- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Elaborate security plans have been laid out across Afghanistan to ensure the success of the country’s first presidential election scheduled to take place Saturday, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Taliban elements have tried to disrupt the vote with a bombing campaign that left seven Afghan policemen dead yesterday.

President Hamid Karzai took his first campaign steps yesterday, traveling south of the capital, Kabul, to Ghanzi amid a swarm of helicopters escorted by fighter jets.

About 10,000 people turned out to welcome the U.S.-backed leader, carrying posters saying, “Karzai is the symbol of unity,” and cheering, “Allahu akbar” (God is great).

“When I see this number of people, in the thousands, I’m delighted and I’m sure I will win,” he told the supporters, adding that he was pleased to see posted pictures of the other 17 candidates.

“Your vote does not only elect your president but it lays the foundation of a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” he said.

Officials in Washington clearly agree, and hope that pulling off elections in Afghanistan will send a signal to war-ravaged Iraq, which is scheduled for a vote in January.

“It’s a model in the sense of the international community standing behind a country that has a very strong desire” to have elections, said one U.S. administration official.

NATO has sent an additional 2,000 troops to help quell any violence, and international observers are on the ground to keep an eye on the run-up to the elections and procedures on voting day.

“Without a doubt, NATO has been enormously important in the stability of Afghanistan [and] an important part of this election effort,” the official said.

The official added that “well-rehearsed” and “elaborate security plans” had been put into place for Saturday, combining the Afghan and international forces, as well as militia working under the Afghan department of defense.

“We are prepared for a day that is marred by some violence, but this violence won’t derail what is an important day,” the official said.

The United States says more than 10 million Afghans have registered to vote.

The official said registration was not uniform across the country, particularly in the south and southeast, where “you still have people who don’t want to see democracy come to Afghanistan.”

The 22,000 polling stations throughout Afghanistan are to be protected by Afghan national police. If attacked, they will get additional support from the national Afghan army or militia forces.

“This election is going to reach the benchmarks and standards to be credible,” the official said.

After Saturday’s vote, the ballots are to be gathered and sent to eight regional centers, where they will be counted, a process that could take two weeks.

Final results are not expected until late October or mid-November.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide