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Afghans are preparing for a presidential election in October. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 2005. A major voter registration effort is now underway. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says, “After twenty-three years of war and all the difficulties of the Taleban regime, the people of Afghanistan are about to reclaim their future”:

“Already over seven-million Afghan citizens have been registered to vote and forty percent of those registered to vote are women. This is a phenomenal achievement, and it’s not over.”

But security is a major issue. One step that Afghanistan is taking is to crack down on militias whose presence might intimidate Afghan voters. A decree issued by the government says that Afghans who refuse to disarm “will be considered disloyal and rebellious and, in accordance with the law of the country, will face the severest punishments.” Many militia members have been incorporated into the new Afghan army. Others returned to civilian life. But according to newspaper reports, only ten-thousand of the estimated sixty-thousand Afghan militia members have turned in their weapons.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently removed three militia leaders from their positions as army commanders. They are Ustad Atta Mohammad, Hazrat Ali, and Khan Mohammad Khan. “This is part of a series of changes that will continue,” says Jawed Ludin, an Afghan government spokesman. Mr. Ludin told the Reuters news agency that, “If concern exists in some parts that people are facing a security threat, it is the government’s duty to provide security and allow safe and free elections.”

Three years ago, the Taleban granted Osama bin Laden and his terrorist al-Qaida organization a safe refuge. Today, the Taleban have been dispersed, and al-Qaida is in hiding. Afghanistan’s liberation, says President George W. Bush, “is the first victory in the war on terror.”