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article imageObama hails Afghans over historic elections

By Abdul Kuddus     Apr 6, 2014 in World
Kabul - Undeterred by the threat of Taliban violence and inclement weather, Afghans voted overwhelmingly to chose the successor to incumbent President Hamid Karzai after a decade of instability and bloodshed
US President Barack Obama in a statement said:
“I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.”
Afganistan’s Independent Electoral Commission claimed that almost 7 million voters exercised their right to vote out of 12 million eligible voters.
Increased violence ahead of the elections threatened to keep voters home, but long lines at polling centres across the country showed the determination of the Afghan people to have their voices heard.
The voter turnout was so high that some polling stations ran out of ballot paper. Reportedly excitement to vote overcame fear of Taliban reprisals as millions decided to be a part of Afghanistan’s historic elections after decades.
The elections were rather peaceful in contrast to the run-up to the elections. The credit for the successful conduct of elections reportedly goes to the Afghan security forces which took over the security apparatus from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) last year.
Elaborate security apparatus in the capital, Kabul, and across the country ensured that the voting process went smoothly, although media houses reported some isolated attacks in different parts of Afghanistan.
According to CNN “20 people were killed in violence across the country Saturday, as insurgents tried to disturb the voting processes. Seven military personnel, nine police and four civilians were killed.”
The massive turnout happened despite threats from the Taliban to disrupt the elections and punish all those part of the first democratic transfer of presidential power in the Afghanistan’s turbulent history.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai was among the voters to cast his vote Saturday. Karzai is constitutionally mandated to step down when his term expires and the next president elected.
With the scheduled withdrawal of US troops this year, the Obama administration closely watched as Afghanistan voted for democracy.
According to the New York Times, “For the United States ensuring a stable Afghanistan remains important, not just to validate the 1,800 American lives lost and billions of dollars spent over the past 13 years, but to avoid complicating the United States’ larger strategic interests in the region.”
The strategic interests include “a stable nuclear-armed Pakistan, improved relations between Pakistan and India, and responding to the growing fear among Central Asian nations about an emboldened Russia.”
The top priority for Karzai’s successor would be to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would allow residual American troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2014.
“The fact that US may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year if no agreement is reached has set off concerns within American intelligence agencies that they could lose air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a potential nuclear crisis in the region,” the New York Times reported.
The United States is aware of the fact that if Afghanistan slides back into chaos, it could be the biggest setback for US foreign policy and years of civil war which could mean continued Western intervention.
More about Afghanistan elections, bilateral security agreement, Afghanistan
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