Doubts raised over Afghan election security

Afghan women arrive at a voter registration center, to register for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections, in Kabul. The government’s inability to guard centers just outside Kabul has raised questions about its ability to protect districts in remote and volatile provinces. (Reuters)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Doubts raised over Afghan election security

  • The elections have been delayed for more than three years due to lack of planning by the government, which is mired in an internal power struggle and still disagrees on what mechanism is needed for the elections process.
  • The internal bickering has enabled the Taliban to escalate its attacks despite the US increasing the number of airstrikes and sending more troops to reverse gains by the Taliban and Daesh.

KABUL: The general sighs after hearing from his subordinate by phone that there are not enough security forces to protect voter registration centers in two areas outside Kabul.

The subordinate suggests that election workers take home documents and paperwork at night and bring them back during the day.

The general, who has thousands of men under his command in Kabul, disagrees. He says leaving the centers unguarded at night could allow people to plant bombs or mines and remotely detonate them when officials are registering voters for the Oct. 20 parliamentary and provincial council elections.

He advises his subordinate to either have local civilians guard the offices, or tell the election commission to offer a solution to the threat of attacks. “See if either of the two options can work. We’re too overstretched already,” the general said.

The elections have been delayed for more than three years due to lack of planning by the National Unity Government (NUG), which is mired in an internal power struggle and still disagrees on what mechanism is needed for the elections process.

The NUG’s inability to guard centers just outside Kabul has raised questions about its ability to protect districts in remote and volatile provinces.

The internal bickering has enabled the Taliban to escalate its attacks despite the US increasing the number of airstrikes and sending more troops to reverse gains by the Taliban and Daesh.

Rejecting a peace offer by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban last month announced its traditional spring offensive.

It has since conducted hundreds of anti-government raids, killing several hundred troops and seizing weapons and vehicles.

The new US strategy “created expectations among Afghans that the Taliban would be defeated or weakened,” Mohammed Nateqi, an analyst and former diplomat, told Arab News.

“But by launching the spring offensive, the Taliban showed that it has the upper hand. It can’t overthrow the system, but its attacks and tactics have had an impact as people are becoming increasingly disappointed with the NUG and foreign troops.”

Unless the tide turns against the Taliban, elections cannot be held, and if they take place, they will not be inclusive or enjoy legitimacy, he said.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Radmanesh said: “We are certain that the elections will be held on time as we have plenty of time ahead.”

He added: “We can defeat the enemy and foil their attacks. We need patience. People need to be calm and continue daily life as normal.”


German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

Updated 48 min 29 sec ago
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German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

BERLIN: A German court on Tuesday rejected a request from prosecutors to take former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont back into custody pending a decision on whether he can be extradited to Spain.
Puigdemont was detained by German police March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark. Spain had issued a European arrest warrant and sought his extradition on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds — charges that stem from an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
He was released April 6 after a German court said it appeared he can’t be extradited for rebellion, the more serious of the two charges. But prosecutors in the northern town of Schleswig argued that new information provided by Spanish authorities suggests that would be possible.
They cited videos showing violence against Spanish police and said in a statement that “the disturbances were on such a scale that prosecutors believe that he should also be extradited over the accusation of rebellion.” The prosecutors argued that the charge is comparable to two offenses under German law — treason and breaching the peace.
They said that Puigdemont would pose a flight risk and called for him to be taken back into custody. The state court in Schleswig disagreed and rejected the request.
Puigdemont remains free with certain conditions, including reporting to police once a week.
The separatist politician has been living in Berlin, frequently receiving political allies from Catalonia including his newly elected successor as regional president, Quim Torra.
The Schleswig court said it is “still open” when a final decision will be made on whether Puigdemont can be extradited. It said that the prosecutors have yet to submit a formal application to examine whether an extradition is possible.