Battling against Terror; Afghan Democracy on the Move

Article excerpt

Byline: Kay Granger, John Kline, Jim Gerlach, Geoff Davis and Ted Poe, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Millions of Afghans ignored threats of violence and voted recently in the country's first parliamentary election held in two decades. While preliminary results will not be available until October, a look at what happened on Election Day illustrates the desire of the Afghan people to remove the shackles of the Taliban regime and courageously rebuild their country and government.

Just four years ago, Afghan women were banned from holding jobs or appearing in public without covering themselves from head to foot. Girls were not allowed to attend school. But in the new parliament elected on Sept. 18, women will hold at least 68 of the 249 seats.

President Hamid Karzai praised the elections: "We are making history. It's the day of self-determination for the Afghan people. After 30 years of wars, interventions, occupations and misery, today Afghanistan is moving forward, making an economy, making political institutions." Approximately 6,000 polling sites operated throughout the country, not daunted by terrorist threats or treacherous terrain. Also noteworthy was the fact that 5,800 candidates vied for seats in the parliament. The astounding numbers of Afghan men and women who put their names on the ballot is quite an achievement and a testament to their belief in representative government.

Since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, nearly 9 million Afghans voted in a democratic election for president in October. Moreover, coalition forces have eliminated al Qaeda safe havens and have removed the Taliban from power.

The recent elections are proof of yet another milestone reached as Afghanistan moves forward. Allied forces have started or completed more than 5,300 projects to rebuild Afghanistan's essential water and sanitation systems, health care, transportation infrastructure and schools. Specifically, this includes 500 schools, 6,771 miles of roads, 20 hospitals and 219 clinics that are being built or repaired through coalitions or U.S. Agency for International Development programs.

Remnants of the Taliban remain determined to disrupt the progress the Afghan people have made in rebuilding their country and continue their attempts to terrorize citizens so they wouldn't vote. However, their terrorist activities did not inhibit millions of citizens - including a vast number of women - from voting. Nor were they effective during last year's elections, as millions of Afghans emphatically demonstrated their rejection of Taliban violence and asserted their desire to have a representative and democratically elected government. …