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Afghanistan sees large voter turnout despite threats of violence from Taliban

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has served his last term as the leader of his nation, and millions of Afghans defied the imminent and real Taliban threats and turned out to vote in impressive numbers. The Afghans also defied the rain to get to the polls today and are electing the successor to Karzai, which the country may be fighting the war against the Taliban on their own by the end of 2014, POLITICO reported today.

A man who was shot in the chest while on his way to vote is loaded into an ambulance at Camp Maiwand. Today, despite threats of Taliban violence, Afghans went to the polls in large numbers to select a successor to President Hamid Karzai.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

It will take six weeks for results to come in from across Afghanistan's rugged terrain and a final result to be declared in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai.

The United States involvement in the country of Afghanistan may be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The "longest war in American history" could terminate by the end of 2014.

The country's newly-elected leader, whomever that will be, will find an altered landscape as he replaces Hamid Karzai, the only president Afghans have known since the Taliban were ousted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

A security agreement with the United States would allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in the country to continue training security forces after 2014. Karzai — perhaps trying to shake off his image as a creation of the Americans — has refused to sign it, but all eight presidential candidates say they will.

Last November, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice visited Afghanistan and she met and had dinner with Karzai concerning the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). That agreement was in jeopardy, unless some "more" demands are met.

Among those Karzai demands were that the United States help the Afghan government begin peace talks with the Taliban and that Karzai demanded the release all 17 Afghan citizens being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. Karzai also has an issue with U.S. Troops entering the homes of Afghans and if "another [U.S.] soldier steps foot into an Afghan home," he would not sign any agreement.

That may be behind the U.S. with Karzai out of the picture soon. But with Afghanistan, expect the unexpected.

In congratulating Afghanistan on the election, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement released about the election, that it represented "another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces."

Obama continued, "We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election."

Obama said these elections are "critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves."

In a reference to the security agreement with the country, Obama said, "The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability."

In a tragic sign of the elections, on Friday, veteran Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and AP reporter Kathy Gannon was wounded when a local policeman opened fire as they sat in their car on the outskirts of Khost, in eastern Afghanistan.

The two were at a security forces base, waiting to move in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots — apparent victims of an "insider attack" in which the very people tasked with protection turn out to be insurgents.

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Sources:

POLITICO - Afghans flock to polls to vote for new leader

Reuters - Relief in Afghanistan after largely peaceful landmark election

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions,johnpresta@att.net.

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