NEWS | Sept. 21, 2010

Attacks down, voting up in Afghan elections


An Afghan elder shows his purple inked finger to indicate that he voted during Afghanistan’s elections, Aug. 20, in Barge Matal, Afghanistan. Afghanistan village elders are considered to be the role models and leaders among the Afghan population. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher W. Allison)

WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2010) —    Insurgent attacks during Afghanistan’s Sept. 18 parliamentary elections were down a third from the 2009 Afghan presidential election, and fewer than 1 percent of polling stations experienced significant violence, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

Although violence took place in Afghanistan as the Taliban attempted to disrupt the elections, Marine Corps Col. David Lapan said, it was less than in the past, and the number of Afghans who voted was higher than last year.

The overall number of stacks was down, Lapan added, as was the number of high-profile attacks.

“Most of the attacks we saw during the elections were small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades,” he said. “There were only a few [improvised explosive device] incidents, and there were no effective suicide-bombing incidents.”

Officials estimate that 40 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections. This is up from an estimated 35 percent in the presidential elections last year. Widespread allegations of fraud occurred during last year’s election, and there were fraud claims this year, even before the polls closed. Officials of the Independent Election Commission will examine the claims.

Election commission officials estimated that 3.6 million votes were cast, with about 40 percent of the votes being cast by women, Lapan said.

Afghan security forces handled security at polling stations, Lapan said. While International Security Assistance Force troops were ready to help their Afghan partners if needed, “ISAF didn’t have to get actively involved,” he said.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of coalition forces, praised the Afghan forces for their efforts.

“I commend, in particular, the Afghan national security forces, who performed so bravely today in safeguarding a weapon with greater potential than any other: the people’s right to vote and to have a say in the future of their country,” he said in a written statement Sept.  18.