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Afghanistan Deploys Security Forces Nationwide to Secure Polls


Afghanistan has deployed 300,000 police, army and special forces across the country to secure polling stations for the April 5 presidential and provincial elections.

The extraordinary push to improve security comes as militant attacks continue in an effort to disrupt the ballot.

Security is tight on the streets of Kabul. Despite this, militant attacks continue.

Ministry of Defense spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said every effort was being made to safeguard the April 5 elections.

"We cannot say that the enemy will not attack; they will try suicide bomb attacks and bomb blasts in some parts of the country. But I can tell you we have the ability and capacity to stop them," he said.

Tens of thousands of security troops have fanned out across the country.

"Our special forces commandos also are now ready across the country, in provinces where they may be needed to respond to emergency situations. We also have special forces ready to conduct night raids," said the spokesman.

Yet the large outdoor political rallies have remained relatively unscathed during the election campaign.

Instead, militant attacks have focused on police, election officials, local candidates and foreigners.

Police are taking the security lead.

Kabul's Rapid Reaction force are the police who are called in when there is a bomb blast or gun battle in the city center. They are also the ones who will be helping secure Kabul for the upcoming presidential elections.

Some voters, like Haji Asad, are determined to have a voice in this election.

"We Afghans have to ensure our own security. And in spite of all the threats, we are still going to the polls," said Asad.

Others, like Haji Qais, are not willing to take the risk.

"Only party members will vote, and even they will be scared. No-one is going to risk their life, we do not have enough security, and if Kabul is not secure, imagine the provinces," said Qais.

Security officials, including the country's Air Forces Commander General Mohammed Dawran, are trying their best to re-assure citizens.

"Our air forces are at the ready in many provinces, like Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar, and Helmand. And we have helicopters on standby across the country to deploy our special forces commandos in case of any emergency," he said.

The Taliban on Wednesday again warned Afghans not to take part in the elections, or risk being killed.

Guesthouses and restaurants popular with foreigners and Afghans have already been closed in the capital in expectations of further attacks.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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