- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

U.S. analysts and diplomats called yesterday for NATO to do more to provide a secure environment in Afghanistan for elections scheduled for September.

“There are hard challenges coming up, but it is possible to succeed,” said William B. Taylor, the Afghanistan coordinator at the Department of State, at a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Taylor said remnants of the defeated Taliban government were intent on disrupting the preparation and execution of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

“They don’t want the elections to succeed,” he said.

Yesterday, an Afghan soldier was killed and another was wounded when gunmen on motorcycles attacked a voter-registration site.

“The international community needs to step up to this issue,” said Mr. Taylor, who demanded that NATO deploy additional forces to Afghanistan this summer.

“They have said that Afghanistan is their number one priority,” Mr. Taylor said. “They need to [fulfill] their promise.”

Mark Schneider, the senior vice president of the International Crisis Group, agreed that there was a strong need to send more NATO troops to Afghanistan.

A NATO summit scheduled for next week in Istanbul “is the last chance to make good,” he said.

John Stuart Blackton, the former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said, “NATO so far has demonstrated an inability” to secure Afghanistan.

The Afghan ambassador in Washington, Said Tayeb Jawad, said it was not feasible to create a “perfect environment” in Afghanistan for the elections.

“We are coming out of 30 years of war,” he said.

Describing the mood in Afghanistan before the election, he said there was strong support for President Hamid Karzai. But the country still was divided between those who wanted to stabilize it and those who were trying to prevent this, Mr. Jawad added.

Mr. Taylor said 4 million voters had registered, with 100,000 more registering every day, of whom 36 percent were women.

“The U.N. is now doing a pretty good job after a slow start,” Mr. Taylor said. “We need to be able to say to the Afghanistan people that their votes count.”

Mr. Karzai indicated last week that 6 million voters would need to participate in the election for it to be judged a success.

Despite satisfaction with the registration numbers, the rates remain low in the critical southern and southeastern regions, where 10 percent have registered.

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