Friday, August 21, 2009

OEF Update, Aug. 21, 2009: Coordinated Effort Protects Voters in Zabul Province

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2009 -- As Afghans took to the streets yesterday to exercise their right to vote authorities here worked together to provide security for polling stations across the province.

The Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and NATO International Security Assistance Force servicemembers coordinated security for more than 40 polling stations.

"The strong coordination of [Afghan and NATO] forces in Zabul to protect the people allowed them to vote for their favorite candidate," Gov. Mohammad Ashraf Naseri said.

Coordination for most of the election took place at the province's Operations Coordination and Cooperation Center, which serves as the hub of information for the army, the police and National Department of Security's provincial office. All the organizations worked together to draft and implement a security plan, officials said.

During the elections, the center's personnel tracked polling stations and supplies, as well as the movements of election officials, watching for events that might disrupt the election process. Despite incidents of small-arms fire and mortar and rocket attacks, officials said, the province saw little violence. The polls were scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but many sites extended hours to accommodate voters.

"The international community should continue to support the security, development and the people of Afghanistan," Naseri said. "Without the support of the international community, we will not be able to provide the proper security for the people."

ISAF troops fulfilled the quick-reaction-force role, responsible for being ready at a moment's notice to aid the Afghan army and police. ISAF troops also served as mentors, ensuring that the army and police executed their security plans.

The people of Zabul were happy to go to the polling stations and vote, said Afghanistan National Army Col. Rahmuttula Spaloni, Zabul province commander.

Naseri called the election a momentous event in Afghanistan history that allows the people to show their support for stability and peace.

(Report by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marcos Alices, Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan public affairs office.)

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