U.S. General Predicts 'Very Successful' Afghan Election
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2005 More than 12 million Afghans are registered to vote in the country's general assembly elections slated for Sept. 18, a senior U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters today.
Speaking from Bagram, Afghanistan, during a video teleconferenced briefing, Army Brig. Gen. James G. Champion, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, told journalists he predicts a "very successful" election. CJTF 76 is responsible for combat and reconstruction operations in southeastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan people are "tired of this war," Champion said, and will demonstrate their displeasure with the anti-democratic insurgency "by voting on Sunday."
Afghans casting their votes at polling places across the country this weekend "will experience democracy at work the second time," the general noted. He was referring to Afghanistan's presidential election held late last year when the Afghan electorate chose Hamid Karzai as president.
Champion said U.S. and coalition forces are providing a backup security role during the Sept. 18 election, noting that Afghanistan's Army and national police are charged with conducting security at 6,000 polling places.
Yet, the general emphasized to reporters, "at no time are we shut down from conducting operations against enemy forces in Afghanistan" during the election.
Champion said he perceived "an escalation" of insurgent activity in recent weeks, but noted it was "still less" than what was experienced during last year's Afghan presidential election.
U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan "do not anticipate" a coordinated enemy attack during the election, Champion said, adding that officials didn't rule out the possibility of bombings.
And the search for Osama bin Laden has "absolutely not" ended, he said, noting that the coalition is "always going to look for" him, "and he's clearly on our minds."