Afghanistan has successfully conduct its second round of elections since its liberation from the Taliban in 2001. Turnout is estimated at over fifty percent. Despite promises to disrupt the election from al Qaeda and the Taliban, the violence on election day was insignificant. The BBC tallies up the election day violence:
• A skirmish between police and Taliban. Two police and three Taliban are killed.
• A French soldier is killed by a land mine.
• Two rockets fired at a UN compound.
• One Taliban fighter killed during an attack on a police station.
• A candidate’s house is bombed, injuring five.
• Three rockets fired at Jalalabad airport.
• A rocket attack on polling station in Andar district of Ghazni province.
• A rocket attack on polling station in Dargam district of Kunar province.
Afghanistan is the former haven of al Qaeda and the model Islamist state for al Qaeda’s desired Caliphate. The Taliban has vowed it would disrupt the elections. Yet all it could accomplish was a series of small engagements that can accurately be described as harassments attacks. Not a single attack achieved the desired result of disrupting the election, closing a polling place or intimidating the Afghan people from voting.
It is not as if the Taliban and al Qaeda had to face an overwhelming army of foreign soldiers and a robust Afghan Army. There are currently 32,000 foreign troops on Afghan soil (20,000 U.S. and 12,000 NATO/ISAF troops), and about 55,000 active Afghan security forces (data is from February 2005, this number is likely larger but not significantly).
It is not as if a robust target environment did not exist. There were almost 6,000 candidates running for office. There were 28,157 polling stations in 6,000 locations throughout Afghanistan, manned by about 200,000 poll workers. The combined Coalition and Afghan security forces could not realistically secure each and every polling station or provide for security for each candidate and poll worker. Yet the Taliban was essentially silent during Afghanistan’s election.
The resurgence of the Taliban has been predicted year after year since their ouster in the winter of 2001. Despite the Coalition’s obvious vulnerabilities that are inherent in defending an election, the Taliban could not come close to making itself heard. This is not power, but impotence. The Taliban may have an underground ‘army’ and access to Pakistan’s chaotic tribal regions, but their ability to influence day to day events and their relevance in the future of Afghanistan diminishes yearly.