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Peaceful Afghan Elections a 'Milestone' for Country

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2004 – The presidential elections in Afghanistan Oct. 9 were a "milestone" in the history of the troubled country, said a coalition spokesman in Kabul today.

Army Maj. Scott Nelson said Afghans "demonstrated to all on Saturday their powerful courage and resolve in the face of terrorist propaganda and threats of intimidation and violence."

He said the success of the election is a testament to the will and perseverance of the individual Afghan citizen. "We can all be nothing if not hugely impressed" by the enthusiasm the Afghan people displayed, he said. "Terrorists suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of millions of Afghans voting for freedom," the major added.

United Nations officials estimate that about 8 million Afghans voted in the election. More than 10 million had registered. About 80 percent of the ballots have been collected, and others are in transit. The counting process has begun.

Nelson said the Afghan police and Afghan National Army deserve much of the credit for the election going off as smoothly as it did. While Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers wanted to disrupt voting, they were unsuccessful, thanks in part to the effectiveness of the security forces augmented by coalition troops. "The government of Afghanistan, the Joint Electoral Management Body, the International Security and Assistance Force and coalition forces all contributed to this successful day," Nelson said.

"There are so many election day anecdotes demonstrating the Afghan people's commitment to peace, whether it was people across the country wearing their best clothes to vote, or the women of Konduz who refused to move when a rocket landed 200 meters from where they were waiting to vote," Nelson said during a briefing. "To leave, they said, would mean the rockets, and the people who fired them, would win. These women would defeat them by staying and voting."

There were reports of voter lines stretching 2.5 kilometers in the Maruf district of Kandahar once a Taliban stronghold. "Witnesses saw elderly people walking and being ferried in goat carts, amputees on crutches in droves moving towards the polling booths and then, late in the evening, more elderly adults running to beat the poll closing deadline to cast their vote," he said.

In Central Afghanistan, voters began arriving at a polling station at 3 a.m., in cold temperatures and a foot of snow, and waited for almost four hours for the station to open, the major said.

"The overwhelming success of this election is a strategic defeat for the Taliban and al Qaeda, and is a turning point for Afghanistan and the Afghan people," Nelson said. "This election confirmed that a peaceful political process based on democracy and freedom will always trump terrorist threats and intimidation."

(Courtesy of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan.)

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