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Karzai Says Terrorism Shouldn't Delay Afghan Elections

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 29, 2004 – It's critical that Afghanistan stick to its September timetable for national elections despite security concerns, President Hamid Karzai told reporters here today at the NATO Istanbul Summit.

Karzai, who praised NATO's June 28 agreement to send more troops to Afghanistan, said it's unwise to delay the elections because of terrorist incidents he acknowledged aren't likely to stop any time soon.

"Terrorism will continue to be active in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan and internationally for some time," he said. "Fighting this terrorism is going to be a long-term fight."

Karzai condemned the terrorists' tactics, attacking "soft targets" including civilians, reconstruction workers and those involved in the voter registration process. These tactics, he said, show their weakness and the fact that they are "hiding and on the run."

"They are not really capable of posing a threat to the political process," he said.

The Afghan president said he's confident NATO's decision to boost troop strength in Afghanistan from 6,500 to 10,000, particularly in the north and western parts of the country, will help create the stability needed for the elections. He was expected to ask NATO heads of state during an address later today to consider increasing this number even higher.

These added forces will augment coalition forces in other parts of the country as well as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, concentrated in the capital city of Kabul.

Karzai said the Afghan people are overwhelmingly supportive of this international presence in their country. "From the first day of the interim government two and a half years ago to today, the Afghan people keep coming to us and asking for international security forces in their parts of the country because they see that force as a stabilizing element that protects them," he said.

"Terrorism will go on and we will keep fighting it," Karzai said. But with increased security on its way to Afghanistan, he said it's time to press forward with plans for national elections.

"Having promised the Afghan people elections in the month of September and having had this remarkable success with the registration of voters, we must go and we should go for elections in September," Karzai said. "The Afghan people are expecting elections in September, and we are targeting that month for elections."

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Related Sites:
State Department Background Notes on Afghanistan
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO Istanbul Summit
NATO International Security Assistance Force

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