Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai's chief of staff, says the country is in “pretty good shape” for parliamentary and provincial assembly elections in September. The Joint Electoral Management Body has declared two-thousand-seven-hundred-seventy-eight candidates eligible to run for the two-hundred-forty-nine parliamentary lower house seats. Over three-thousand candidates are running for seats in the provincial councils. “The world knows,” he said, “that the future of Afghanistan depends on these elections.”
Three-hundred-twenty-eight of the parliamentary candidates are Afghan women. Another two-hundred-thirty-seven women are provincial council candidates. “I want basic human rights for men and women,” says Sabrina Sagheb. Ms. Sagheb is the head of the Afghan Basketball Federation and a representative of the International Olympic Committee. She says she hopes to help end practices such as forcing women into unwanted marriages or forcing them to wear burkhas.
Journalist Noorzia Charkhi hopes to represent her native province in the new parliament. But like a number of Afghan women candidates, her life has been threatened. “I’m not going to quit," she said, "because I want to show people that a woman should be able to do these things.”
Extremists set fire to parliamentary candidate Zobaida Stanekzai's front door. “They were trying to scare me into dropping out,” she said, “but my decision to be a candidate is unshakeable.”
Protecting candidates and voters from Taleban insurgents and other violent extremists is a high priority for Afghan government security forces. To assist them, the U.S. has sent additional troops to bolster the more than twenty-thousand-strong U.S.-led coalition. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is increasing its strength from ten-thousand to twelve-thousand troops. I-S-A-F spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Karen Tissot Van Patot says, "We want to assure the Afghans that we mean to minimize any disruption to their daily lives and thwart any attempts to derail the electoral process.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the U.S. and its allies support Afghanistan in the fight against terrorists and extremists:
“It is a long-term struggle. We are continuing to pursue all those who seek to do harm to the civilized world. They will be brought to justice.”
“The advance of freedom,” said Mr. McClellan “will prevail over their hateful ideology.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.