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Taliban Threaten Afghan Presidential Elections

by AFP

File Photo. Noorullah Shirzada—AFP

Militant group says polls do not ‘hold any value,’ and urges fighters to conduct attacks on rallies, gatherings

The Taliban warned Afghans on Tuesday to keep away from election rallies and ordered its fighters to “stand against” the planned September vote.

The Taliban and other insurgent groups conducted frequent attacks during previous elections, and this year’s campaign season has already been rocked by deadly violence.

The presidential election is currently slated for Sept. 28, but has got off to a lackluster start and some candidates are yet to launch their campaigns. Many observers think the poll will be postponed again—it has already been pushed back twice this year—to create space for a peace deal to be finalized between the U.S. and the Taliban.

In their message, the Taliban said fighters should “stand against this theatrical and sham of a process to their full capabilities”—a clear instruction to conduct attacks. “To prevent losses, God forbid, from being incurred by our fellow compatriots, they must stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets,” a message posted on the Taliban’s website stated.

The Taliban said Afghan elections do not “hold any value,” referring to the 2014 presidential poll that was mired in fraud allegations and saw the U.S. broker a power-sharing deal between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Last month, on the first day of the campaign season, suicide bombers and gunmen stormed the Kabul office of Amrullah Saleh, Ghani’s running-mate, killing at least 20 people.

Privately, many Afghans say they have no intention of voting, given the security risks and the perception of fraud.

The U.S. and the Taliban are currently meeting in Doha for an eighth round of talks aimed at striking a peace deal that would slash the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Both sides have cited “excellent progress.”

“We are discussing the final remaining points,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen on Tuesday. “With that, the peace agreement will be completed and then we will decide on the announcement of the date of the agreement.”

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