Taliban Targets Civilians as Afghanistan Elections Near
A recent Taliban attack on the Jawzjan province killed 12 members of the Afghan Security Forces and wounded another 10 after the insurgent group vowed to disrupt the upcoming October parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. Following the assault, the Taliban took responsibility for the deaths of another three members of the security forces and one member of the Afghanistan parliamentary body. A spokesperson for the provincial police in Lashkargah identified the candidate as Saleh Mohammad Achakzai, who was challenging a seat in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga. The attacks raise questions on Afghanistan’s ability to maintain election security, which was held as the reason the elections have been delayed for the past two years consecutively.
Currently over 2,000 polling places have already shut down because of insurgent violence alongside a rise in civilian targeting by Taliban forces. In past elections, the group issued warnings that it would target voters and candidates who participated in what they call “bogus” elections. Those who vote in Afghanistan are risking their lives for the practice of democracy, as daily life is fraught with peril. As a response to the dramatic increase in targeted civilian deaths, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, made a statement saying, “The unpredictable nature of these types of attacks has caused Afghans unbearable suffering and forced them to live in fear of the next explosion, severely curtailing their ability to carry out normal lives.” As a result of the violence, Afghanistan civilians have had to wait years after the 2016 elections were postponed due to a lack of reform, and security reasons.
Taliban response to past elections has raised questions over the ability of Afghan leadership to protect people as they flock to the polls. In 2018 alone, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan reported civilian deaths by suicide bombings rose 46%. A CBS report on Afghanistan election security marked, “…suicide bombings caused more civilian deaths than any other form of violence, including ground battles between troops and insurgents…” making crowds at polling places prime targets for insurgent bombings. To secure the elections, thousands of U.S. backed and advised Afghan troops are to be deployed on election day according to Sayed Salahuddin at The Washington Post. “An Interior Ministry official said security preparations are on the right track for the vote and will prevent the Taliban from disrupting the process.”
Insurgent bombings and widespread violence caused Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani to postpone the elections multiple times over the past two years from 2016 to 2018. A Reuters report notes that Afghanistan parliamentary elections are to be held in under two weeks, on October 20th. International partners have thus put enormous pressure on the Kubal government to ensure a safe and stable Afghanistan parliamentary election.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups aren’t the only force affecting elections. Due to Afghanistan’s harsh geography and climate, a parliamentary vote must be held by October or else it will be postponed until after the Presidential elections next year in 2019. Another postponement would severely weaken the position of the Afghanistan government in the eyes of the people and international partners. For Afghanistan, displaying the ability to govern and provide a safe and stable election is paramount for the war-torn country to progress as a stable democracy.