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US Envoy Assures Security for Afghan Legislative Elections

The new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan says insurgent violence is likely to continue, but there are enough local and international security forces in place to safeguard next month's landmark legislative elections.

Speaking at his first news conference in Kabul, Ambassador Ronald Neumann said Thursday that the United States is confident coalition forces, working with the Afghan authorities, will be able to safeguard the upcoming elections despite worsening violence.

The U.S envoy acknowledged that violence has increased in Afghanistan in recent months and poses a threat to the country's future. He says rebel forces will try to kill candidates and disrupt the elections. But he says these attempts will fail, just as similar efforts to halt the country's presidential election last October were defeated.

Since that election, Mr. Neumann says, Afghan and foreign security forces have increased in number, and are now better placed to maintain election security.

"There is certainly more violence and there are violent elements that are trying to come back," he said. "I think this is a situation that's going to be difficult for some time. But I would say that there is a strong international presence and there is a strong American presence, and that strong presence is quite adequate to deal with the new violence."

The U.S ambassador's predictions of more violence were borne out Thursday as two American soldiers were killed and two others wounded, when a roadside bomb blew up their vehicle in the troubled southern region of Afghanistan.

Stepped-up violence by guerillas of the former Taleban regime and other militant forces has claimed hundreds of lives in the country this year.

The campaigning for the September 18 legislative elections officially began on Wednesday. Nearly 6,000 candidates will run for 249 seats in the national parliament and 34 provincial councils. Afghan leaders have also warned of militant attacks, but they, too, say they are confident the elections will be successful.