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Taliban Attacks Kabul Before Elections
International community in a security rethink mood
Bidhayak Das (bidhayak)     Print Article 
Published 2009-08-05 10:56 (KST)   
Location of rocket attack in Kabul
©2009 Bidhayak Das

Kabul: The latest rocket attack in Kabul city on August 4, has sent alarm bells ringing especially amongst the international community which is here in big numbers to monitor the presidential and the provincial council elections scheduled to take place on August 20.

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At 4 a.m. on Tuesday August 4, eight rockets were fired from different directions and left half a dozen people injured, including a woman and child in Makiron and Masoud Avenue near the American Embassy. Vehicles and houses have been damaged in the rocket attacks.

The Taliban claim responsibility for the attacks. The local online media have quoted Taliban spokesperson Zabiluaah Mujahid as saying that the attack was launched to remind the government that the Taliban is not in favor of the elections. The Taliban spokesperson said that the attack was also meant to ensure that the Afghan government does not control security in and around Kabul during the run-up to the presidential and provincial council elections. The Taliban spokesperson claimed that nine rockets were fired, some towards the international airport and other strategic areas in the city.

Tuesday셲 attack on Kabul has forced the US and its allies as well as NATO, to review the security arrangements. "We are especially concerned we don't want election preparedness to be affected by these incidents," said a NATO official on condition of anonymity.

The international community has much at stake in the election. Should anything go wrong, their credibility to strengthen the process of democratization in Afghanistan by marginalizing the Taliban would be questioned. The escalating cost of rebuilding this war torn country has been a cause of concern.

Approximately US$1 billion is spent each day by the US to secure Afghanistan from the Taliban and armed opposition groups. The fight against these forces has cost the US, the UK and other European countries that are part of the United Nations International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), led by NATO.

A research by Amy Belasco of the Congressional Research Service shows that the total budget authority for the Afghan War now totals $171.1 billion for expenditures over the past eight fiscal years.

The fight against the Taliban and armed groups operating from different parts of Afghanistan, is turning out to be a nightmare for the US led forces and the NATO. "It's not easy to win this war here and the sooner this is realized the better," said Md. Hamidi, a human rights activist, when asked to comment on the prevailing security situation.

According to Aimal Khan, an Islamabad political commentator, the level and intensity of the violence is sending shock waves in US and major European powers of which troops are deployed in Afghanistan. "The months of July and August witnessed an increase in Taliban attacks and the highest casualties of foreign troops," he said.

Many Afghans would agree that the presence of the international community in Afghanistan is important but they at the same time they rue the fact that the operations against the Taliban, which has resumed in Helmand and some other provinces has led to more civilian casualties.

The NATO led forces continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in counter-insurgency operations and security related matters.

According to a NATO 2009 report, the overall security picture in 2008 was mixed. It says that while the security situation in large parts of the North, Center and West were relatively stable, in the South, South-East and South-West, "violence rose sharply leading to a significant overall increase in casualties from 2007." The security situation has not improved much; in fact security analysts have been critical of the growing bomb attacks and IED explosions in the neighborhoods of Kabul.

Reports of attacks by Taliban and armed opposition groups have been coming in from regions surrounding Kabul city and also from other provinces.

Scene of the rocket attack in Kabul
©2009 Bidhayak Das

On Monday last a powerful bomb in Heart left 12 people dead and injured as many as 20 others. A day before in Aqcha in Jawjan province which is close to the historic city of Mazar-e-Sheriff, a landmine blast left four people dead.

Incidentally, these attacks come close on the threats issued by the Taliban recently to disrupt the elections. A statement posted on the rebel website said that Afghans should not participate in the elections and instead take up arms against the NATO-led forces.

The statement read: "In order to gain real independence, instead of going to fake polling stations, they (Afghans) must go to jihadi trenches and through resistance and jihad (holy war) they must get their denied rights from the foreign invaders."

The statement claimed that the NATO and US forces were trying to cover up their failures in Afghanistan by holding the election. Calling it a "cover up", the statement urged Taliban fighters, to target the polling stations.

The Taliban rebels have intensified their attacks throughout the country and attacked campaign officials.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up all over Kabul city, and fresh check posts have been set up by the Afghan national army with support from the Afghan police and the ISAF.

In fact, security has been tight since the last month with NATO led forces conducting constant security surveillance from air, using helicopters and on the ground. There are currently about 90,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan on a mission to stabilize the country and take control of the most troubled areas ahead of the elections.

On the other hand, additional security measures are being planned for the upcoming elections in Afghanistan. The Chief Electoral Officer of the Independent Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan Dr. Daoud Ali Najafi said the security plan for 6969 polling centers and 28663 polling stations throughout the country is under assessment by the security institution and the location of centers and stations will be announced on their completion.

Specific measures have been taken by the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense and the National Security Agency to provide security during the campaign period for the Presidential and Provincial Council elections. These included provision of 20 security guards for each Presidential candidate and helicopter transport for their trips to certain provinces facilitated by the Ministry of Defense, announced Dr. Najafi. (EOM)

The author is a conflict and politics specialist now based in Kabul.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bidhayak Das

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