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Gates says Afghans Have Capable Plan for Election Security

  • Meredith Buel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (r) and French Defense Minister Herve Morin (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (r) and French Defense Minister Herve Morin (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says Afghanistan's security forces have a capable and competent security program in place for Saturday's parliamentary elections.

The Taliban has repeatedly threatened that it will use violence to disrupt the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The insurgent group has warned Afghans to boycott the vote, saying its fighters will attack polling stations across the country.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he believes Afghan security forces are ready to protect the voters.

"There has been a lot of preparation," said Robert Gates. "The ballots have been distributed to the voting stations. The Afghans have, based on the briefings that I have received, the Afghans have a capable and competent security plan for the elections. We will provide support, as needed, obviously."

More than 250,000 Afghan police and troops are being deployed to protect polling centers.

Last year's presidential election was marred by allegations of massive fraud.

Secretary Gates says he is hoping for a better result in the parliamentary elections.

"I think that there is a good adjudication process that has been put in place," he said. "So I hope that we will see a credible election in which improprieties are at a minimum."

U.S. President Barack Obama has set July 2011 as the date to begin a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Gates made his remarks during a joint appearance with French Defense Minister Herve Morin.

Morin said any withdrawal needs to be done responsibly.

"It cannot be a European speech, or a position, or the whole international community announcing our pulling out because that would be the best way to encourage the Taliban that could find this idea of a programmed pullout further strength to hold on. We have to do it with a spirit of responsibility," said Herve Morin.

Secretary Gates reiterated he is encouraged that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is working, although he has said it will take years before security can be completely handed over to Afghan forces.

"The one line that I picked up when I was in Afghanistan was that it seemed like the closer to the front lines you are, the more confident and encouraged people are," said Gates. "There is no question that this is a tough fight and we are just at the beginning."

Gates points out the last of the 30,000 additional American forces surging into Afghanistan arrived a few weeks ago.

He says the U.S. and allied effort in the country now has sufficient resources to begin delivering tangible results.

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