Even before I finished training at Camp Atterbury, I knew I would be in the ‘stan during their historic second presidential election.
I assumed that part of our work would be helping people during election day. Maybe we would help keep the place secure, or maybe we would help international auditors with their tasks of ensuring the elections went smoothly.
But now that I know a bit more about my team’s work here, I’ve discovered that our role in the Afghan election process is quite different. It’s pretty simple: we stay out of it.
Today was election day in the ‘stan … something we have been preparing for since before we arrived. Primarily, we were focused on inspiring people to participate in the process. We were working to make people feel like voting is an important step to take if wanting to improve living conditions. We were also working with Afghans to help people feel that they would be safe enough to simply venture out and vote. (The insurgents made lots of threats to intimidate people into not voting.)
But, when the actual day came, do you know what we did?
To ensure the world sees that the Afghan people conducted the Afghan elections, to elect their Afghan president, we stayed as far away from any election-related activity as possible. We didn’t go to any polling stations. We didn’t go near any Afghanistan government buildings, and we didn’t help provide transportation or security during the voting process.
Everything that happened today (or didn’t) was a result of action taken by the Afghan government.
So, when you read media reports that say the elections were a success, they aren’t necessarily talking about the election of a candidate. They may be referring to the ability of the country to simply execute something as complex as a nationwide election.
Of course, the elections did not go off without incident. (Click here for independent reports of violence that happened today in the ‘stan.)
And, to be honest, here at Bagram, I was a little apprehensive about the day. That apprehension turned into me being overly-cautious once I learned that the base was fired upon by indirect rocket attacks (again.) I guess the bad guys planned not only to hurt voters, but us here at Bagram as well. I didn’t hear the rockets this time. (I actually prefer it that way.)
But once the polls closed, and I surveyed the damage (via surfing the internet,) I was glad to see that the process at least continued until it ended as planned (rather than being interrupted by widespread violence.)
Even if the bad guys got in some licks, Afghanistan held an election today. Good job, Afghanistan.
Now, about that recount the Taliban wants …