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.”


More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

Updated 19 October 2018
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More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

  • The country’s potential migration has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018
  • Study shows those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US

TIRANA: More than half of Albania’s population would like to move to richer countries with better schooling, a study showed on Friday.
The study, led by Russell King of the University of Sussex and Albanian researcher Ilir Gedeshi, found that the country’s potential migration had grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
Since Albania toppled communism in 1991, more than 1.4 million Albanians, nearly half the current population of the Balkan country, have emigrated mostly to neighboring Italy and Greece and less to the Britain, Germany and the United States.
The study showed economic motives were still the main factor, but less so, and that those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US.
Some 65,000 Albanians applied for asylum in Germany in 2015-16, with most of them rejected as it began welcoming Syrians fleeing war at home. Germany has since begun welcoming doctors and nurses, almost all new graduates.
As the global and economic crisis since 2008 hit the economies of Italy and Greece, home to about one million Albanians, remittances to Albania, key to alleviating poverty, shrunk by one third and 133,544 migrants came back home.
“The unemployed, unskilled and uneducated were potential migrants earlier. Now the skilled, the educated with a job and good economic standing want to migrate,” Gedeshi told Reuters.
“We also found out economic reasons mattered less because people now want to migrate for better education. A group also wants to leave because they see no future in Albania,” he added.
Given the rising educational profile of potential migrants, the study recommended Albania sought agreements on “managed skilled migration, always bearing in mind the dangers of brain and skills drain.”
“Efforts should also be made to improve and broaden the structure of employment and business opportunities in Albania so that fewer people are pessimistic about their future in Albania and see migration as the ‘only way out’,” it added.