Tight Security in Place for Elections Day in Afghanistan
Top government officials responsible for security in Afghanistan say there is no way to ensure the Taliban will not be able to cause civilian casualties before the election or on the day of voting. Afghanistan's military is declaring a one-day unilateral cease-fire for election day Thursday, saying troops will only take defensive positions to prevent Taliban violence against polling stations.
The top government ministers responsible for security are defending their efforts four days before the presidential election and one day after a Taliban suicide car bombing in the capital. The attack outside the front gates of NATO headquarters in the most heavily guarded part of the capital killed seven people and injured nearly 100.
Speaking to reporters, the interior minister, the defense minister and the national security chief gave no promises there will not be another such event this week, but said they are doing their best to protect voters.
Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar says 62 attempted attacks were thwarted in Kabul in the last six months, but the 63rd succeeded.
"Such terrorist attacks will not break the resolve of our nation. They [voters] will go to polling stations. They will vote for the person of their choice," said Atmar. "And they will show again and demonstrate their remarkable courage and resilience."
The defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, noted that even nations with "100-fold" more security resources, mentioning the United States, Britain, Spain, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, have not been able to prevent all attempted terrorist attacks.
General Wardak explained that, on election day, the domestic and international forces are preparing "for the worst possible scenario" and will have four-tiers of security in place. The international forces will handle the two outer tiers on the ground and in the air for the thousands of polling stations nationwide.
The defense minister expresses hope all "arrangements, planning, rehearsals and exercises" will adequately secure all the nearly 29,000 voting sites.
"There is no doubt that the total security forces of the international community and the Afghans are not enough to cover this much of area and this much of population based on the requirement mentioned in the counter-insurgency manuals," said Wardak. "But still we will do our best."
The four-star general also announced a unilateral cease-fire on election day, saying Afghan forces will only be on the defensive to prevent violence.
The Taliban are vowing to attack polling places and disrupt the election process.
An estimated 17 million Afghans are eligible to vote. The legitimacy of the election depends on a sufficient turnout.
Voters have several dozen presidential candidates to choose among, including the favorite and incumbent, Mr. Hamid Karzai. More than 400 councilor seats in 34 province are also being contested.