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.