As Afghanistan prepares to hold its first post-war parliamentary elections, international peacekeepers are looking at ways to improve security. The head of the NATO-led force says additional troops will be deployed for the vote, but adds the country is generally much safer now than it was last year.
Lieutenant General Jean-Louis Py, the head of Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is optimistic the upcoming Afghan parliamentary elections will be peaceful.
Still, he says security will be more of a challenge than it was for the presidential election, held last October with almost no violent incidents.
Given the larger scale of campaigning and the larger number of candidates, more peacekeeping troops will be needed.
"It's not comparable to the presidential election. It will be more complicated and more difficult to run," he said. "NATO will bring some additional forces in Afghanistan to support the National Assembly election."
Since Afghan and U.S. forces ousted the ultra-religious Taleban regime in 2001, fighters loyal to the Taleban have been staging attacks in an effort to disrupt the new government, which they view as a U.S. puppet.
General Py says the Taleban were weakened over the past year, with attacks declining by some 40 percent. He says the scope of the threat should continue to decrease over the next six months.
But he adds that the ISAF peacekeepers will stay until security is fully established across Afghanistan, regardless of how long that takes.
"If you reach this situation within two or three years, it's okay, we'll leave in two or three years. If you reach it in 10 years, maybe we will remain until then," said General Py.
The general also urged the Afghan government to set a date for the parliamentary vote as soon as possible, so that ISAF can begin making security arrangements.
Under Afghanistan's new election law, the vote must be held at least three months after the president announces the boundaries for the parliamentary voting districts.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has yet to make such an announcement, but says his administration is working on the matter and should release the district maps soon.
While the Afghan government had originally hoped to hold the elections by mid May, logistical problems have pushed the likely voting date back to sometime in June or July.