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Afghanistan unveils stringent security for polls

world Updated: Aug 05, 2009 19:43 IST

AFP
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Afghanistan said on Wednesday forces were battling on multiple fronts to secure flashpoints before elections and unveiled stringent plans to ban traffic and mobilise troops to safeguard polling day.

The Taliban-led insurgency has peaked nearly eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion and there are fears that violence will deter voters from going to polling stations and undermine the credibility of the August 20 election.

Afghan, NATO and US-led troops are purusing operations in seven areas, most of them in the southern Taliban hotbeds Kandahar and Helmand, but also in the northern province of Kunduz, the defence ministry spokesman said.

The government will ban all traffic and heavily restrict movement on polling day to safeguard against attack as the nation votes for a new president and provincial councillors, added the spokesman, General Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

“All movement will be controlled and all traffic will be halted. That way it will be impossible for a suicide bomber, for instance, to get in,” he said.

The Taliban last week called on people to boycott the vote and threatened to block all roads to voting stations, fanning fears of violence.

The spokesman said more than 300,000 Afghan and foreign security forces would be deployed across the country for voting day.

There are more than 100,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, most of them US nationals, deployed to help the Western-backed government defeat an extremist insurgency waged by the Taliban, ousted from power in the 2001 invasion.

US President Barack Obama this year ordered an extra 21,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. NATO states have also sent thousands of reinforcements to shore up the election, which is a test in an international push to establish democracy.

The NATO troops serve in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“You never can reduce the risk to nil, so there’ll always be residual risk, but the Afghan national security forces and ISAF will maintain security throughout the polling centres,” ISAF spokesman General Eric Tremblay.

President Hamid Karzai is leading the field of 41 candidates, despite being widely criticised for failing to stem the insurgency or end corruption.