U.S. team to help NATO prepare for Afghanistan elections
August 27, 2004
The United States will send a quick response force to Afghanistan to help NATO keep the peace during the presidential election there on Oct. 9.
The force, as described in a release by U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, will be an infantry company outfitted with light armored and tracked vehicles. The company will be ready to go by late September, and could remain in the capital of Kabul for about three months. It should number around 110 troops.
The United States will also airlift members of a Spanish quick-reaction battalion and an Italian battalion assigned to NATO’s Response Force into the country. A spokesman for the ambassador wasn’t immediately able to say from where the U.S. contributions would be deployed.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had asked NATO for emergency security prior to the elections. At the NATO Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in June, the alliance agreed to assign 10,000 troops to its International Security Assistance Force, which beforehand was 6,500 strong. The U.S. quick response force will join these other NATO troops.
Most of the nearly 18,000 U.S. forces are assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom, the sharper edge of operations in Afghanistan that hunts down terrorists as well as helps in reconstruction.
“The decision to offer these additional forces responds to a request from President Karzai and reflects the strong and sustained U.S. commitment to assist the Afghan people as they seek to exercise their democratic right and forge a constitutionally representative government,” Burns announced this week. “It also fulfills a pledge made by NATO heads of state and government at their summit meeting in Istanbul.”
About 10.3 million voters have registered for the October election and legislative elections in April, according to the United Nations. That figure outstrips even Karzai’s summit estimate, which was that Afghanistan would boast 6 million registered voters. About 41 percent of those registered are women.
“These numbers are not final as data continues to come in and be verified at the data center in Kabul before it is entered into the database,” Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a U.N. spokesman, said in a news release. “This process will continue for at least a couple of weeks.”
Karzai will square off against 17 other candidates for the office he now holds.