Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah listen to his speech during an election gathering Wednesday in Dih Sabz District of Kabul province. (Shah Marai / AFP)
Afghanistan’s elections will be a key test for both Afghanistan’s young armed forces and the Taliban, which would like to disrupt voting scheduled for next month.
Afghanistan’s military is taking the lead in planning and executing an operation to secure polling places and distribute election materials, a massive undertaking.
“The elections have been an Afghan-planned and will be an Afghan-executed activity,” said Australian Brig. Marcus Thompson, an operations officer, in an interview from Kabul.
The Taliban want to disrupt the elections in an effort to undermine confidence in the Afghan government. During the last election in 2009, the Taliban launched a number of attacks, though not enough to undermine the legitimacy of the elections.
Elections are scheduled for April 5. President Hamid Karzai cannot run for a third term.
The election is the second major test within a year for Afghan security forces, which have grown to about 350,000 soldiers and police. Last summer was the first fighting season when Afghan security forces were leading operations against the Taliban.
They took heavy casualties but largely held their ground against the Taliban.
Insurgents have been weakened but will likely make an effort to disrupt the elections this year, coalition officials say.
“We’re certainly anticipating that they’ll have a go at it,” Thompson said. “We know the Afghan security forces are capable of countering that threat.”