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Here’s how Afghan security forces supported the 2019 Afghanistan presidential election

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has announced the preliminary results for 2019 presidential elections. Let’s see what Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) did in regards to providing security for the elections.

ANDSF determination and the activities of our nation’s professionals, who worked tirelessly to aid in another peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next, is worth emphasizing. Our nation has made great strides since the last election and it is imperative to ensure our partners and adversaries understand ANDSF capabilities in regards to providing security for elections in a war turn country.

Before the election, the Taliban threatened the upcoming activity twice in an attempt to disrupt the Afghan people from coming to vote. Their false threats did not stop our people from voting and ANDSF professionally made it possible for their people to vote. Compared with 2014 elections, the Taliban doubled their attacks on polling stations and people, they launched 273 attacks across Afghanistan this year to stop people from voting, but they failed greatly because the ANDSF repelled all their attacks. The Taliban lost 312 men and 25 were injured. On average, the Taliban lost almost, one man per attack.

Afghan security forces stand guard in front of an election poster for presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 23, 2019. (Rahmat Gul/AP)
Afghans face presidential vote amid violence, corruption

Millions of Afghans are expected to go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president, despite an upsurge of violence in the weeks since the collapse of a U.S.-Taliban deal to end America’s longest war, and the Taliban warning voters to say away from the polls.

The ANDSF efforts during the campaign season decreased the Taliban violence at events and rallies by 90 percent. There were only eight incidents in 2019 compared with 90 incidents in the 2014 elections. In Helmand, the so-called stronghold of the Taliban, our nation saw a major change in voter participation in comparison with the 2014 election. In 2014, 10,355 people voted and in 2019, 11,533 people cast their votes.

To prepare for the election, our security ministries built, for the first time, four temporary strategic, operational, and tactical command and control centers (C2). The strategic C2 center was located at the Ministry of Defense, the Operational C2 center was located at the Ministry of Interior, and two further tactical C2 centers were located in Kabul. The strategic and operational C2 centers coordinated tactical C2 centers in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan to communicate directly with them 24/7. The two tactical C2 centers in Kabul focused on eliminating high-profile targets in Kabul and surrounding neighborhoods.

To ensure redundant communications we established four methods of communication for our commanders. Mobile phones and VTCs were the primary, with radio and satellite phones as alternatives.

The entire development and execution of the election security operation in this cycle was conducted by ANDSF leaders. We coordinated with the Resolute Support partners to provide some assistance with logistics and air support. The rest were all Afghan planned and Afghan executed security operations.

The leaders of the ANDSF learned from the last elections and trained our forces to ensure they did not interfere in any way in the solemn voting process. In our assessment of our nation’s security forces, we have not found a single complaint filed against them. The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission so far has not received any complaints against ANDSF.

In addition to securing the various campaign events and the election to ensure the citizens could vote in a safe environment, the ANDSF also conducted critical operations to eliminate key targets who wanted to disrupt elections. ANDSF carried out 13 special missions and 13 targeted airstrikes across Afghanistan. That was a 90 percent increase in operations tempo compared to the 2014 elections. There were only three airstrikes and two special missions in 2014. This comparison clearly shows our forces maturing situational understanding of Taliban activities and ANDSF lethality capabilities against the Taliban.

Afghanistan's National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Richard Drew/AP)
Afghanistan to Taliban: Peace or ‘we will continue to fight’

As Afghans await the results of a presidential election roiled by Taliban threats, the government used its platform at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday to tell the insurgents: “Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight.”

According to the Afghan Independent Election Commission the ANDSF were physically present at 99 percent of the polling stations. The ANDSF transported 98 percent of the voting materials to the polling stations. These efforts allowed 98 percent of the promised polling stations to open on Election Day.

Taliban losses increased during this election. During the 2014, election the Taliban losses were estimated at 165 killed, while this year we estimate 312 losses.

I want to repeat the words of the Afghan National Security Advisor at the United Nations. Afghans continue to hold out the olive branch of peace to the Taliban and want the Taliban to stop harming the Afghan people. But our national security forces stand ready to protect the citizens of Afghanistan and will not stop defending our republic. We seek a durable peace that ensures the human rights of all Afghan people.

The ANDSF stands ready to help bring Afghanistan forward and retain our hard-fought gains to be a productive member of the world community. I also thank our international security partners who have bled beside us and mentored our men and women into respected and competent leaders.

I could not be prouder of the actions of the brave, professional, and capable ANDSF members that work day and night across our beautiful country to protect the Afghan people. They will never let their people down.

Col. Abdul Rahman Rahmani works in the Office of National Security Advisor, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

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