:: Xinhuanet - English ::

Afghan Elections:

The polls are now closed in Afghanistan, too, though counting will take a bit longer. Here's a look at the situation from a particularly unsympathetic souce, China's Xinhua News Service:

Around 10.5 million Afghan voters filed into some 22,000 polling stations across the country to elect their preferred leaders for the next five years.

Among extra tight security, voters, men and women alike, went to nearest balloting sites to cast their votes. In Kabul, the capital of the small Central Asian country, some people stood in queue around 6:30 AM outside mosques and schools where the ballot will take place. In a famous mosque frequented by Hazaras, the third largest ethnic minority group in the country, hundreds of men, many of them wearing traditional long robes and turbans, stand in the cold and dusty wind, waiting patiently for their turns to cast.

The security is especially tight, as the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies have threatened repeatedly to disrupt the polling with all means. A handful of taxis, police vehicles, buses and cars owned by foreign agencies went by the armed policemen and Afghan National Army soldiers.

In front of the Defense Ministry compound, a number of US special Operations soldiers, disguised as civilians, stand guard in their HUMVEEs.

Journalists from abroad and home struggled with some policemen in Kabul who barred them from getting inside the polling sites although according to the rule they are entitled to do so.

The weather turned nasty overnight. A sandstorm attacked
the capital, turning the city into a surrealistic scene in a sci-fi picture. Some Afghans said this is a bad omen for the whole nation,and they wonder what will happen during the day and after.

Some of the participants in the voting complained about the practice of applying indelible ink on their fingers, as the special ink will last for four or five days, making their easy targets for potential terrorist attacks.
All the same, no major attacks were carried out, thanks to Coalition security. Afghanistan is now a democracy. All may not be well, but it is a major step forward, and one in which the Afghans are well pleased.

The Iraqis, too, can take hope from this. What was done in Afghanistan with 17,000 Coalition troops can be done in Iraq with 170,000. The march to freedom carries on, in spite of her enemies. Congratulations to the Afghans. May Iraq soon join Afghanistan among the community of free nations.

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