News / Asia

Smooth Afghan Poll Raises Questions About Taliban's Strength

Afghan boys look on a preliminary list taped to the wall of a polling station in Kabul, April 7, 2014. Preliminary tallies from the country's presidential election showed former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah leading in parts of Kabul Monday.
Afghan boys look on a preliminary list taped to the wall of a polling station in Kabul, April 7, 2014. Preliminary tallies from the country's presidential election showed former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah leading in parts of Kabul Monday.
Reuters
A bigger-than-expected turnout in Afghanistan's presidential election and the Taliban's failure to significantly disrupt the vote have raised questions about the capacity of the insurgents to tip the country back into chaos as foreign troops head home.
 
The Taliban claimed that they staged more than 1,000 attacks and killed dozens during Saturday's election, which they have branded a U.S.-backed deception of the Afghan people, though security officials said it was a gross exaggeration.
 
There were dozens of minor roadside bombs, and attacks on polling stations, police and voters during the day. But the overall level of violence was much lower than the Taliban had threatened to unleash on the country.
 
And, despite the dangers they faced at polling stations, nearly 60 percent of the 12 million people eligible to vote turned out, a measure of the determination for a say in their country's first-ever democratic transfer of power, as President Hamid Karzai prepares to stand down after 12 years in power.
 
“This is how people vote to say death to the Taliban,” said one Afghan on Twitter, posting a photograph that showed his friends holding up one finger - stained with ink to show they had voted - in a gesture of defiance.
 
There was a palpable sense in Kabul, the capital, on Sunday that perhaps greater stability is within reach after 13 years of strife since the ouster of the Taliban's hardline Islamist  regime in late 2001. The insurgency has claimed the lives of at least 16,000 Afghans civilians and thousands more security forces.
 
“It was my dream come true,” said Shukria Barakzai, a member of Afghanistan's parliament. “That was a fantastic slap on the face of the enemy of Afghanistan, a big punch in the face of those who believe Afghanistan is not ready for democracy.”
 
Too soon to write off the Taliban
 
It may be too early, however, to conclude from the Taliban's failure to trip up the election that it is now on a backfoot.
 
More than 350,000 security forces were deployed for the vote, and rings of checkpoints and roadblocks around the capital, Kabul, may well have thwarted Taliban plans to hit voters and polling stations.
 
It is possible that the Taliban deliberately lay low to give the impression of improving security in order to hasten the exit of U.S. troops and gain more ground later. After all, they managed to launch a wave of spectacular attacks in the run-up to the vote.
 
Indeed, they remain a formidable force: estimates of the number of Taliban fighters, who are mostly based in lawless southern and eastern areas of the country, range up to 30,000.
 
Borhan Osman of the independent Afghan Analysts Network argues that for now the insurgency does not appear to be winning, though the Taliban might argue it has already exhausted the United States' will to fight.
 
In a report published late last month Osman wrote that support for the Taliban was fading in regions where they had previously counted on help from villagers, and they appeared to lack the strength to besiege major towns or engage in frontal battles.
 
“So far, they have rather focused efforts on hit-and-run attacks, among other asymmetric tactics, which can bleed the enemy but usually not enough to knock it down,” Osman said.
 
There could, though, be an opportunity for the Taliban to reassert itself if - as happened in 2009 - the election is marred by fraud and rigging, and Afghans feel cheated of a credible outcome.
 
Early reports would suggest that this election was far smoother than the last one. Still, there were many instances of ballot-stuffing and attempts to vote with fake cards on Saturday.
 
Around 14 percent of polling centers did not open, most of them in the south-east and southern provinces where the Taliban presence is strongest, as the army was unable to provide security due to the high risks of attack.
 
There is also a risk that if a final result is delayed for several months, a strong possibility if there has to be a run-off between the top two candidates, this would leave a political vacuum that the Taliban could exploit.
 
“An ambiguous electoral outcome breeds uncertainty and confusion, which can grow the gap between the government and its citizens and leave a bigger opening for the Taliban to cause trouble,” Dipali Mukhopadhyay, an Afghanistan expert at Columbia University in New York, said in an email comment to Reuters.

Threat from across the border
 
In 2003, the then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested that the war in Afghanistan was in a “clean-up phase”. It was soon clear, however, that the back of the insurgency was far from broken and the Taliban bounced back.
 
Indeed, Taliban attacks were muted during Afghanistan's first election in 2004, when Karzai obtained a mandate for a presidency he had held on an interim basis since 2002. By early 2005, U.S. generals were saying that the militants were on the run, only to regret their optimism a short while later as casualties mounted.
 
Karzai has repeatedly accused neighbor Pakistan of being behind Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and impeding efforts by his government to thrash out a peace deal with the insurgents.
 
Islamabad denies that it aids insurgents fighting Kabul and says it has its hands full battling the Pakistan Taliban. But it is widely believed that the shadowy intelligence arm of Pakistan's military has long had a relationship with militant groups, including those active in Afghanistan.
 
Carlotta Gall, a journalist who reported from the region for many years argued in a just-published book that the United States has been fighting the wrong enemy, and that it is in Pakistan where the training and funding of the Taliban and support of the al-Qaida network has occurred.
 
Underlining the threat from across the border, military chiefs and security officials in the region told Reuters last month that the Taliban from both countries had secretly agreed to focus on carrying out operations in Afghanistan

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
April 07, 2014 5:25 PM
TRUTH BE TOLD .... Did the US deliberately exaggerate the strength and danger from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban the last (5) years, to convince the Afghans, Pakistani's, and the American people, of the need by the US to keep 68,000 US troops and killer drones in Afghanistan, and Pakistan? -- (NOW?) -- Do the Afghans really need those (CIA) bases in Afghanistan after US troops leave, to track and kill suspected enemies of America, and their supporters in Afghanistan, and other foreign countries, while also killing many innocents with killer drone bombs? ....... REALLY?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid