Afghan President Karzai asks for NATO help during spring elections
January 20, 2005
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked international peacekeepers to provide security for his country’s spring parliamentary elections, though it’s unclear when exactly they will take place.
“During our elections, ISAF provided protections for voters,” Karzai was quoted as saying in a news release, referring to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “I am sure that same security will be provided for the parliamentary elections.”
Initially, they were to take place concurrently with October’s presidential elections, which Karzai handily won, but the second election was rescheduled for April because of security worries. The date didn’t stick because of rules governing how soon the country’s electoral landscape must be mapped prior to an election.
International officials nonetheless said they expect the elections will happen in April or May.
For its part, NATO said it would provide security as it did during the presidential balloting. But it is not involved in the scheduling.
“This is not NATO’s call to suggest the timing,” said an alliance spokeswoman in Brussels, Belgium, under customary condition of anonymity. “We would accept whatever the government decides, together with the United Nations.”
The spokeswoman said she did not know whether American troops will be directly involved with the NATO election mission, but some U.S. troops did work with the ISAF during October’s presidential voting. Most of the Americans work under Operation Enduring Freedom, which focuses on hunting down terrorists but also engages in reconstruction work.
“The United States are the leading nation for the OEF mission,” the alliance spokeswoman said. “They had a lot of troops there [for presidential elections].”
A spokesman at the alliance’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, U.S. Air Force Capt. Virgil Magee, said he was unsure how many Americans might be on election duty.
Last year, as many as 1,100 additional U.S. troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division deployed to help. That meant about 18,000 Americans served in the country at the time. The alliance sent two additional battalions of about 1,800 troops.
The NATO troops primarily are working to keep the capital, Kabul, secure but they have begun expanding into other regions through provincial reconstruction teams.
Karzai has previously called for increasing numbers of international troops in the country. His recent speech to NATO personnel, however, focused on giving thanks for troops there now.
“It is because of your effort that we are where we are today,” he said earlier this month. “It is because of the blood that some soldiers shed that this country is more stable and that we have democracy. Our people vote now, but it has not come without a cost. This is something we will remember forever in this country.
“Afghan citizens are once again the owners of Afghanistan and we know how important that is and we are grateful.”