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Afghans Leading the Way to Elections

By Spc. Francis Horton
National Guard Bureau

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 6, 2004 – As the days tick away, edging closer to the first national elections in Afghanistan, coalition troops and U.N. elections workers are making sure that the Afghans are taking a leading role.

"The Afghans are involved in everything," said Maj. Joe Gleichenhaus, planning officer for the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and Combined Joint Task Force 76.

Though coalition forces are doing everything to support the Afghan elections, troops are trying to stay out of the way for the most part. "This is a joint endeavor," Gleichenhaus said.

And that endeavor has been in effect with an interim government for the past three years, since coalition soldiers and Afghan forces ousted the Taliban threat in 2001. Now, for the first time in Afghanistan's history, Afghans are taking matters into their own hands.

From registering fellow Afghans to setting up counting and ballot stations, the Afghans have proven they are eager for their first taste of democracy.

But the Taliban threat remains, and Gleichenhaus noted that the Taliban will do its best to disrupt the elections.

Much election security is left up to local police forces rather than coalition troops, he pointed out. This will also prove the ability of Afghan security forces.

"We have provided information exchanges and logistics support," Gleichenhaus said. "We will support them with all assets we can."

Gleichenhaus is confident that the elections will go relatively smoothly. "There's going to be some incidents; however, it won't stop the people from voting and electing a president," he said.

Original coalition and U.N. estimates for the registration of Afghans were around 5 million. Today, there are 10.5 million Afghans registered to vote, exceeding all expectations, said Gleichenhaus.

"It demonstrates the people's resolve for this to happen," he said. "We are extremely optimistic for a successful election."

Looking toward the future of Afghanistan, these elections are the first of many possible landmarks, linking Afghanistan to a partnership with the international community and a combined resolve that leads to a lasting peace and a stable prosperous country.

(Army Spc. Francis Horton is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 76 Public Affairs Office.)

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