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Bush's Test in Afghanistan - CS Monitor, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Bush s Test in Afghanistan http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0913/p08s01-comv.html When Afghanistan holds its first direct election for president on Oct. 9, it
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2004
      Bush's Test in Afghanistan

      http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0913/p08s01-comv.html

      When Afghanistan holds its first direct election for
      president on Oct. 9, it will also be the first test of
      President Bush's idea that democracy is a cure-all for
      Muslim nations prone to aiding and abetting radical
      Islamic terrorists.

      The election, which so far has 18 candidates in
      contention, may also foreshadow possible difficulties
      for a January election scheduled in Iraq, a nation
      that's the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's grand scheme to
      eventually rid the Middle East of authoritarian
      regimes.

      The Afghan vote comes nearly three years after US-led
      forces ousted the Taliban and uprooted Al Qaeda's
      terrorist headquarters as a result of 9/11. A special
      nationwide tribal council called the loya jirga has
      since set up a temporary constitution and government
      led by Hamid Karzai, who, backed by the US, is the
      favored candidate for Oct. 9. But the challenge of
      preparing for a safe and credible election in a
      country torn by war and divided by ethnicity is
      formidable.

      The election already has been postponed from its
      original date last June. Although voter registration
      exceeds expectations, concerns abound about double
      registration. And the United Nations claims the
      country lacks many basic conditions for a fair vote,
      even though it's helping conduct the election.

      At least 20 people have been killed in
      election-related violence, and portions of the country
      remain under the control of remnants of the Taliban or
      local chieftains with militias who plan to influence
      voters by intimidation.

      Some 18,000 US troops are still chasing members of Al
      Qaeda and the Taliban, while a NATO force of 8,000 is
      trying to safeguard a few major cities. They are
      backed up by a new Afghan Army with over 14,000 troops
      and a police force of about 30,000.

      Beyond the security concerns, however, just the
      logistics of balloting are daunting. Everything from
      MI-8 helicopters to donkeys will be used to transport
      ballot boxes across difficult terrain. Election
      officials have maps that show areas at low, medium,
      and high risk for violence. In a highly illiterate
      nation, many voters don't believe their vote will be
      secret. Or they worry that the indelible ink put on
      their thumb to indicate they voted will identify them
      later to Taliban gunmen (the ink supposedly comes off
      in five days).

      The ballots had to be printed in Canada (with pictures
      of the candidates on them) while the ballot boxes come
      from Denmark. Millions of marking pens had to be
      imported. Extra polling stations are required because
      men and women will vote separately. (Some Muslim
      preachers have said women shouldn't vote - even though
      41 percent of those who registered are women.)

      Holding this election just before the US election
      could prove a bane or a boon to Bush's strategy
      against terrorism as well as to his own chances of
      reelection. The fact that he pushed for an Afghan
      election at this time indicates his confidence in a
      fair result, which would be to his political favor.

      Those on the ground may have their doubts, but so far
      it seems more people than not want this election to
      succeed, and help Afghanistan escape quickly from its
      past.







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