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Afghans, International Community Prep For National Elections

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2004 – The Afghan military and police are taking actions to ensure a safe environment so that fair and free elections occur as planned, a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan spokesman said today during a news conference in Kabul.

To further enhance security for the elections, Italy and Spain are each providing a battalion of supplemental troops, Army Maj. Scott Nelson said. The U.S. Army, he added, is sending an infantry company, as well as 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, to effect security around Afghan election time.

Afghan, Pakistani and American military and diplomatic representatives met in Kabul Sept. 18 for the eighth meeting of the Tripartite Commission to discuss election security and combating terrorism, among other issues, according to a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.

And, as part of preparations for the elections, troops and officials from the United States, Afghanistan, United Nations, International Security Assistance Force and other coalition entities is conducting an emergency-preparedness exercise today. In related news, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Sept. 19 selected diplomat Robert Barry to head its election-support team in Afghanistan. Barry's team will monitor the election and prepare recommendations for improvements.

More and more Afghans seem willing to turn in their weapons and embark on more peaceful pursuits, according to the CFC-A news release. To date, 15,568 Afghans have voluntarily turned in ordnance as part of the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration program. People enrolled in the DDR program receive job training and other benefits.

As part of Afghan government efforts to crack down on illegal arms sales, coalition forces visited an abandoned, former Soviet-era factory northwest of Kandahar on Sept. 19 and found a cornucopia of weaponry. The search yielded 500 rocket-propelled grenades, 200 rockets, 500 mortars, 100 anti-tank rounds, and 5,000 12.7 mm rounds.

Another coalition patrol conducting operations northeast of Deh Chopan recently found 18 mortar rounds, 11 anti-tank mines, 5,000 heavy machine gun rounds, 25 RPG rounds, 100 feet of demolition cord, and five blocks of malleable C-4 explosive.

U.S., Afghan and coalition officials continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of one Afghan youth and the wounding of another in Oruzgan Province Sept. 17 during fighting between anti-coalition militia and coalition troops, Nelson said.

Nelson noted in a Sept. 18 news conference that the coalition "deeply regrets and apologizes for the death of one juvenile and the wounding of another." He said an investigation to determine the facts of the incident continues.

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