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

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid