Sep 28, 2019

Afghanistan elections: Turnout strikingly low despite few Taliban attacks

An Afghan soldier casts his ballot in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 28, 2019. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Afghanistan's presidential election didn't see as much violence from the Taliban as some anticipated, but voter turnout was still shockingly low with fewer than 2.5 million showing up at the polls, reports the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The low turnout suggests that whoever wins the elections will "enter office with a weak mandate to lead the struggling democracy and possibly launch peace talks with the Taliban," per the Post. Polls show that current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, are the main contenders, but official results aren't expected until Oct. 17, according to the Post.

The Taliban have been seeking to scare Afghans from voting in the election since talks with the U.S. fell apart earlier this month.

  • The group claims that they've carried out 300 attacks leading up to the elections, which they have denounced as a sham, per the Post.
  • There were only a handful of attacks on election day, with the deadliest one injuring 16 and killing 2 in the Nangahar province.

The bottom line: Monitoring groups "attributed the low numbers to fear of Taliban attack, concerns about fraud and skepticism that holding the election would help bring peace after 18 years of conflict," writes the Post.

Go deeper: Taliban attacks kill at least 48 in Afghanistan after U.S. peace talks fail

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Mark Esper: Trump ordered stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Mark Esper (L) and President Trump (R). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated on Friday that President Trump has ordered the U.S. military to step up attacks against militants in Afghanistan following failed peace talks with the Taliban, Politico reports.

Where it stands: A Taliban delegation recently met with U.S. diplomat and special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad for informal discussions in the Pakistani capital, the New York Times reports. Taliban members did not identify the talks as formal peace discussions, but said "that one may take place in the future."

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

At least 69 killed in Afghanistan mosque attack as violence targets civilians

Photo: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

Local officials and area residents were still searching for bodies on Saturday following a bomb attack at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan the day prior that killed at least 69 people and left at least 36 more injured, reports Al Jazeera.

Why it matters: An uptick in violent attacks against civilians in Afghanistan has left 1,174 civilians dead between July and September, reports the Washington Post. The spike in violence emerged amid a tense election season in Afghanistan, and failed U.S.-Taliban peace talks in early September.

Go deeperArrowOct 19, 2019

Pentagon chief travels to Afghanistan to assess state of peace process

Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Mark Esper arrived in Kabul on Sunday for his first visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, as he looked to jump-start peace talks that President Trump declared "dead" after a Taliban bombing killed an American servicemember in early September, AP reports.

The state of play: Esper's visit comes almost a month after Afghanistan's Sept. 28 election, the results of which have still not been announced amid technical ballot difficulties and allegations of fraud. More than 1,100 Afghan civilians were killed and 3,139 wounded between July and September, marking the deadliest three-month stretch of violence for civilians in the past decade, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeperArrowOct 20, 2019