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Afghanistan Faces Many Challenges in Run-Up to Election

For the first time in four decades, Afghanistan will run its own election. But there will be outside assistance - the most important being the tens of thousands of NATO-led troops in the country backing the Afghan forces providing security and logistical support. The international community is also providing funding to run the election and voter education campaigns. But there will be many challenges, including the Taliban, which is determined to disrupt the voting process.

This is an election unlike the one five years ago, in which President Hamid Karzai was declared the winner. This time, Afghans are controlling the process. And, there will be fewer international advisers and observers.

Crucial election

Ahmad Nader Nadery, of the Afghan International Human Rights Commission, tells VOA the security situation will not allow for the presence of more observers.

"Taking the security arrangement for each international observer deployed in an insecure polling station or province, it is practically not possible," Nadery said. "It was not possible. I would like to see more of the international observers to give more credibility and transparency to the process."

For Afghans, such as Nadery, there is no understating what is at stake on August 20.

"I think it's a crucial moment in the history of our nation, in Afghanistan, and also in the international arena, as well," Nadery said. "If this project fails, if, through violence or other means, it loses the credibility and legitimacy. Then the fate of the entire project of stabilization in Afghanistan and the region would fail."

Concern about safety

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission plays a key role in attempting to ensure the fairness of the election. But commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor tells VOA the commission is in no position to provide security.

"That's not the responsibility of the Independent Election Commission. These kind of responsibilities are going to national and international troops which are in Afghanistan," Noor said. "That is the responsibility of them to establish a good environment for election."

At the gates of Kabul University, views vary on whether that is possible. Student Enyatulla Hameedi hopes the several 100,000 armed forces of Afghanistan and the NATO-led international troops together can ensure security.

"The role of international forces, they're important [in the election]," Hameedi said. "We are really grateful for them because they established massive peace and security in different parts of our country. We wish from them to accompany us in this regard up to the time the election is finished. We can say that if the international forces don't do their responsibility our people will not be able to vote as well as possible."

Some Afghans are not as hopeful

One of his fellow students, Mahmood Ullah, is more pessimistic.

Ullah says he thinks a number of factors will undermine the election -- particularly that the government does not have control over all regions of Afghanistan. He believes that will prevent people from having confidence that the outcome will be fair.

For law student Nila Ali, there is concern women will not be able to go to the polls -- not because of instability, but because of restrictions put on them in this conservative society.

Ali says women are half of the population and have the right to vote. She hopes all Afghan families will allow their women to participate in the election.

Will women be kept from voting?

The reality is some women will be prevented from going to polling stations. Some warlords will deliver votes wholesale to their favored candidates. And, in at least a few remote places, ballot boxes will not be delivered because of the Taliban or other anti-government groups.

Despite the obstacles, the Afghan government and the international community hope their cooperation will yield an election deemed credible enough to be accepted peacefully by the people of Afghanistan.