American Forces Scramble to Expand Security before Afghan Vote

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Next week's elections in Afghanistan will pose enormous challenges to American and NATO forces to provide enough security for Afghans to get out the vote.

For this much-anticipated election, in which there are nearly 40 presidential candidates, American forces are working to increase the number of polling places across the country. Currently, there are about 29,000 polling places open, say Afghan officials. Military operations begun Wednesday in Helmand Province aim to open more. Such operations have already created more available polling places than were expected previously, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell Tuesday.

The goal is to ensure that the vote is seen as legitimate in all areas and among all tribes and ethnicities in Afghanistan by enabling as many parts of the fractured nation to vote as possible.

"As the operations have progressed, the numbers that would not be safe enough to open are shrinking," Mr. Morrell said.

About 16 percent of the country's nearly 400 districts are considered to be under a "high security threat," says Martin Austermuhle, a spokesman for the Afghan embassy in Washington.

A force of about 300,000, including US and coalition forces as well as Afghan police and army will provide security on election day, according to a spokesman at the Afghan Embassy in Washington. …