A senior U.S. military officer in Afghanistan says insurgents are expected to try to disrupt this Sunday's Afghan election through a major attack, but he does not believe they have the ability to launch a series of coordinated attacks like insurgents in Iraq do.
On a video link from Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Brigadier General James Champion told reporters at the Pentagon the insurgents in Afghanistan are not as well organized as those in Iraq, who have launched widespread attacks in recent days. "We do not anticipate any kind of a coordinated attack. We have not seen the ability of the enemy here in Afghanistan to mount coordinated attacks across this country," he said.
General Champion said Afghanistan's insurgents will more likely try to carry out one large-scale attack that will make headlines. He says the country's new security forces, which are taking the lead in providing election security, are working hard to prevent such an attack. "They've taken a lot of steps in a lot of areas to prevent such a thing from happening. The government has been involved in planning to prevent this type of event from happening. So I think that we're in good shape to stop it. But that's not going to prevent them from making an attempt," he said.
General Champion acknowledges that there has been an increase in attacks in recent weeks, as the election has approached, including the killing of six of the 5,800 candidates.
He says U.S. and other foreign forces will be ready to help in an emergency during the voting on Sunday, but the Afghan forces will provide most of the election security. He also says the Afghan government will handle the administrative aspects of the election, including setting up some 6,000 polling places and transporting millions of ballots for counting.
General Champion said preparations for the election and the ongoing fight against insurgents have left the search for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden outside the focus of his force's attention. "I really can't tell you anything about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. We have not heard or seen anything about him. Quite frankly, we're totally concentrating on rebuilding Afghanistan and this election that's coming up on Sunday. We are always going to look for Osama bin Laden, and he is clearly on our minds. But I'm speaking from the perspective of right now concerning the elections here," he said.
Speaking later, the senior Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said it is often difficult to find one particular individual. But he says U.S. efforts have captured or killed most of the leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist organization, and that Osama bin Laden himself continues to be under pressure, and spends a lot of time avoiding capture.