REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Afghan Taliban warn voters to stay away from polls

Comment: Off

An Afghan honor of guard stands next to pictures of late Afghan Vice President Field Marshal Mohammed Qasim outside his house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

An Afghan honor of guard stands next to pictures of late Afghan Vice President Field Marshal Mohammed Qasim outside his house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Mourners gather under a giant picture of late Afghan Vice President Field Marshal Mohammed Qasim outside his house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Afghan people wait for a bus next to a blast wall decorated with pictures of late Afghan politicians Ahmad Shah Massoud, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Afghanistan’s Vice President Mohammed Qasim Fahim, from left to right, in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

An Afghan shop keeper looks out of his bakery shop decorated with a picture of late Afghan Vice President Field Marshal Mohammed Qasim Fahim in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. The placard reads “we are following your way.” Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

An Afghan honor of guard stands next to Afghan men who arrived to mourn the death of late Afghan Vice President Field Marshal Mohammed Qasim Fahim outside his house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 10, 2014. Afghanistan’s influential Vice President Fahim, a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban who was later accused with other warlords of targeting civilian areas during the country’s civil war, died March 9, 2014. He was 57. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban threatened voters Monday and warned they will “use all force” possible to disrupt Afghan presidential elections next month, posing a crucial test for the country’s security forces seeking to show they can bring stability as the West prepares to end its combat mission by the end of the year.

The Taliban’s first direct threat against the vote was one half of a double blow to hopes for a peaceful outcome from the elections. Observers said the death of the influential vice president over the weekend deprives the country of a powerbroker who could have prevented bitter recriminations among factions after the new leader is named.

The April 5 balloting will be a key benchmark in Afghanistan’s efforts to forge a democracy as voters will choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has governed the country since 2004, three years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban. Karzai is not allowed to seek a third term.

Previous elections have been fraught with allegations of widespread fraud leading to mistrust among most Afghans toward the polling and candidates.

International and Afghan officials have expressed confidence that new measures will be in place to make the voting smoother in April, but many fear complaints will be inevitable as the factions jockey for influence as the balance of power shifts for the first time after 10 years of Karzai’s rule.

Sunday’s death of Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a key political player who held the rank of field marshal, has raised concerns about the ability of the government to ensure a smooth transfer of power, especially if losing factions complain of fraud.

“Marshal Fahim was a good bridge between the government and rival groups,” said Waqef Hakimi, an Afghan political analyst. “He would mediate and promote discussions between the sides whenever difficulties arose. He was a balancing factor.”

Fahim, an ethnic Tajik who died of natural causes, was the top deputy of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Northern Alliance commander who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was widely accused of marginalizing Pashtuns in the years after the Taliban were ousted but later reconciled with Karzai and was lauded as a champion of national unity during ceremonies on the eve of his funeral, which was scheduled for Tuesday.

“He wanted the unity of Afghanistan,” Karzai said Monday in a statement. “Fahim always insisted it’s the duty of the president to bring peace to this country.”

The Taliban are dominated by Pashtuns, which form a majority in Afghanistan, and have waged bitter battles with ethnic minorities such as Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.

Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said Fahim was one of the main powers in the early years after the Taliban’s ouster, and he maintained strong influence even as a number of different people became political leaders.

“He has stamped his mark on the state that has emerged … both in terms of structures and who ended up in places where they could become powerful,” she said.

Fears of violence also are high as the Taliban have waged a series of high-profile attacks in recent months in a bid to undermine confidence in

Comments

comments

About the Author