Forces Ready to Support Afghan Elections

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2010 — Coali­tion forces are sup­port­ing Afghan forces’ efforts to bol­ster secu­ri­ty in the days pre­ced­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, and they stand ready to assist with secu­ri­ty efforts when the vot­ing gets under way Sept. 18, a U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan said today.

“[The Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force] will be there to sup­port and ensure that a fair and trans­par­ent elec­tion occurs and this is a strong step for­ward for the peo­ple of Afghanistan,” Army Col. James H. John­son, com­man­der of Task Force Bay­o­net and the 173rd Air­borne Brigade Com­bat Team, told Pen­ta­gon reporters via a video tele­con­fer­ence from Afghanistan.

John­son was accom­pa­nied at the brief­ing by Gov. Moham­mad Hal­im of Afghanistan’s War­dak province, and Col. Aref Alz­aben of the Jor­dan­ian army, com­man­der of Task Force Nash­mi. As Task Force Bay­o­net com­man­der, John­son over­sees 4,900 per­son­nel in east­ern Afghanistan’s Log­ar and War­dak provinces.

In War­dak, Afghan Nation­al Police will guard 399 polling sites, sup­port­ed by coali­tion forces, as the Afghan-led elec­tions get under way, Fadai said.

Of the hun­dreds of polling sites across War­dak and Log­ar provinces, only 10 sites will remain closed Sept. 18, John­son said. But he added that the clo­sure is more a result of logis­tics and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion num­bers than secu­ri­ty con­cerns.

“We’ve made every effort pos­si­ble to ensure the vot­ing base knows where their polling sites are, and the secu­ri­ty plan is already in motion,” he said.

An impor­tant effort has tak­en place dur­ing the rehearsal and plan­ning stages, John­son said. Fol­low­ing rehearsals, Afghan secu­ri­ty lead­ers have appeared on 13 radio sta­tions scat­tered across Log­ar and War­dak provinces to inform the pub­lic about actions secu­ri­ty and gov­er­nance lead­ers are tak­ing to ensure secu­ri­ty.

This effort ensures that the peo­ple will have con­fi­dence that they can move to their polling sites and par­tic­i­pate in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions as they desire, John­son said. The elec­tions are a sign of progress for the Afghan peo­ple, the gov­er­nor not­ed, with the Afghans elect­ing their mem­bers and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives instead of “bul­lets to bal­lots.” John­son also touched on the secu­ri­ty con­di­tion in War­dak. The aim is to expand the secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty that exists in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul and move it through the dis­tricts from north to south, he said, with a focus on High­way 1, which runs from Kab­ul to Kan­da­har and is a major thor­ough­fare for com­merce.

“We do still have threats along that high­way,” he acknowl­edged, includ­ing Tal­iban forces and pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies that are engaged by local peo­ple.

John­son praised the efforts of Wardak’s gov­er­nor, who banned sev­er­al com­pa­nies and also took mea­sures to con­trol move­ment on the high­way. This has improved secu­ri­ty and is enabling pros­per­i­ty to move south, he said.

Forces are mak­ing progress dai­ly, the colonel said. How­ev­er, he added, “as we make greater progress, the ene­my will con­tin­ue to make greater effort to dis­rupt that secu­ri­ty.” Afghan army and police capac­i­ty is grow­ing dai­ly, and the forces are gain­ing the trust of the Afghan peo­ple, the gov­er­nor added. Some secu­ri­ty issues do exist, he added, and will take time to resolve.

“We can’t fix the prob­lems of 30 years, or more than that, in sev­en or eight years,” he said. “We have to be patient. We are mak­ing progress.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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