Taliban to disrupt Afghanistan poll
March 11, 2014 - 12:32:00 am
KABUL: The Taliban yesterday vowed to target Afghanistan’s presidential election, urging fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces before the April 5 vote to choose a successor to Hamid Karzai.
Previous Afghan elections have been badly-marred by violence, with at least 31 civilians and 26 soldiers and police killed on polling day alone in 2009, as the Islamist militants displayed their opposition to the US-backed polls.
Another blood-stained election would damage claims by international donors that the expensive military and civilian intervention in Afghanistan since 2001 has made progress in establishing a functioning state system.
Nato combat troops are withdrawing from the country after 13 years of fighting a fierce Islamist insurgency, which erupted when the Taliban were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
“We have given orders to all our mujahideen to use all force at their disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections -- to target all workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices,” the Taliban said in an emailed statement.
“It is the religious obligation of every Afghan to fulfil their duty by foiling the latest plot of the invaders that is guised in the garb of elections.”
Billions of dollars have been spent on military operations and development in Afghanistan, but the country remains crippled by poverty and violence, with weak government structures and a fragile economy dependent on aid money.
The next president will face a testing new era as the Afghan army and police fight the Taliban without Nato assistance and international funding declines.
Efforts to open peace talks with the Taliban have so far failed. Negotiations look set for another push by the incoming government as it tries to bring stability to areas in the south and east where militants hold sway.
The Taliban’s statement yesterday is the first explicit threat against this year’s vote.
The group has targeted every election since 2004. Among the front-runners are Abdullah Abdullah, who came second in 2009, former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
Gunmen shot dead two of Abdullah’s aides in the western city of Herat in February.
“We once again call on all of our countrymen to keep away from electoral offices, voting booths, rallies and campaigns so that... their lives are not put in danger,” the Taliban said. “If anyone still persists in participating then they are solely responsible for any loss.”