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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs