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Afghans, Coalition Provide Safe Environment for Voters

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2005 – For the third straight day, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and coalition forces stymied enemy efforts to disrupt elections, as Afghan voters filled the more than 6,100 polling stations in every province today, military officials in the Afghan capital of Kabul reported.

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Signifying her vote, an Afghan woman proudly displays her ink-stained finger Sept. 18 in Lash Kar Gah in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Photo by 1st Sgt. Stephanie Hika, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Afghan National Police, ANA and coalition forces detained three suspected enemy fighters in Wardak and Ghanzi provinces; discovered and destroyed at least six improvised explosive devices in Khost, Kunar and Paktika provinces; fought off direct enemy attacks in Khost, Nangarhar and Paktika provinces; and discovered a weapons cache near the forward operating base at Salerno.

"I am not afraid to go and vote. I want to vote. It is how we can fight this terrorism. I want to be able to choose who represents me in our government," said Saifullah Haqmal, an Afghan student from Khost province. "I think it is important for everyone to participate in the vote for national and local parliament. This election will bring a bright future for us."

Enemy efforts to disrupt the elections proved to be insignificant, with no reports of effective attacks against polling stations.

"The success of Afghan elections clearly shows how earnestly Afghan people want a truly free and democratic country," said Army Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel, deputy commanding officer, Regional Command East. "These elections are yet another powerful reminder, among many I have witnessed, that Afghanistan will not be controlled by the Taliban, al Qaeda, or other enemy forces."

Fenzel praised the work and courage of Afghan security forces. "The ANA and ANP have been inspirational in their efforts to pursue democracy today," he said, "and courageous in their efforts to prevent attacks in the days and weeks leading up to this historic day."

In other news from Afghanistan, a U.S. servicemember and two ANA soldiers were wounded early today north of Salerno.

They were part of a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol to disrupt enemy activity in the area. The element received small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. During the engagement, the patrol called in attack helicopters to provide additional support. Two enemy were killed in action.

"Incidents like this will have no effect on today's elections; the Afghan people will have a secure environment to cast their vote today for their candidates and for their own future," said Army Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, Combined Joint Task Force 76 spokesman.

The soldiers were taken to local hospitals for treatment, and were listed in stable condition.

In the air war over Afghanistan, coalition aircraft flew 22 close air support and armed reconnaissance sorties Sept. 17 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. These missions included support to coalition and Afghan troops, the parliamentary and provincial election process, and reconstruction activities, and providing presence route patrol, U.S. Central Command Air Forces officials said.

U.S. Air Force A-10s and a B-52 provided close air support to coalition ground forces near Asadabad, Bagram, Jalalabad, Khowst, Oruzgan, and Worzhanan Kalay.

Ten U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force, and French Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions in support of operations in Afghanistan. Royal Air Force fighter aircraft also performed in a nontraditional ISR role.

(Compiled from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan and U,S. Central Command Air Forces news releases.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Forces Command Afghanistan
U.S. Central Command Air Forces

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Afghan woman casts her ballot at a girl's high school Sept. 18 in Lash Kar Gah in Afghanistan's Helmand province . In a country of roughly 30 million voting-age people, more than 12 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballots at the polls. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Caldwell, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Afghan man casts his ballot at a polling station in Lash Kar Gah in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Sept. 18. Polling stations were busy, but orderly, across the city. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Caldwell, USA  
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