Afghan People Earn International Praise

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Afghans secure & deliver the 2014 ballot here & there & everywhere…

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And the people line up to vote here & there & everywhere in Afghanistan…

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TOLOnews.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Updated Monday, April 7, 2014

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World leaders have come out left and right to praise Afghans, following Saturday’s vote, which marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power in modern history. Although insurgents had threatened to derail the elections, they were carried out peacefully and saw turnout that surpassed expectations.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) estimated in a press conference Saturday night that over seven million Afghans participated in the presidential and provincial council elections, which would mean twice as many as did in 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday congratulated Afghanistan for the election and said it was “critical” to securing the country’s democratic prospects and continued international aid. The U.S.-led NATO coalition is prepared to withdraw from the country by the end of this year, and the person elected to succeed President Hamid Karzai will likely play a key role in shaping the future of relations between Kabul and Washington.

The ballots “represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces,” Obama said in a statement. “These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support.”

The U.S. has been trying to settle a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Karzai administration that would allow some foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to help advise the Afghan security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations and oversee the use of aid money. Over four billion USD in military supported funding is tied to the deal. With Karzai refusing to sign on, however, the last hope for the pact seems to fall on whoever is elected to replace him.

Heading into Saturday’s vote many Afghans and non-Afghans alike were concerned about insurgent violence and possible fraud. Militants led a surge of violence in the weeks leading up to the vote. But Saturday came and went with a few scattered attacks that had no large effect on the national process, and fraud, for the moment, appears to have been more subdued than in past years.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed the Afghan elections as a historic event, and urged all candidates to respect the electoral institutions and their processes. It is likely the vote counting process will not be complete for several weeks.

“The members of the Council reiterate the importance of these historic elections to Afghanistan’s transition and democratic development,” the UNSC said in a statement.

“Members commend the participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups,” the statement added.

The high turnout, from both male and female voters, was celebrated by most as the major success of the day, regardless of the elections’ outcome.

“It is a great achievement for the Afghan people that so many voters, men and women, young and old, have turned out in such large numbers, despite threats of violence, to have their say in the country’s future,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also chimed-in, calling the elections “a historic moment for Afghanistan”. Saturday was the first time since the coalition invaded the country that an election has been managed entirely by Afghans.

“This will be a historic moment, if we get this right, this democratic transition,” European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

The Indian government, a close ally of the Karzai administration, also commended Afghans on their participation in Saturday’s elections. “We salute the people of Afghanistan who turned out in such great numbers to exercise their right to vote despite the threat of violence and intimidation from terrorists and those who do not wish to see a strong, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan,” an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials also congratulated the people of Afghanistan. “Today’s success clearly demonstrates that the Afghan people have chosen their future of progress and opportunity,” ISAF said in a statement.

“As the world watched, the Afghan National Security Forces provided the opportunity for the Afghan people to choose their new President, securing over 6,200 polling centers across the country,” the statement added.

The Afghan security forces have taken over responsibility for security from US-led forces, and this year the last of the NATO coalition’s remaining 51,000 combat troops will pull out. The relative peacefulness of Saturday’s vote will mark a crowning success for the security forces who have already been applauded for their impressive performance during their first fight season in the lead over the past year.

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