Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Voter Safety Assured in Kunduz

By Mohammad Isa Aria

Afghan security forces in the northern Kunduz province have attempted to reassure voters that they will be kept safe while voting in the presidential run-off on June 14.

Sayed Sarwar Husseini, a senior spokesman for police in the region, claimed that insurgents lacked the weaponry and manpower to engage government troops at close quarters, and had been forced to change their tactics as a result.

Addressing students at an IWPR debate in Kunduz, he revealed he had only just received a report detailing the latest successful operation against the insurgents.

Husseini said a group of 17 Taleban fighters had been killed in what he described as a "mopping up" exercise, the purpose of which was to make safe districts in readiness for the second round of voting.

"Right now, as I am speaking to you, our forces are mopping up [insurgent-held] areas, " he told undergraduates. "Luckily, we received a report a few minutes ago that the Taleban's security chief in Kunduz was killed along with his 16 of his men."

The IWPR debate took place on June 5 with panellists Husseini, Hamidullah Baluch, the regional head of public awareness at the Independent Election Commission (IEC), and Rahmatullah Hurmat, a civil society activist.

Husseini told the event that the security forces were confident voter safety could be guaranteed during the poll. He said the Taleban's only means of attack was either long-range, largely ineffective fire directed at government checkpoints, or the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

He insisted that police were on top of the IED threat. Numerous operations had been conducted in Kunduz to disrupt the enemy's ability to plant the mines, he said.

"The reason why our opponents' attacks have intensified is due to the warmer weather," Husseini said, before giving out the police headquarters' telephone number to students so that they could contact officers in an emergency. "The armed groups use trees and forests as cover," he added.

The panellists were also questioned about transparency and about whether fraud was likely to influence the outcome of the coming ballot.

Menhaj Rahimi, one of the students, asked what lessons had been learned from the first round held on April 5.

Baluch said the IEC had created 118 additional polling stations around the province after problems with large queues during the first round, held on April 5. Extra ballot papers had also been dispatched to 40 polling stations, he said.

"The only way to fight electoral fraud is for the candidates, official observers and the public to help monitor the vote," he said.

Hurmat added, "I believe every individual in Afghanistan will help [monitor] the vote."

Mohammad Isa Aria is a student at Kunduz University and an IWPR trainee.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.