of them would remain closed because sufficient protection could not be guaranteed and 901 polling stations could not be contacted when voting was assumed to start to find out if they were functioning. Frequent bomb menace from the Taliban appeared to have affected turnout in many areas. Numbers were low in Kabul, where a series of suicide attacks has destroyed the city. Women queued up in conventionally conservative Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, before polling stations opened at 7am, in spite of recent violence. Some voters turned up against the wishes of family members and friends who are worried about security. They said they felt it was their duty as citizens to do so. Some had profoundly personal reasons to vote. The Independent Election Commission, managing the polls, asserts that the use of biometric verification will prevent ballot-rigging. Every polling station has been supplied with equipment to match fingerprints and photographs to identity cards. There have been complaints of the machines breaking down and officials not being able to use them properly. There are two reasons why so few are here. People are scared of getting bombed, and also many are just disturbed with politicians and turning away from politics.
Now Presidential elections are complete, and Afghanistan now counters a period of insecurity and probable political turmoil. Saturday’s vote was damaged by violence, Taliban threats and widespread allegations of mismanagement and abuse. It was the fourth time Afghans have gone to the polls to elect a president since 2001 when the US-led coalition ousted a backward Taliban government. The latest election seems not likely to bring the peace sought by Afghans.

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